Posted by: krpooler | June 12, 2010

The Fine Art of Composting

” TRUTH IS THE STRONG COMPOST IN WHICH BEAUTY MAY SOMETIMES GERMINATE.”Christopher Morley, American writer and editor(1890-1957) 

If it is mid-June, it is time to cut back the garlic scapes (shoot that garlic sends out as it starts to grow) so that the growth of the garlic will occur in the bulb underground, not in the shoot with the seed pod. I was struck with the similarity between composting and writing as I was helping my gardener husband, Wayne, cut garlic scapes, which by the way, can be used in cooking just like a bulb of garlic. 

Composting is a process where the byproducts of organic material  left to decompose over time release nutrients back into the soil so that the cycle of life and growth can continue. 

Natalie Goldberg devotes an entire chapter in her book, Writing Down the Bones,Freeing the Writer Within, to composting, noting that ” our poems and stories are generated in the fertile soil “of our memories and experiences that have decomposed and have been turned over and over. It all takes time.(page 15)

A plant that germinates from a seed is like a story that germinates from a memory , idea or experience. If the dormant seed is planted in the right medium , it will burst forth with energy and life. As it grows and sends out flowers it will deposit more seeds for the recycling of the plant. I am finding this

Compost Pile

Garden in june

 same process in my writing. As I retrieve old, broken down memories for my story, I am finding more memories come alive; layers of memories that were there all along just waiting to be rediscovered it seems; the natural cycle of life. All I have to do is keep writing and pruning my story like I pruned the garlic so that my memoir can come to fruition.

How is your garden growing?

Garlic Scape


  1. What a rich metaphor. Many memories break open and reveal new truths as they age. They also cling together and create new configurations.

    • Sharon,

      I agree, memories do” reveal new truths as they age” Thanks for your comments and welcome back. Sounds like Alaska was wonderful. Years ago ,my daughter and I visited my son when he was stationed at Eielson AFB so your stories about Denali rang true for me, truly beautiful.


  2. I love the comparison between composting and memory writing! It’s so true that we often cannot unearth some memories until we turn others over and over, loosening the entire memory structure!

    • Yes, isn’t it amazing what pops back when we least expect it? I’m finding it to be a fascinating journey! Good to hear from you, Libbye. Thanks for your comments.

  3. This is such an interesting idea–and I too feel that writers have a lot in common with gardeners. Thinking about what to cut back so the plant grows correctly for the right purpose is similar to editing–how we need to crop and focus to help our story grow correctly.
    And composting–Yes! So much is doing its underground thing in our mind-bodies, so much that only a small portion ends up in our consciousness at a given time. Yet, as you say, the richness is developing, all we have to do is have faith in the process. Thanks for your ideas and thoughts.

  4. Outstanding, Kathy! And I loved seeing your pictures — I didn’t know that about garlic. What interesting ideas; I’d have never thought to compare writing to gardening, but now that I think about it — you’re right on! Isn’t it wonderful how all our experiences sink in and provide the soil from which new ideas spring forth?!

    • I know, Debbie,the garden is so fascinating and can teach us so much. The pictures don’t really do it justice. I wish you could see it and smell it,especially on a sunny day. Yes, it is wonderful that”our experiences sink in and provide the soil from which new ideas spring” Thanks for your comments and perspectives.

  5. I appreciate how you really do tie all these ideas together in such a neat the idea about the” underground thing” and having faith in the process. Thanks for your comments and insights.

  6. Hi Kathy, it is amazing how you are valuing ‘composting’ for the process of writing. My mother used to say, “one needs to add compost, manure and fresh water to germinate that seed and you will see the bush full of beautiful roses. She was mentioning regarding education, character, and achievements. I love those slushy greeneries.

    I get to read something new(new ideas and metaphors) everytime in your blogs. Thanks!

    • Hi Smita,

      Your mother was so right. We all want” beautiful roses” in anything we do, Thanks for your comments! Kathy

  7. “Which…can be used in cooking just like a bulb of garlic” — As I’ve said many times, this is the only family I know that is willing to add garlic to some other garlic just to spice it up a little.


    • Absolutely ,Dave!!You are surrounded, as you already know.

  8. Great analogy, Kathy. And I loved the pix.

    • Thanks,Lynne. Glad you enjoyed the pictures. Wish you could see the garden(4 acres) in person as the pictures don’t do it justice.

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