“The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life.”
—Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk
Here is a picture of the hawk. And:
“Do you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind? Sure! You can grow ideas in your mind. You can think about things and make believe things and that’s like growing something of your own. You have wonderful ideas. All you have to do is think about them and they’ll grow.”
I’ve been drawn to plants and drawing them.
My wife has sent me several excerpts from The Liberty Hyde Bailey Gardener’s Companion. They all seem to me to have profound connections to making art and doing creative work.
“The Garden Of The Mind” begins:
Like the love of music, books and pictures, the love of gardens comes with culture and leisure and with the ripening of the home life. The love of gardens, as of every other beautiful and refining thing, must increase to the end of time. More and more must the sympathies enlarge. There must be more points of contact with the world. Life ever becomes richer. Gardening is more than the growing of plants: it is the expression of desire.
“General Advice,” speaks to limitations and constraint, making do with what gifts you have, and loving what shows up:
Every family can have a garden. If there is not a foot of land, there are porches or windows. Wherever there is sunlight, plants may be made to grow; and one plant in a tin can may be a more helpful and inspiring garden to some mind than a whole acre of lawn and flowers may be to another. The satisfaction of a garden does not depend upon the area, nor, happily, upon the cost or rarity of the plants. It depends upon the temper of the person. One must first seek to love plants and nature, and then to cultivate that happy peace of mind which is satisfied with little. He will be happier if he has no rigid and arbitrary ideals, for gardeners are coquettish, particularly with the novice. If plants grow and thrive, he should be happy; and if the plants which thrive chance not to be the ones which he planted, they are plants nevertheless, and nature is satisfied with them. We are apt to covet the things which we cannot have; but we are happier when we love the things which grow because they must. A patch of lusty pigweed, growing and crowding in luxuriant abandon, may be a better and more worthy object of affection than a bed of coleuses in which every spark of life and spirit and individuality has been sheared out and suppressed. The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in loving the dandelions. Each blossom is worth more than a gold coin as it shimmers in the exuberant sunlight of the growing spring and attracts the bees to its bosom. Little children love the dandelions; why may not we? Love the things nearest at hand; and love intensely. If I were to write a motto over the gate of a garden, I should choose the remark which Socrates made as he saw the luxuries in the market: ‘How much there is in the world that I do not want!’
(Bailey said that paragraph was worth more than a book, and I agree.)
“To One Who Hath No Garden” points out that there is something other than just possessing your own plot:
There are two parts to gardening,—the growing of the plants in the soil, and the garden in the mind. The desire to have a garden comes first; then comes the season of planning, the pleasant discussion of the kinds, the tools, the construction of hotbed and frame, and the layout worked over and over again until the area, the desired products, and the purse are all accommodated and made to fit; finally comes the putting of the plan into execution.
I know persons who are musicians and yet have no musical instruments. Some of them can perform on instruments and some of them cannot. If they are performers, they miss the instruments more. Do not most of us, with high taste for music, secure our satisfaction in it from those more fortunate or more skillful than we?
I know poets who do not write poetry, artists who do not paint, architects who do not build. I know gardeners who do not garden.
It is not for me to depreciate the joy and value of a garden that one makes in the good earth with one’s own hand; yet the garden is an appreciation. It is an appreciation of activity, of color, of form, of ground smells, of wind and rain and sun, of the day and the night, of the things that grow. Good critics of gardens, good lovers of gardens, may yet not be good gardeners; and good growers may not be deep appreciators of gardens.
To the one who has no garden (my sympathy is his!) there still remains some of the essential joys of the garden,—the wonders of the catalogues, the invitation of the soil, the discriminating knowledge of the plants. A garden is only a piece of the world,—a piece that one picks out and arranges for one’s own exercise and pride. Beyond it are others’ gardens, also the open greensward of fields, and the abounding atmosphere. One may sit at another’s garden gate, and feel its beauty; one may wander afield in any afternoon of holiday; one may be open to the suggestion of garden and beauty as one travels back and forth, missing nothing.
(All emphasis mine.)
Filed under: gardening
“With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls.”
—Robert Wyatt, “Shipbuilding”
It’s not easy to sit down every morning with next-to-nothing and try to make something appear. But we do it because doing it beats not doing it.
Jeanne Marie Laskas once asked her friend Fred Rogers if the show was his church.
He thought a moment. He said it was easier to say what it wasn’t. It was not a show. He used the word “program,” never “show.”
“An atmosphere,” he said. What he was trying to create with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was “an atmosphere that allows people to be comfortable enough to be who they are.” He continued: “I really don’t want to superimpose anything on anybody. If people are comfortable in that atmosphere, they can grow from there, in their own way.
“A lot of this — all of this — is just tending soil.”
Jesus told a parable about about a farmer who went out to sow seeds.
Some of the seeds fell along his path and got gobbled up by birds. Some of the seeds fell into rocks and sprouted almost immediately, but since they had no soil to take root, they scorched when the sun came out. Some of the seeds fell in deep, fertile soil, and those seeds took root and yielded much fruit.
I think Jesus may have left out at least one potential scenario: Later, the birds shit out the seeds, and by chance, some of them land in good soil elsewhere.
Sometimes I feel like, to quote Dylan, I’m just like that bird!
See also: Beautiful things grow out of shit
Some of them are drawn from life, some from my camera roll.
This one started by copying a drawing of Charlie Brown and letting my hand go.
I really love drawing chickens. (The cigarette is a nod to Lynda.)
This one started with a swiped drawing from my 4-year-old.
More “Good morning, diary” on Twitter…
To warm up for the past couple mornings I’ve pulled out my trusty ol’ Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and filled a page in my diary before writing. (Hard not to be influenced when reading Lynda Barry!) The pen is probably half a decade old, and still works like new. Something magical about drawing with this thing…
There used to be a spot on KVET radio, though I haven’t heard it in a long time, when the DJ would come on and say, “Ain’t it good to be alive in Austin, Texas!”
Día de los Muertos has come and gone on the calendar, but it’s still going at the Arte Sin Fronteras show at the Blanton Museum. I popped in last night an hour before closing with my notebook and stole what I liked. Always good to check in on death. The spirits speak of possibility.
When I got home, I saw the news that Tom Spurgeon died. I didn’t know him personally, but I loved his website, and he was generous to me and my work, linking to this site and even wishing me happy birthday. RIP. He lives on in the lives of the cartoonists (and wannabe cartoonists like me) he encouraged.
It’s cold and rainy and a little bit bleak in Texas today, but the fireplace is going, and even if it wasn’t, as Thoreau asked his diary on November 13, 1851, “Is not this a glorious time of year for your deep inward fires?”
I’m off now to walk with my wife and then get coffee with an old friend. It’s good to be alive. Now is the envy of the dead. Go live in it.
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