Sunday, 29 December 2013

Treasure in the Trash

Personally speaking, I hate writing the first draft of any story because I know it's going to be garbage. I fight each sentence, wishing I could toss it in the rubbish and start fresh. I have to keep reminding myself to turn off the inner editor and just get the damn words on the paper.

After all, I can't edit a blank page. Garbage can always be thrown out.

However, I've recently learned to be careful not to lose the treasure hidden among the trash.

Let me explain...
Before all the snow came, making Halifax look like a living Christmas card, I prepared my garden for the winter. An old wooden bird house my father had made for me many years ago, finally succumbed to the elements and was basically rotting off its spot on my backyard fence.

My dad is a retired Mountie, but he's also a jack of all trades. I've never known him not to be tinkering with some broken appliance or out in his workshop. The only thing he can't do is cut his own hair, this is a task he hands over to me.

FYI, I don't know how to cut hair, but I have electric clippers and that's good enough for my dad.

I suspect he's so proficient at fixing/making things because he's too cheap to buy something new. A quality that's endearing, actually...unless you mind waiting weeks for the toaster to work again.

In all its time on the fence, I've only ever seen one chickadee perched on top of the bird house. To my knowledge, no birds ever found refuge in the little box with its circular opening, promising shelter from the rain and neighbourhood cats.

Even though its purpose was unfulfilled, I kept it up on the fence for its aesthetic appeal—nothing like a weathered bird house to invoke the imagination.

Once, two years ago, a family of bees set up shop, buzzing in and out of the opening like a well organized flight deck. I imagined splitting open the old bird house to find honeycombs dripping with sweet honey. But the house remained intact, I didn't have the heart to disrupt what they might have created.

And so the little house stayed in place, facing the elements of each season. Until finally, this fall, the small crack in the front spilt wide open and the whole thing sagged away from the fence.

Did I look inside?

Of course I did.

The wood was so pliable, I pulled it apart with my bare hands. When the sunlight shone on the contents, I was amazed at what I found.

Sitting in a cloud of brown leaves was a soft, perfectly round bird's nest. I could see where the twine we used to secure some of the larger plants in the garden had been painstakingly pulled apart, creating thin stripes of silky thread to line the nest.

There was a red strand of yarn from a school project that must have been discarded with the leftover craft supplies.

And when I looked closer, I found tufts of grey fluffy hair—my dad's hair to be exact. The cuttings from his regular visits that gathered on the towel around his neck and then shook free in the backyard, had also found a purpose.

Archaeological layers of my family's life had been braided into this little nest; tiny bits of garbage that the birds had turned into treasure.

So don't turn your nose up at the stink of your first draft, instead relish the icky, sloppiness of it and know that you're getting closer to the treasure hidden within.

Happy writing! And Happy New Year!


Leandra Wallace said...

A great reminder! And I'm like that too, with first drafts. Stinky lil' buggers.

Laila N Mysis said...

*sigh* Can I say again how much I love your posts? I love your posts.

Sandra Cox said...

Nice. Thanks for sharing.

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