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· Gardening and Writing the Point-Defiance Way ·

A drive to a local nursery plopped a fall bargain into my backseat yesterday — a Point-Defiance Rhody now awaiting planting in the garden. Naturally, its name resonanted with me, suggesting nominally at least — though not adjectivally — possibilities for literary growth. Point Defiance! How happily appealing, like elliding, or sliding through (or squeezing by) the Rules, easily — the Northwest POINT-DEFIANCE WAY.

 · Point Defiance ·

I needed some instruction, of course, and, as fortune would have it, my wife wisely suggested as a witty and, I might add, beautiful model — both literary and natural — the Northwest gardening author Marianne Binetti. Now Marianne Binetti is Northwest all the way, living in Enumclaw just a bit east of Tacoma, Washington, not too far geographically from the real Point Defiance — the peninsula jutting northward into Puget Sound there. Last spring, she happened to visit our own more westerly Olympic Peninsula, leaving an autographed copy of her third book, Easy Answers for Great Gardens: 500 Tips, Techniques, & Outlandish Ideas, with my wife. "Go Easy," she wrote. (She has, I might add, very nice handwriting.)

I was charmed by her style. Here's good Northwest gardening advice, Binetti-style:

Adding all this organic stuff to the soil and making compost seems like a lot of work. Is it really necessary?

Nope. You could keep your lousy soil and have fewer choices of plants you can grow.

Do I have to dig all this organic matter into the soil?

No. Digging is work. The easy answer is to just lay the compost, manure, or soil amendments on top of the soil . . . and let the earthworms do the work.

Do I have to use fertilize[r]?

Nope. There are plenty of plants that do well without fertilizer.

What is the best type of fertilizer for the lazy gardener?

There's no easy answer here. It depends on the gardener and the plants. Marianne Binetti, Easy Answers for Great Gardens: 500 Tips, Techniques, & Outlandish Ideas, Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2000, 3-11.

You get the picture. No-nonsense Marianne — smack, in-your-face, charming, and beautiful. I wish we writing teachers would get the hang of her particular genius. Perhaps then we'd have Tips-'N-Tricks texts better suited to postmodern student needs:

Adding all this punctuation stuff to writing seems like a lot of work. Is it really necessary?

Nope. You could keep your lousy sentences and have fewer choices of good ideas to share.

Do I really have to dig ideas up by myself?

Hardly. Digging is work. The easy answer is to lay in some half-digested quotes and let readers do the work.

Do I have to use citation[s]?

Are you kidding? There are plenty of them growing electrically in the digital dirt nearby.

What is the best type of idea for the lazy composer?

There's no safe easy answer here. It depends, frankly, on the writer, the reader, and the topic. Would that there were such texts; methinks publishers would earn some profits.

My literary fantasy does, I admit, have its own obvious limitations, since gardening and writing aren't exact analogues. They're not really quite fit. Whereas we might Go Easy with rhodys, we'd Go Wrong, alas, with "Composing Too Easily" — though I wish my students could today hear the straight, point-defiant, correct answer to:

Must I really avoid the first-person?

No way! We'd all quite clearly be lost without it, you and I.

In any event, thanks Marianne. And by the way, is it true that Point Defiance is a clone of Lem's Walloper? I'd really like to know.


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