Landscaping as metaphor for story

My last post hinted at a landscape project my family embarked on last weekend. In the days that have passed, I have admired the fruits of our labor. So have our neighbors. We accomplished our goal with one minor exception. In other words, it remains a work-in-progress.

Monday morning, while still aching from the labor, I returned to my writing project. I’m currently in revision mode. Again. It struck me that my hours toiling in the ground serve as quite a metaphor for story. Or, rather, for revision. Allow me to explain.

The little piece of overgrown earth that adorned my yard wasn’t quite a blank slate. It was just a mess that needed cleaning up, refining, and defining. Is that any different than revisions?

The characters in my yard were vying for center stage. So, we stepped in with tough love and declared that Grandpa Live Oak tree, with his fabulous shade, would determine the theme of the space. Other characters (aka plants) had to be willing to live and flourish under this shadow. Otherwise, they would be replaced. First to go were the weeds which added nothing but unattractive confusion (superfluous clutter.)

Now that the theme was decided, we needed healthy soil and a plan (outline.)Next, we had to kill our little darling called Oleander who was determined to battle the tree for sunlight and always lost, making him a weakling (unneeded character.) In his place came a tidy row of streamlined, well developed characters with a purpose (to hide that ugly utility box.)

Where once we felt the growing limitations of Grandpa Oak’s shade, we now saw opportunity. Including an unexpected character that we hadn’t previously considered. The lovely Azalea promises to bring a colorful and interesting element to the shaded spot- A fabulous contrast to the tree (contrasting character.) Finally, what images does shade bring to mind? Naturally, a park bench (the ultimate destination.)

But, what of the physical journey to this new perch? A perfect, preformed path would have been boring. So, we hand picked each glorious stone. Some have bumps and crags. Others are smooth. Each is imperfect and crucial. All of them lead to the welcoming perch under the tree. (the journey.)

Our work-in-progress barely resembles the patch of soil we started with. Yet, I do not miss the discarded characters. The space is defined and clean and welcoming. It is purposed and respected. I no longer mind the sore muscles. After all, every act of revision involves a little pain and a lot of sweat, doesn’t it? Oh, and throw in a little soil for good measure.

Quote for the Day: “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)