Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Volunteer Crops

Last year, we planted both zucchini and yellow squash plants. We ate stuffed zucchini, zucchini bread, fried zucchini dipped in ranch dressing, stir-fried yellow squash, squash and cantoloupe salad, and ratatouille, with both zucchini and yellow squash. Despite this diet, we were unable to keep up with the rapidly producing plants, and many of the fruits were abandoned to rot beneath the massive leaves.

This year, as we began working the soil and planting a new summer garden, we were delighted to find that "volunteer" squash plants had sprouted from forgotten seeds. This volunteer crop was nothing new, however. Earlier this spring, the fields surrounding our house were covered in a green swath of wheat which had not been formally planted, but which sprouted and grew from discarded seeds.

The metaphor of a volunteer crop is a good thing for a writer to understand. A bounty of writing can be culled from the random bits and pieces of stimuli and information depositing themselves in our path each day. A song, a snippet of conversation, a particularly interesting stranger...any of these can lead to a wonderful piece of writing. For instance, "Satellite," which was originally published in Cave Wall, came from a short sound bite on the radio about a satellite that had to be shot down. It eventually became an investigation of man's relation to God. Big stuff, I know. But it bloomed from such a small little thing.

As your week progresses, try to gather as many of these seeds as you can. Carry a small notebook and pen with you, or at least a few scraps of paper to jot them down. Once you've collected a few, let them germinate, then see what grows.

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