Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seeds & Magic

That's my broccoli, which is growing circles around the other sprouts.

When I was a kid, I didn't ask my parents for pets half as much as I asked them if I could grow a garden. Strangely enough, they were always leery of my request, as if I could destroy the backyard with tomato plants. The horror!

Whoa, ahem, channeling my teenage self there a little too much.

What I'm trying to say is that I've always had an interest in gardening, but haven't really had the chance to do it until recently. The townhouse we live in now has a little strip of dirt in the back, and one in the front. I can't tell you how excited I was about that when we moved in. I could grow things!

I've made some mistakes. Much like writing, I tend to learn by doing really stupid stuff at first, like buying half-shade plants in the Utah desert. Sure, my front yard may only get "half-shade," but in Utah that's the equivalent of a whole day. Eh, live and learn, right?

And I have learned a lot, but no matter how much I know, when my seeds sprout it still feels like magic. Water, dirt, and sun—that's all it takes to make food or beautiful flowers or trees. I've known that since I was a child, but every time I plant I always have this thought, "Maybe they won't come up this year. What if I watch them and water them and all I get is dirt?"

I'm always wrong.

As I watch those seeds emerge from the soil and stretch their tiny leaves to the sun, I can't help but feel the magic. Because it IS magic, no matter how much I know about the science of growing things.

I've always found that interesting, how people tend to lose the magic just because they know how something works. It's as if people think magic is supposed to be this easy thing that just works with zero effort. The second there is any evidence of work, magic becomes science or craft or years of practice. I'm not sure why, but when we see how the "smoke and mirrors" are used, we think that the magic is gone.

I beg to differ.

We might see the magic differently, but knowing how magic works doesn't make it any less magical, just like knowing the science of how seeds grow doesn't make it any less amazing every time they sprout. For me, sometimes it makes it even better. I admire the work and complexities that go into making something look so completely effortless.

Look at those cute little green onions! I'm a proud mama.

Same goes for writing. Boy, have I learned a lot about the magic of writing and publishing. It definitely changed my view, but has it made writing any less magical? Nope. Every time I start a new book, the idea sprouts like a seed and grows before my eyes. It's definitely hard work, watering and weeding and tending that seed, but it's miraculous all the same. I don't think work and knowledge can ever take that away, nor can repetition. Writing book 12 has been just as magical as book 1, if not more because I know just how hard it is.

From everything I've ever seen, magic is a lot of work. It takes practice. It can go wrong. But no matter how much you know, it's always magic. It always fills me with a sense of wonder. It always puts a smile on my face when I get it right. And that, to me, is worth it.


  1. I have to say, those green onions are incredibly cute. :)

  2. I've always wanted to garden! :) But the soil in every place I've ever lived has just been HORRIBLE for it. We did a lab in high school to test the chemical levels in my soil and it was just way too full of phosphorus, I think, for us to grow anything.

    The magic of writing is such hard work. :) I love the analogy!

  3. Sam, soil can be trouble, but maybe try potted gardening. I've had great luck growing tomatoes and other sensitive plants in pots. Much easier to control the soil and water:) You'd be surprised what you can grow, too. For example, my friend grows strawberries in window boxes—all year long. They do amazing.

  4. Awesome post, Natalie, as always. I totally agree the magic is still there, whether we understand how it works or not. Your little plants are awesome. :) I had no idea you had such a green thumb!

  5. Lovely little plants! Mine have started coming up as well and it was so exciting :) And I agree with you: magical! I read someone's comment on the Nature of Magic blogfest the other day and they said "magic is being in-tune with nature" (or something to that effect) and I think they are right.

    Congrats on your baby plants!

  6. Yes! I agree with the science is magic. The more I learn about the human cell (I'm a biochemist) and the more *amazed* I am by it. Funnily enough, I posted about exactly this about a week ago. ^^

    The world is complex. Nature's designs are the most perfect and beautiful to be found. It's magic if there's any to be found.

  7. This is one of my favorite posts you've ever written. You're right; there's magic all around us. I think it's magical that you could grow anything in Utah. I lived there back when I was a student at BYU, and I couldn't grow anything.

  8. Beautiful, inspiring post.

    And adorable plants--they make me eager for summer. I can't plant until the end of May because we still get frosts until then, so keep your photos coming to give me gardening smiles.

    I started gardening five years ago, at the same time I switched over to writing novels. My learning curve has been the same for each--just starting to figure it out. Mmmm...gardening and writing...both make me love life.

  9. I have a black thumb, but I've always been a sucker for magic. :)

    Wonderful analogy, and congrats on the broccoli! Also the writing, hehe.

    Like you, I'm okay with knowing how "magic" works. Because even if watching it gets old (which it doesn't, for me! but I'm saying...) the best part is actually creating it yourself.

  10. You have the best analogies!

    And I never get tired of the magic of creation, whether that's a story, gardening or just new life being born in general. It's all magical.

    I'd like to start gardening. I never had the patience for it before but I'm finding myself really wanting to plant some pretty little marigolds in my front yard.

  11. I have the same thought whenever I plant seeds. I'm trying a garden for the first time this year. We're renting, so they will mostly be containers and such, but I'm very excited.

  12. I needed some magic today. I was getting tired of the gray rainy skies. After reading this it occurred to me that there are dark cloudy writing days, days where all you see is the work and not the magic. Then when you least expect the sun breaks and the little sprouts of inspiration show themselves. Thanks for the lift!!

  13. So cute. I've always wanted to garden but the two times I've planted tomatoes, I killed them. How does a person kill a tomato plant????

    Not only are you a gardening guru but you sow words together in a magical way. ;)

    My Blog

  14. Ohhh, Fun. My kids destroy anything they get there hands on.

  15. One of the things I love about Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men series is his belief in everyday magic. People helping each other, a sun rising in the morning, plants growing from seeds, all of it is magic. (I recommend this series to everyone!)

  16. Love your analogy. Now if my writing can end up as nice as my garden.

  17. I like your analogy BUT I am a little concerned. I got a herb garden last Christmas and it was dead by NYE. I hope my books have a little more magic than that!

    Gorgeous blog, by the way. Love your humility.

  18. I agree! What wonderful comparisons!

  19. Great analogy! Too bad my seedlings and my writing often get defeated by frost. Oh well...nothing better than replanting and praying!