Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Green Thumb Compassion

I like Michael Pollan’s discussion of how to plant a tree seedling.

“You need to restore a reasonable root-shoot ratio if your seedlings are to withstand the shock of transplant. But the green thumb has an intuitive sense of these matters — of just how much shoot and leaf to amputate… It is not too much to say he suffers along with the newly-planted tree, watching its leaves go limp and fold along their midribs as it struggles to staunch the flight of irreplaceable water molecules.”

“When the dry west wind blows he can all but see those molecules lift from the leaves, and he knows the roots at that moment are as useless as fish gills in open air. He comes to the tree’s rescue not with a hose but with pruning shears and saws.” (p.150)

This week, with portions of my manuscript, I was the compassionate green thumb. To an outsider I might have looked ruthless, but I knew in my heart that I was saving things, saving the tree with my shears and my handsaws. Still, we’ll see if my editor thinks I was compassionate enough.

What kind of unlikely compassion have you showed your work, your writing, or your relationships lately?

Tree Leaves photo by Sara. Quote from Michael Pollan’s Second Nature.


Blogger Inihtar said...

I guess we journalists like dealing in harshness--our special words for the "compassion" you describe are "drowning your kittens" and "killing your babies"--cutting out parts that may have become dear to us to better the whole. The cutting part may be painful, but, in the end, it enriches the final product. Something to remember in life as well, I suppose. Happy pruning!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I never thought of the editing process as pruning or as being compassionate towards my manuscript. Thanks for the new analogy.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I showed compassion by cutting off my thumb, which is not green but black. No, let's call it red or orange. I like those colors better.

12:21 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Inihtar... I never thought of it quite that way. Obviously, editing is a heart-wrenching process for many people!

Michelle... tell us about your manuscript. :)

Heather... hmmm... sounds like a sunset, but not as relaxing.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

So how 'bout an appendix with bloopers and outtakes? Has anyone ever done such a thing in print?

6:42 PM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

I am not sure? I usually leave the pruning up to Him - especially when it comes to me...But I think the most compassion I show always toward the guys in my life :)...

7:57 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

sorry - the thumb was metaphoric. but apparently, i'm a prophet. our beautiful christmas tree - the most beautiful tree i've ever seen - is more high maintanance than i imagined. i checked the water after less than 24 hrs of owning the tree. it had sucked the water dry. not a drop left. and the tree resapped itself. so tonight we have to take the tree down, cut a bit off the end of the trunk, and try again.
i love plants, but i can't cultivate. i prefer the natural setting.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been compassionately attending to my work, giving it a little attention each day, seeing where it wants to go. I'm in the sowing phase again. The pruning will come again soon enough.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Margaret Feinberg said...

Compassionately attending to my neighbors..who have also become friends.

2:04 AM  

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