Sunday, June 30, 2013
By K D Grace
Some people write in coffee shops, some people write in libraries, some people write in their studies. But how much does where we write matter? I’ve always prided myself in being able to write anywhere, but the allotment is in full-swing right now. There aren’t really enough hours in the day to be out there and do what I’d like to do to make our veg plot live up to the Gardener’s World veg plot that exists only in my fantasies. It was only a couple of days ago – one of those few sunny days in the UK of which a gardener absolutely HAS to take advantage. With sweat dripping down my back and more than a potted plant’s worth of good rich soil beneath my fingernails, I sat myself down on the grass near our allotment garden shed, pulled out my notebook and pen and began to write. We have a delicious spot of movable shade that works its way along the back of our plot during the course of the day, so on those few days when the weather is roasting –ish, we can sit and have a break in the shade.
I’d brought biscuits and cheese and for my lunch and a bottle of iced tea I’d frozen in the freezer earlier. I seldom mind eating with the allotment all over my hands. It’s just good, clean earth. As I sat down to scribble a few paragraphs for The Exhibition, my WIP, the resident black bird was already busy hunting worms and unfortunate invertebrates in the patch I’d just dug. By the time I was on the second slice of cheese, he was sitting in the tree above the garden shed singing at the top of his lungs. Just a little reminder that this was his patch – especially now with the birdie feast I’d uncovered and with the hungry mouths he, no doubt, had to feed.
I listened, I watched and I wrote. I seldom write long-hand anymore. I’m way more comfortable at the keyboard of a laptop, which allows me the luxury of editing as I work, and insures me that I never have trouble reading my own handwriting. But in the allotment, low tech’s the way forward. It doesn’t matter to me if there are smudges of compost on the pristine page. It doesn’t even matter to me if a spider decided to make a path across the centre of the page I’m working on as long as he doesn’t linger where I want to write.
Paper and ink, or even more to the point, writing down words, though not quite as old as agriculture, is certainly not too far behind. I mean if you think about it, the two go hand in hand really. Once feeding ourselves became a little less of a crap shoot and a little less of a full-time job and leisure became, at least occasionally a possibility, then it would seem natural for story-telling to evolve to a way of permanently preserving those stories. And once that happened, writing couldn’t be too far behind.
Okay, so that’s K D’s version of pre-history, something you’ll not find on the History Channel, but definitely something I feel a little bit closer too when I’m sitting comfortably on the grass listening to the birds and the buzz of the insects, when I’m taking a break from the arduous efforts of the veg plot to record events straight from my imagination. It feels pretty primal when the young sweet corn plants and the words unfolding on the page are linked by the callous and the earth on my hands.
Does the fact that I’m writing in my veg patch change what I write? Does that particular location make what I write any more powerful, even any more earthy? I suppose there’s no real way of knowing, no double blind test I can do. And really, what difference does it make? The words were flowing that day, and I was sitting in the sunshine listening to the bird song, and the slightest whisper of a breeze in the trees. Does it make a difference to be writing in a place where something more concrete than ideas has been planted, where there’s the promise of more to come than just food for thought, along with the reminder that life doesn’t always come sanitized and shrink-wrapped; that sometimes being off-line and well-earthed is just the right place to be. And of course I’m writing sex. Al fresco. I’d say it’s a win-win for the black bird, for the veg plants and for the writer. Next sunny warmish day, I’m SO doing this again!