Today we feature Guestblogger Gretchen Staebler who writes the blog “My View From the Garden.” Thanks so much, Gretchen!
Writing for My Life
“What would you do if nothing were standing in your way?” It is such an irritating question. Obviously there is a great deal blocking the way or I would be doing it; so what is the point of “what-iffing”? Irritation aside, my answer to the question has been, “I would be a writer.” I imagined myself in a tower room at the corner of my non-existent Victorian home, 360-degree windows looking into treetops; sitting at my desk typing away at novels that flow through my fingers onto the page. And, of course, the money flows as well, so I don’t have to “work.”
So, that’s not happening. I have come to realize, however, that there is great value in figuring out how to make dreams happen, even if not in the way imagined. When I bought my house with its renovated interior and overgrown, neglected gardens, I decided to try my hand at restoring the gardens. I am no more a gardener and landscape artist than I am a writer, but anyone can pull English ivy run amok, and that was the first task.
As I pulled ivy that first year I felt my body begin to loosen from the disappointments that had befallen me in recent years. I began to see the ivy as metaphor. As I ripped it out, I uncovered long buried plants that began to thrive and bloom again; and I found new life in myself. I dug up flagstone from long ago pathways and made new paths through the new garden areas I created; as I created new paths on the journey through my life. I became one with the seasons in the garden: the stillness of winter, the subtle entry from the darkness into spring, the over-the-top sideshow of summer, and the retreat of fall. And I couldn’t not write about it.
For the past dozen years I have occupied a corner café table every Saturday morning to write in my journal. I began journaling about my learnings from the garden. The urge to move on from the verbal diarrhea that is my journal, and to share my thoughts with others became strong. But I didn’t know how. When, in a class with Alice Osborn, Alice mentioned blogging as a way to get ones writing out into the open, she lit a fire in me. It costs nothing; no one has to “approve” of what I write or how I say it; I didn’t have to figure out the publishing world. It really is just disciplined, intentional, public journaling.
I am a gardener because I garden; I am a writer because I write. But it is not the nouns that are important; what brings me joy these days are the verbs. I garden and I write. I write about the garden. I write about life. And I share it with the world, literally. A new reader in Mexico contacted me recently, having somehow discovered my blog. Now I read hers, as well. Perhaps it is these one-to-one connections that will one day save the world. Achieving world peace was not on my list of what I would do if nothing stood in my way, but you open a door and the world comes in.
I still write at the corner café table, only on a laptop now, instead of in a journal. Turns out I don’t need the Victorian treetop tower; nor do I need to support myself through my writing. The only thing that was standing in my way was me. And I stepped aside.
At the end of Lent 2007, on my own, I purchased a fully-renovated, 58-year-old, not-so-big house with over-grown, neglected gardens. Given little to do inside the house, other than put color to the beige walls, I have fallen in love with restoring the gardens to their former glory. As I learn about being a gardener and become aware of what is happening there, I learn about life. The passion for gardening is new. I recognized a passion for writing several years ago, but took it only as far as wishing I were a writer. The truth is, I have discovered in my maturity, we are what we do; and we can do what we are, no matter when we begin. I am a gardener because I garden; I am a writer because I write. May Sarton, writer of poetry, journals, and novels, said, “a poem is primarily a dialogue with the self and the novel a dialogue with others.” Perhaps the journal spans the gap. I write to understand myself, and I share it with you in the hope that it will spark you to engage in a dialogue with yourself and with others; and to join me in living with courage, with inner integrity, and with an open spirit. Here is my view of life from the garden.
Thank you, Gretchen, and your photography is gorgeous!
What would you do if you if nothing stood in your way? Feel free to comment below!