Natalie Goldberg, author of the groundbreaking writing book Writing Down the Bones, says writers need to see and describe negative spaces–what is not obviously present in a scene, the spaces in between what is there. Often, she says, that is where the meaning is. I thought about Goldberg’s negative space idea after my gardening flurry on Saturday. In addition to planting bulbs, I moved some hostas from my shady bed to a spot underneath the stairs that lead from our deck to the yard. This spot is hard to mow and shady, the perfect spot for some low-maintenance hostas. In another bed, I removed the diseased aster I wrote about in an earlier post.
Sunday morning, I was looking out at the back yard when I noticed how much better both of those beds looked. Removing the plants made the beds look neater, more pulled together, more like they had actually been designed as opposed to just planted. The spaces where the plants had been gave the eye a spot to rest. Removing the aster also created a space through which we can view a statue of St. Francis that we put in the garden last year. In many cases, less really is more.