All summer, the weeds in my flowerbeds grew unchecked. All summer, I fretted about it. I like my house to look cared for and tidy.
I hated to see the mess when I would come home. I expected my neighbors to complain, but they politely, kindly ignored the situation. Several times, I intended to hire someone to pull weeds and root out the grass taking hold, but then I never got around to it. With my back injury, I remain under orders not to dig or pull.
This week, I stepped outside to hang small flags in honor of Veteran’s Day. The sparrows fluttered up from the rose bushes and tall weeds in the flowerbed. Mice rustled through brown crab grass, scuttling for cover. Angrily I chastised myself once again for this state of affairs. “Got to get this cleared out,” I told myself for the countless time.
One particular species of unsightly weed has grown head tall, a gnarly, thick-stemmed monster. Last week, it bloomed with numerous tiny white flowers. There it stands, taller than me and blooming in a pretty, if feral way. I refused, however, to admire it. Ugly. Wrong. Odious. I’ve got all sorts of adjectives for it, and a few flowers weren’t going to change my mind about it.
But as I put out the flag, I heard a faint humming sound and saw a honeybee busily working those fingernail-sized flowers. I had no idea that bees would still be harvesting pollen this late in the year. And all my shame and embarrassment over the weeds fell away. Unwittingly and unintentionally, I had provided a last bit of food for the honeybees.
In this modern day and time, when honeybees are beleaguered by virus, pesticides, and the loss of natural habitat, to even see one at work is a rarity. Yet we cannot survive without them. They help keep our food supply going.
I was glad to see this single bee. I’ve missed them since moving here. My last residence had two hollies along the front facade that attracted them. Dozens of them would be buzzing through the holly blooms, and yet none of the bees ever bothered me there. This house has been devoid of bees … until now.
I choose to take it as a good sign, a positive omen that somehow, sometimes, the world just works the way it should. If I’d been capable of keeping the bed in order, there might not have been a lingering wildflower for this bee to sample before winter closes the door.
Seeing the bee at work also reminded me of the merit of simple persistence. I don’t know how far the bee had to fly to find these stingy little bits of harvest. The season is dying away, and the fingers of winter are reaching out for us, and yet little bee was still harvesting, still working hard. The bee works by instinct and the mysterious rituals of its species. It doesn’t quit until it dies. Regardless of the encroachment of humans, it continues to find a way to feed the hive and its queen.
So, too, is writing a process of simple persistence. You plan. You imagine. And then you simply work and work and work and work, day by day, hour by hour, unable perhaps to see your way clearly through the story at times. You must keep going. You must persevere until the story is finished, the draft completed. You can’t abandon it partway through or you will never learn, never grow. You will never achieve a comb of honey, the nectar of your imagination and talent.
You can rely on your outline or you can fly strictly on the wings of story sense and intuition. Either way, you move forward, from beginning to end, as many times as it takes to get the words right.