Saturday, November 08, 2008

Passive Voice, Passive Season

"Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day."
Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya, 1897

Passive voice is something I really like, provided it’s not aggressive, like Checkhov, ranting about how man is more of a destroyer than a creator. Using passive voice can be a way to cleanse a story of it’s angst. It wraps sad memories in a soothing blanket of distance, softening painful recollections of bad times.

It helps us to express difficult things without attaching blame: My friends, harsh words were spoken in anger. Mistakes were made. Toenails were trimmed. Hair was set on fire. Feelings were bruised, and so were soft tissues. Threats were made; carried out impulsively; and then regretted tearfully. Toast was burned. Promises were broken, and so were fingers. The Boze was dropped into the bath water. Ledges were jumped off from. Or were they pushed off of?

Gardening this time of year is like speaking in passive voice. Sweet pea seeds were sown yesterday in silent hope for a fragrant Spring. Tools were sharpened and tucked lovingly away. Frequent breaks were taken, the coming season was smelled in the breeze. My back was not burned by the sun. Tasks performed were more like puttering than active gardening.

At the end of the day, the first of my mail order seeds were sorted and put in the cool, dark, dry wooden tool box where seeds are stored. Mail order bulbs were delivered and stored in the bottom drawer of my fridge, cooling for 8-10 weeks before being planted. The smell of root beer, and my grandmother’s basement was detectible in the boxes of bulbs.

Today, it’s more like summer outside, and there will be more such days before the rains come and the leaves are done falling. But for now, I feel like I have begun to learn – as I do again each year – to wait passively until the seasons turn and I can play outside in the yard again on a regular basis. Meanwhile, bread will be baked. Doll house construction will be resumed. Seed catalogs will be perused by the fireside. And miracles will be worked silently, underground, by Mother Nature.


Katie said...

Thanks for the reminder that it's more about how you say something than what you say.

Sounds like you had a good time putting the garden to bed.

tina said...

Very well said with a good sentiment. Passive voices are a skill one must work on and it doesn't always come easily.

walk2write said...

As Dad always used to say: You make more of an impression if you walk stickily and carry a big soft. Take 'em by surprise that way.

Annie in Austin said...

An Austin fall, in contrast, demands that one buy plants, dig and make decisions and plant soon, soon, soon! We must work while the ground is cool so the roots can's not a passive season at all!

Do you read FaireGarden Frances and Outside Clyde Christopher? They're quite adept at using the passive voice for Garden blogging.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose