Thursday, August 12, 2010

Balcony Garden

This week my impatiens started to bloom. Up until now, they’ve just been leaves—but now their blossoms have come out, salmon-pink, just slightly clashing with the hot-pink petunias blooming above. My pot is a riot of color, balanced on the balcony rail.

I’m proud that they’re blooming—my balcony garden has survived its first month successfully. The balcony’s always been here, of course, but for the first six months of my time in Claremont, it pretty much functioned as a storage space/laundry annex for hang-drying clothes. Until my mom finally made a visit. She showed up at my new home with a “housewarming gift” of sorts: a balcony table, two folding chairs, and a flat of flowers ready to be potted.

The plant tags sticking out of the pot have names I vaguely remember from years of gardening with my mother: impatiens, begonia, lobelia, basil. But gardening is trickier on a balcony than it was in my mom’s garden. There are no trowels, for one, and no garden hoses. Just a couple of pots and my own two hands. I have to use the plastic plant container to scoop the dirt into the pot, and tamp it down with my fingers. Then run to the kitchen sink to get a cup of water, pour it on the plant and hope that it blooms.


There are days when I can’t write.

I do my best. I set my alarm to go off early, so I’ll have time to work—these are my creative hours, I tell myself, where I’m going to tell new stories. And so I pour myself a cup of tea, open to a blank page, and… end up on Facebook. And end up refreshing the page a dozen times an hour. I want to create, but instead I’m stuck.

I head to the balcony to water my plants. After all, I’m responsible to them. I may be able to ignore the blank screen and the blinking cursor—but if I ignore the plants, they’ll go crispy in the California sun. (There are already a few crumbly yellow stalks that attest to that.) So I fill my yellow Nalgene, pull back the petunia stems, watch the water soak into the soil.

Afterwards, my fingers smell of basil; my nails have dirt under them. I am in the world, not just watching it, not avoiding it. This pot might not be a poem, but in its own way, it’s an act of creation. Or co-creation, I suppose: I’m not the one who made the flowers bloom today.

Tonight I’ll pick some basil leaves to sprinkle over the pasta sauce—to give our standby dinner a little more pizzazz. Maybe Drew and I will even eat it at the balcony table. And maybe tomorrow the words will come in the morning. Whether or not they do, I’ll water my plants, and give thanks that creation isn’t limited to so-called “real art,” and wasn’t over on the seventh day.

~~~ How do you plug into the world when you feel disconnected from it?
For all you artists/musicians/writers/theologians out there, do you have another hobby or pursuit that feels “creative” even if it isn’t art/music/writing/theology?

1 comment:

Dylan said...

I love how you connect the act of tending your balcony garden to a creative act (which it is). I'd never thought of that way before, but it's certainly a lovely way to ground yourself when the creativity doesn't want to flow elsewhere.

Planning or playing in roleplaying games always feels so wonderfully creative to me, even when I'm feeling less than inspired. I think the collaborative process really helps jump start my creative juices even when their reserves are low.