The Words We Choose


“Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness, and playfulness, and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California.)”  Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird.

This is one of the books I’ve always recommended in my introductory creative writing classes as much for what it says about perfectionism as for the notion that some of us in some places are not as free and easy with our words.

I’ve long been aware of self-censoring not just subject but word choice depending on to whom I’m speaking. Obviously, we all do this.  Sometimes it has to do with the context within which I know people, other times it’s simply my own reluctance to reveal more of myself than I think that particular person needs to know or may be comfortable knowing. This comes from a lifelong need for privacy and a longstanding shyness that I’ve worked most of my adult life to “cure”.

Mostly it’s words that come from a deeper place inside me that I’ve used guardedly.There have been people in my life with whom I have been totally easy with speaking words like “faith,” “grace,” “forgiveness,” “prayer,” “worship,” the gentle words that sometimes cause other people to look at me as though I’ve been hiding something from them.  Then, too, there are the words like “obsession,” “jealousy,” “envy,” “resentment,” and some others that live on the dark side of writing.

But this is not meant to be confessional, but rather another conversation about my garden.  And when it comes to my garden I have no restraints on describing the miracles it contains.  I have been mumbling and grumbling about the amount of energy this wild garden of mine demands and how I need to change it, make it manageable, low maintenance.


So, I  have been culling, taking out plants I’ve never really loved but  just kept adding because I’ve been an obsessive collector of plants and somehow had the notion that there should be no dirt showing in a flower bed.  But now, there is earth between the plants I do love, the invasive species have been torn out (well… I’m working on it), and the coloured foliage of quiet well-behaved plants that were hidden under a great leggy circus of show-offs is visible and beautiful.  Soon I’ll be ready to lay down an attractive mulch as carpet for this new art I’m creating.

Yesterday, a neighbour who frequently walks by stopped to chat, and said she loves this new look in my garden.  She loves the serenity.  Yes, I thought!  That’s what it is I’m seeking from this garden – not low maintenance, not xeriscaping, but a quiet serenity that is pleasing to the eye, and the soul (another word I tend to avoid J) and that demands no more than the  amount of available energy I can summon to tend to it all.

There is still a long way to go, and I will keep on recycling plants to the back alley for neighbouring gardeners who are seeking to enhance their  kaleidoscopes of colour, but serenity doesn’t come quickly and easily and I think the garden is just the first step.