Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Garden by the Highway

There is someone edging next door, sounding like he or she might be able to take off given a good long running start. This is what I thought I had with my dichotomy story for Split, originally planned to be faithful/unfaithful and written in plenty of time to make all the deadlines. Unfortunately, it never really took off the way I hoped it would, but led instead, by somewhat devious pathways, to my current one, which I began as a way to blow off steam from a series of jobs in tiny companies in a suburb not too far from where I live. Not unlike my neighborhood, that suburb has its share of wandering gardeners, restlessly edging the lawns and blowing away the detritus, speaking only amongst themselves, and, for the most part, invisible unless you are stuck behind one on the highway.

From this came the idea of an exclusive nursery that provided maintenance services and baubles that enhanced the appearance of the community – bugs bred for beauty and grace, not for the combat of pollination. Non-native bugs. Bred by non-native nurserymen in the made-over bedrooms of a house in unincorporated land, a reclaimed house on the edge of a freeway. A house once left to rot when the freeway was put through and then widened. This was the closest home for the fairies who came from the Underpasses, crept out from Underhill and decided to reclaim a bit of property for themselves on the edge of the freeway, not far from the entrance to the place they had abandoned, close enough to scavenge the produce that fell from the trucks that raced out from Underhill. Close enough to share those fruits with the insects tangled in the old house.

The deals of a corrupt neighborhood association allow the creatures in the house access to a neighborhood, which they slowly displace. The current working title is Welcome Infestation and the dichotomy could be natural/artificial or it could be native/invasive (think kudzu). The story has proved to be as difficult to manage as my drowned and rotten garden in this wet and humid summer. What should be an even mix of creation and revision is, instead, a touch of work followed by a spate of revision, then drowned in days of avoiding writing. I have no discipline. Rather, I have only the discipline of opposites—the desire to do laundry when I should be writing, the ability to focus on work only when I have brought my writing materials, writing as a way to avoid sleeping.

One of the best things to come from this writing group, for me, is the imposition of a discipline of completing projects, either because one is entering a new contest or working toward publication. This may have consisted of dragging me from being a writer in idea only, forcing me to shrug off the “hobby” status and to finish things. Then read them again. Then think about them and write them again. I may not ever be able to survive off the one pot of yet-to-set tomatoes that I’ve got in the backyard, nor will I ever get to serve up my mutant golf-ball carrots (drowned in June); however, I have a small side dish of story that will be served up this December. Might have sprouted from a half-rotten pith of fairy fruit just along the highway. Might have been nurtured through drought and flood. Might have survived the Lazies, which have eaten so many summer afternoons that they swell up like ticks and glow like honey jars on a windowsill.

Best wishes,

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