Sunday, July 10, 2022

Editing and Gardening


I’ve done a lot of gardening throughout this spring and early summer. Started out with the usual need to finish clearing out the leftovers of winter. Trimming back the plant stalks I left standing for over-wintering insects. Hopefully for the kinds I want. I wonder sometimes when I see countless numbers of orange beetle-like bugs working at making countless more of their kind just waiting to descend on the uppermost leaves of my milkweed plants. I need those tender leaves for momma Monarchs to lay their eggs on. But I digress.

This year’s gardening tasks took an interesting turn when I was asked to be part of the Grace Lutheran Garden Walk. Really. I never thought of my little corner plot as all that interesting, but what my husband started as a Valentine’s Day gift ten years ago has evolved. Early on I was challenged to think of a theme for my small space and quickly settled on the needs of Monarch butterflies. I once captured a Monarch for a high school science project. That was well before anyone had documented their impressive migration. I chose to turn my little plot into an official Monarch Waystation. You may call it an act of atonement. The website I turned to was:

To spruce up for the garden walk I got nice edging installed around my corner spot, which, in turn, gave me a little more space to work with. Since the garden walk theme focused on wildflowers and native plants, I could let my milkweed expand without worrying about them standing out so much. Early on I did try to camouflage them. Not an easy thing to do. It’s gratifying that people have come to appreciate my gardening attempts. The same is true of Monarch mommas: they visit, they lay eggs, I collect some to bring inside to ensure that I have adults to release in time for the migration south. My best source of information on raising the numbers for the migration is:

Gardening, like all things, has its ups and downs. This spring was wet, cold, and stubbornly late. That delayed the arrival of Monarchs for my eastern Iowa area. By early July in 2020 I had released eight adults; in 2021 the count was seven. This year I’ve yet to release any. In fact, I am totally relieved that I have six Monarch caterpillars to feed. I had been dreading the thought of a butterfly-less year. Believe it or not, in my few years of urban gardening I have seen a sharp decrease in butterflies and bees. It’s plain to me that anyone gardening for host plants and/or nectar plants for pollinators is doing a service for all of us.

Back to my title. How does editing relate to gardening?

Okay, I digressed a lot. To be fair, I did stick with an insect theme for four paragraphs. But all the time I spent in the garden planting the new, removing the old, rearranging things to improve the focal points made me think of my recent rounds of editing the written words of manuscripts and short stories. It all comes down to making decisions, choosing the changes that will improve the whole. We humans are good at sculpting our world, bending the real and the imaginary to our wills. You might call it synergy: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

We should always try to make the story better—to make our stories better.



[P.S. I’ve had good luck with Rest Cloud and Vivosun mesh cages for butterfly habitats.]

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