When less really is more

A few days ago—four to be exact—we put in what is going to be my smallest vegetable garden ever, not counting years when I had none at all.  The usual row of Blue Lake pole beans. Two green scallop squash plants instead of a sprinkling of seeds that degenerates to three or four or five plants. . Three beefsteak tomatoes, instead of five or six. And the three-year-old chard, much thinned and moved to another corner of the raised bed. That’s it.

It was either cut the quantity or put in cactus.

The tomatoes and the squash are already stretching out their arms, reveling in the space. Perfectly green and perfectly formed. Yesterday I noticed that several of the bean plants were breaking through. Today, only day four after the planting, there’s a solid row of them. And a half dozen volunteers in odd places.

In past years I’ve tried to jam too much into the 8X10 box. Getting to the plants on my tippy-toes, stumbling, mangling. For that matter, I’ve had entire decades where I’ve tried to jam too much into life and the result was pretty much the same. Tippy-toes. Mangling.

Why didn’t I ever notice that I don’t write  books that way? My first drafts are sparse. Not much more than a handful of beans. The book grows in rewrite. I’ve got plenty of space between the rows. Plenty of room to stretch out my arms. I can walk through the paragraphs without tripping over a semicolon.

I wonder how far I can stretch this metaphor. Will I have a better garden and better books, too? A better life in all aspects? Nah. Just less frustration in the garden and a really good excuse to say that the drought has done me a favor.

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7 Responses

  1. Thanks, Shelley! I’ve always thought that our writing process mimics the way we do other projects in life — whether we overdo a project then have to cut back, or let it grow slowly. I think it applies to quilting, painting, making miniatures . . . and now gardens!

    • Love your metaphor, Shelley. I could apply ‘less is more’ as well to the cultivation of zucchini. Zucchini begins small, then morphs into baseball bats in my garden–even used for family ball games because they make such a delightful splatter when struck. I often leave my car unlocked, hoping someone will steal them. (No one does,alas.)

    • Hi, Camille! Thanks for the comment. I guess we are who we are.

  2. I love the comparison between your gardening habits and your writing habits.

    • Thanks, Jean. And the gardening is a welcome respite from the writing. Just watching stuff grow.

  3. Good thoughts, Shelley. I think I have a tendency to overdo, in many things.

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