Not a perfectionist

My late mother-in-law, may her memory be for a blessing, spent much of her last decades gardening. I learned a great deal about flower gardens from her, and we discussed cultivars and shade-loving plants and pest control with the sort of enthusiasm that avid gardeners well know. She enjoyed landscaping her place with colors and textures, carefully tracing expected bloom times as well as plant heights and spreads so that the beds produced an ever-changing canvas to delight the eye.

hail and roses

Hail: One of Nature’s curveballs

Except: Nature is always throwing curve balls. My mother-in-law’s gardens were beautiful, but she always eyed them critically. It is true that most gardeners notice what isn’t thriving, where the weeds are, or what has not grown out or bloomed as hoped. That comes with the territory. But the process of gardening is so much more enjoyable, even soothing, when one is not a perfectionist.

Not being a perfectionist myself, I find that time in the garden acts as a meditative oasis. It is part mindless physical labor, part problem-solving, part mindful awareness of the environment. This year, I’m making it even easier by planting fewer vegetables and fruits and more blooms to attract pollinators; I’ve a smaller variety of produce but am experimenting with some new (to me) seeds–a melon from the Caucasus, a few heirloom tomatoes, black beans as well as green ones.

I learn as I go–as I cull and thin, inspect insect damage, note responses to growing conditions. It occurs to me that this activity bears a resemblance to the writing process, particularly when putting together a collection for a chapbook or longer manuscript. In that undertaking, I’m also not a perfectionist; and I should not be quite so quick to gainsay the need for the perfectionist attitude when creating one’s art (as long as it does not lead to fruitless caviling).

But I’m just not constitutionally ordered towards that sort of purist idealism. The best I can do with my poems is similar to the best I can do with my gardens: devote mindful attentiveness to the “product” and try not to worry about eventual outcomes.

“Write a little each day, without hope, without despair.”  —Isak Dinesen [Karen Blixen]

See what grows.

IMG_1547

By July–who knows?

 

Exhaustion & bloom

Isak Dinesen: “I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.”

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Some days, the little is…quite little. I am not exactly taking a break from reading and writing, but a great deal of my reading these days is student-written work; and the writing tends to be corrective.

There are also events in one’s life that tend to push back against the time needed to dwell on creative things.

Kurt Vonnegut: “So it goes.”

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I’m re-reading Descartes. The best part of his philosophical writing, in my opinion, deals with his conscious desire to remove all prejudicial thinking from his mind. I have my doubts as to his success in that regard, but I love the splendidness of trying to attain the mental tabula rasa. Open-mindedness, a virtue more human beings should strive to embrace.

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And there is also exhaustion, pure and simple. Some days, I need my rest.

February: awaiting the snowdrops’ blooms. (They’re nearing…the white tips are visible, enclosed in the deep green spathes.) Meanwhile, fragrant yellow winterhazel.

corylopsis

winter hazel