Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Slice of Life: Paying attention to the garden

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

At a recent writing workshop, one of the presenters took us outside. She had us find a place to sit and just pay attention. Pay attention to the sounds, the smells, the tiny changes and the tiny creatures. Just pay attention.

For several years, I have worked on a middle grade fiction novel, and the primary setting is in a backyard garden between April 1st and June 21st. Therefore, I have worked hard to pay close attention to the garden over the last few weeks. I had tried to sit on one of the slate steps every day and pay attention.

Some of my noticings over the last few days:
  • There are a lot of birds making different noises. My grandfather used to know all of the different birdcalls, and he even used to be able to imitate them. I wish I had spent more time learning those from him. The only one I really know is the cardinal’s call.
  • The azaleas are losing their luster. The cool weather kept them vibrant for longer than usual, but the flowers are beginning to crinkle and drop.
  • The allium look like giant purple lollipops, rising up behind the irises. How do those stalks holdup those oversized spheres?
  • The clematis are out--large purple stars with golden centers. Each day they come out a little more.
  • Canopies of leaves in all shapes and colors
  • Grass that won’t stop growing
  • Peonies that keep almost getting up their courage to open up, but clamp up tight when the temperature stays cold and the rains come. I’m glad about this since I don’t want their heavy blooms to be knocked down by the rains we’re expecting. Peonies always make me think of my husband’s mother who had spectacular hedges of these pom-pom like flowers.

I could keep going--sharing the noticings of the garden that I’ve committed to for the eight weeks. I could also recommend making this a practice for yourself or with your students. My husband says it reminds him of Monet and his haystack. There’s something really beautiful about noticing and paying attention to the subtle changes that happen to the same place over a period of time.

Happy Slicing,


  1. So much to notice when we take the time, Melanie. My clematis are enormous stars this year, too. Probably because of the never-ending rain we've had. Never thought to describe them that way. Thanks! -- Christie @ https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/

  2. I loved this journey through your garden, Melanie! I just picked my first peonies today. Their heads were so heavy and bowed down to the grass I felt it was a good idea to pick them before they got tangled in the lawn mower. I have been noticing a lot of nature lately too. Aren't you amazed at how many shades of green there are in nature? Best of luck with your book!

  3. Reminds me that as writers, we are observers of the world (and people). Very vivid and clear images - I could feel the intensity of your attention to the garden.

  4. I'm so excited to hear you are working on a novel! Amazing! I loved reading this and the idea to observe the same space in nature over time.

  5. Oh I just love this Melanie. I can picture your garden so well from these noticings.

  6. And then to take the time to craft each observation with just the right words. Who said writing (or gardens) are boring?!

  7. Mary Oliver said, "To pay attention. This is our endless and proper work." You are doing your work. I find it interesting to compare our different landscapes. This year the azaleas bloomed in February. That has never happened before. I would love to learn about the specific calls of birds. I can name a few, mockingbird, cardinal, and woodpecker, and of course, the barred owl that hoots across the bayou. Taking notice enriches your spiritual life along with your writing life.