I’ve been thinking about metaphors. What can I say? It’s spring, and I’m a writer. The connection seems obvious.
Here’s how it started. I was walking one morning with my friend Joanne, and as we turned down a path in Beacon Hill park, Joanne pointed to a fallen tree and said, “I had a tour of Finnerty Garden’s stumpery yesterday.”
“Stumpery.” I said. “As in a place you cut down trees and grow stumps?” (notice the sardonic tone of my voice).
Turns out stumperies are a recognized garden form. According to the experts, the first known stumpery started in 1856. (Those ever inventive Victorians!) And the idea of the stumpery is to cultivate the things that grow on the stumps: ferns, lichens and fungi. Neat idea. Growth from decay.
See the metaphor!
Joanne and I continued walking for a few minutes until we emerged back to the road alongside a, shall we say, untended, garden. Joanne, with her usual wit, said, “I’d call that a neglectery.”
Haha. Good one. We all have neglecteries in places. I recently spent some time in mine, refocussing it back into a garden. Growth from neglect. Enter metaphor #2.
Here’s the third. Entropy. The measure of disorder within a system. If we think of arts, writing in particular, as a way of applying order to disorder, story from idea, then entropy becomes an essential element of the process.
So what exactly are the metaphors, you ask? Well, writing, like gardening and art, depends on decay, neglect and other forms of chaos to create. Sometimes we have to tear a piece of writing apart, cut it down to its stumps, to create something new. Sometimes we need to leave our writing alone, neglect it for a while, to let the seeds set and take hold. Sometimes we simply need to accept chaos before we can try to impose order.
I always think gardens and writing are great metaphors for each other. Hemmingway said “The first draft of anything is shit.” Well, that’s what fertilizer is made of, isn’t it?