A Lesson on Writing, Gardening, and Life from Maya Angelou


Thorns Over Roses

Thorns Over Roses (Photo credit: Moose Winans)

“The thorn from the bush one has planted, nourished, and pruned pricks more deeply and draws more blood.”  Maya Angelou

Sometimes, I find it interesting that I began to write again at the same time I started to garden. Perhaps, this is a stage in life. Perhaps having launched our children into adulthood, my biological clock refused to stop ticking. Something in me found creativity imperative. No longer restricted to gestation, words and seeds rioted from me, so I kept planting, writing, and watching my “babies” proliferate.

Yet, a beginner mistake for gardeners is to want to fill every space with plants, leaving no room for the growth that will come. Soon things run wild and out of control. Even  for me, at this stage having taken a Master Gardener‘ Course, it’s not always easy to hold the fine line between lush and overgrown. A beginner mistake for a writer is to assume every word that is written is written in stone, and it so easy to fall in love with our language we drown our readers with words.

dragonfly on pansiesTo put it kindly, I used to be a “live and let live” gardener. A growing plant seemed like a healthy plant  which, of course, is not necessarily true.  Branches can crisscross as they develop, rubbing the branch next to them every time the wind blows, opening a path to disease. And as they push out crowds of leaves to collect every ray of sunshine, they can block light and even air from reaching the interior of the plant, slowly stifling it.

Pushing life to the max, as we can so easily do, can do the same to us, destroying the very thing we are trying to create.

pruning-shears copyOne of the elements of gardening I have learned to embrace is the art of pruning. Growth, unrestrained, can lead to death.Pruning, cutting back branches or commitments, opens things up and encourages healthy development. It eliminates the duplicative, the superfluous, and helps us focus our thoughts and energies.  It is a writing lesson for the need to edit. It is a life lesson on letting go of things that keep us busy but no longer make us happy, on the need to eliminate any unnecessary burden that weighs us down.

Ask any gardener, any cancer patient. Growth managed  makes a bonsai beautiful and harvests bountiful. Just as editing can make the difference between having a manuscript or a masterpiece, living a focused life can create meaning and joy from what is otherwise only existence.

Freed birdThis week an amazing woman burst from the cage of the earth.  Talented in so many ways, Maya Angelou knew how to hone her words, to draw us word pictures, to sing to our souls of trees and rivers and rocks, to prick our consciences and our hearts, to challenge us to leave behind racism, sexism, and bigotry and embrace each other with compassion, putting down roots that can give birth to dreams.

Poetry and prose were the finely tuned instruments she wielded to change the world.  A fading ember, she banked her fires and flamed on, targeting ever so precisely what needed to burn.

Fly free, Maya! Rise. May we all prune, and prick, and find our focus, following where you lead.

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About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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