Back in the late eighties, legendary director Mark Rydell optioned my first screenplay, The Man In The Moon, and flew me out to L.A. to get acquainted. We talked about the story, my family, my life.
At one point, he leaned forward and said, “If you couldn’t ever write again, what sort of work would you do?’
Without a moment’s hesitation, I answered, “I’d be a gardener.”
He sat back, frowning slightly.
“No,” he said, “I mean really.”
And I said, “Really.”
When he asked me why, I told him that writing and gardening (and painting and dancing and all the other arts) are basically the same thing. In every case the artist is creating beauty – which I believe is something we are all sent here to do.
That conversation took place over twenty years ago. At the time, I didn’t have a garden. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have a home. But I had HAD a garden before, and I remembered very well how much I’d loved it.
Still, that answer I gave him was downright pitiful. I mean, it was true enough, but it was a far cry from the whole truth. All that talk about beauty and art – it sounded good, but I’ve never been a master gardener, and I don’t know that my garden (yes, I have one now) is beautiful to anyone but me.
The thing is -- I love to garden because of the way I feel when I’m out there.
“Out there”, the air is sweeter. It’s where I feel most alive. I’m using muscles that don’t get used when I’m sitting at the computer. I’m getting dirty, I’m sweating. I’m climbing over the fence ten times a day. (I have a gate, but to use it, I’d have to go the long way around, plus I’d have to go through two gates, not just one, and one of those gates is wired shut, so I’d have to undo the wire, then do it back again – you get the idea.)
I love to get my hands in the dirt. I love helping plants flourish. I love the absolute magic of watching life unfold and knowing I’m helping it along.
Over the years, I’ve become a cross between Calla Moses and Ruth Stout. Feed the soil until it’s so rich there’s no need to dig. (All I have to do is scoop out a little dirt with my hand and stick a plant in the ground and pull the soil back in place around it.) Make life easy for the earthworms. Throw mulch on top of weeds instead of pulling them. Plant flowers and herbs here and there to discourage insect pests. Encourage profusion.
That’s what I did this weekend. I encouraged profusion. And climbed over the fence a lot.
And felt 100% alive.