about writing and life and God

Little by Little

on February 19, 2013

I am an impatient person. Once I’ve made up my mind to do something or change something, I want it done now!

And yet, the pages of a book grow incrementally. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes in passionate exhausting screeds. And I’ve written around twenty books so far.

Losing weight is incremental too. Only one pound this week? Disappointing, maybe, but added up with all the other weeks, the result is surprising. And encouraging.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Did it all begin with Barclaycard tempting us not to wait but to have what we want now? I seem to remember an advertisement like that.

Since then, we’ve moved on to instant meals (and the discovery of what actually goes into them!), instant relationships (and breakups), instant entertainment, instant messaging, instant community…

Barrington Court gardens, Somerset

Barrington Court gardens, Somerset

Gardeners know the only kind of instant flowers and fruits and vegetables you can have are artificial – silk flowers, plastic or plaster fruit and veg. Pretty – even convincing – but not edible. Real flowers and fruit and vegetables take time. Tasteless supermarket tomatoes grown in hydroponic polytunnels in Spain through the winter just do not have the taste – or that wonderful sulphury smell – of an English sun-ripened tomato.

It’s funny: I enjoy gardening. I love planning what to plant and where to plant it. I even enjoy the task of evening watering to ensure the seedlings thrive. But I’ve been impatiently patrolling my garden most days recently – checking what’s growing, what’s broken from winter’s grip. Then we had a hard frost last night! But everything seems to have survived.

I’m impatient for spring. As I drove through the countryside this afternoon, I was thrilled to see the subtle changes in the landscape – the first downy green covering the fields, the fuzziness of the trees as buds begin to swell, the yellow dangling catkins catching the sunlight.

Lives need pacing as well as books – and plants and flowers and landscapes. There is a time for everything, Ecclesiastes tells us. And we know that to try to rush many a process is to destroy it – as anyone who has tried to help a damselfly out of her chrysalis will know, to their sorrow and her great cost.

To amend Reinhold Niebuhr ‘s prayer:

God, grant us patience for the things which need to be done slowly,

energy for the things which need swifter application,

and the wisdom to know the difference.



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