Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I don't like gardening. I was born without anything resembling that gene. I don't like the stress of figuring out planting configurations. I walk into a warehouse full of potted flowers and greenery and I feel like the world is going to swallow me up. Where do I begin? How many do I need? Can I pick just one or two colors (orange and yellow, preferably) or do I need at least three? Because I'm really not a fan of pinks and reds.

And once the poor things are planted, I'm forgetful and end up with a yard full of parched plants when we're short on rain. Ron will say, "I planted . . . all you had to do was water." And I say, "Do you not understand that, really, that's just asking too much of me?"

We saw some perfectly pleasant fall mums at the grocery store a few days ago and he wanted to buy some. I said no this time, because I know they will be my responsibility. Truly, I can't have another form of life that I need to take care of. Four children and two guinea pigs is my limit, I've realized. And I would rather all of them live than a pot of flowers that I can't hug or pet.

All of that being said, I like weeding. I find a lot of pleasure getting dirt under my nails and yanking out what, to me, obviously doesn't belong in our little garden. I like the feel of strong roots coming loose, and I like the feel of weak roots giving way so easily that a strong wind could have done as much as I do. I like getting rid of the larger, obnoxious weeds, only to find smaller ones below that thought they could go unnoticed. I like pulling stray grass from the cracks in the pavement. I like following the vine of clover for a foot or so to its source. It's all very satisfying to me.

I think it's rather appropriate then that I'm an editor. When I asked my oldest what he wants to be when he grows up, he shrugged. I said, "You could be a professor like your dad, or you could be an editor like me." He gave me "the look" and said, "No. Not an editor." Heaven forbid: an editor.

But what I love about editing is that I get to weed without getting bitten by mosquitoes (generally) and without sweating (occasionally). I get to take what's there and clean it up, make the good stuff shine, make the colors match. I can clear away the big weeds--the glaring errors--and note the little ones lying in wait beneath. And when I'm done, I know I'm leaving a project in better shape than I found it.

Perhaps my inclination toward weeding and editing is also why I like the revising process of writing best. I feel like the pressure of getting it all down and planted is over, and I can focus on making what's there more attractive--give it a little more curb appeal.

And perhaps this inclination explains why I feel more comfortable as the mother of a preschooler on up than as the mother of a newborn. There are SO many ways to mess up when you start from scratch, an empty plot in the yard, impressionable minds to mold. That time in my kids' lives was really stressful for me--and Ron handled it much better than I did. Of course, parenting a thirteen-year-old isn't the easiest thing in the world either, but I can work with what I have there and hope, when I'm "done," the result is presentable and that no one driving by will slow down and say, "What on earth was she thinking? Anyone in their right mind would know azaleas were not the way to go--and look at that: she left the pigweed but yanked the oregano. I hope the garden in the backyard looks better than this one."


Mendy said...

So a funny thing: 2 weeks ago we had to take back our backyard from the weeds. It was hours and hours of weeding. I must have come up with dozens of metaphors for weeding. None of them involved editing.

Now however, I am terrified that the editors I am working with are looking at my essay the same way I was looking at my back yard. Hopefully they enjoy weeding as much as you.

Anonymous said...

I can attest that she does enjoy weeding, on occasion, since I sometimes come home to a driveway littered with 'em. She also likes to rake leaves into piles ;)

Bobbie said...

Mendy, I think all editors have to love weeding. Otherwise, it's a job that could drive someone insane.

And, Anonymous? Not so anonymous. I leave the weeds in the driveway and the leaves in a pile so you can see what I've done all day. And I want you to feel needed, so I can't *finish* the job.