Mary, Mary,

How does your garden grow?

I’ve tried to analyze what it is that I do when I begin a piece. Of course, they all start with some amorphous stirring between my ears. But what happens in there? How does any particular piece develop and grow?

The workings of my mind are like a flat stone skipping across a lake’s mirrored surface, touching lightly in ever-decreasing arcs. Each kiss on the water sends out a starburst of drops and concentric ripples that grow fainter and fainter until they vanish. Some stones immediately sink to the bottom, too round, too heavy, or the angle is all wrong. But for those that fly out just right, there is a pattern left on the surface. I try to capture that pattern, place it in that part of my memory that is preserved. That pattern is as unique as snowflakes, as random as the genetic code that goes into each of us.

Those random thoughts then go into individual folders and placed, rather carelessly, in a filing cabinet. Sometimes they get lost, sometimes forever. It’s when I begin to write that I bring certain ones out that have survived and spread them out on a table and start placing them in order. I try to make them coherent. Yet sometimes they simply evolve. The separate pages get shuffled around until they form some cohesive thing, an origami swan that, when unfolded, makes no sense.

When it does come together, when all the complex folding is complete, it is a thing of which I am inordinately proud, too proud perhaps. From random patterns on a still lake to a paper swan. That is what I try to achieve with my efforts. And what is it really? Just a flat stone and a piece of paper.

That’s how my garden grows.

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