Saturday, June 22

picking peas and proofreading

out in our backyard guarden we have two monstrous rows of peas. they are tall and bushy and dripping with ever-fattening pea pods. every few days, heaping bowlfuls of the things show up on the kitchen counter. we eat them right out of their shells, for the most part.

a few days ago I took a break from my lovely proofreading work ($2/page--so fun), and the crazy brother and I went out to pick as many peas as we could. it was a very nice morning for it. while we worked on filling a few more heaping bowlfuls (they don't merely 'show up,' after all, you see), I thought about the whole process of what we were doing--all the parts of our simple task:
fetching a basket or bowl or bucket to hold all the peas you are about to collect.
wandering out to the garden (avoiding the sprinklers if possible).
leaning over or kneeling in the dirt around the monstrous pea plants.
searching among the tangly viney green-ness for peas; distinguishing the green pea pods from the green pea stalks, pea leaves, wilted sweet pea flowers.
choosing the fattest, plumpest pea pods to pick.
finally, tugging the fat pods away from their stems. the tugging usually takes two hands--pea plants aren't quite sturdy enough to stay in one piece in the ground while you tug bits off them, apparently.
but then I thought... the process doesn't really start with the basket fetching. there was so much that had to happen before:
watering all those peas.
boasting to your visiting relatives about how tall these plants have gotten.
buying seeds.
tilling the ground.

I wasn't here for most of those things. I did do some of the watering. a tiny bit of weeding. mostly I've been picking peas and eating them. just the stuff at the end.

while crazy brother and I picked peas on Thursday, my eyes having transitioned from searching for typographical errors on paper to searching for pea pods on vines, I pondered similarities. of course my brain just has to draw some connections between this pea-filled garden and the editorial fiddling I love so much to do. so here we have a few thoughts occasioned by harvesting vegetables and proofing manuscripts in the same chunk of a Thursday morning:
they both come near the end of very drawn-out processes. both are preceded by much work and some waiting. there are stages. you go up and down the rows, back and forth through page spreads, checking and double-checking. your third time through you will still find peas you missed and commas that could be added back in. along with the plucking and striking through, sometimes you have to move things around. in the case of peas at least, both activities take a good deal of perspicacity, at least some attention, and a decent amount of care.

of course this is not a perfect metaphor (do any perfect metaphors exist?). you really should not snack on any bits of your proofreading work. and while you pick peas you can get away with singing songs and arguing about advertisements and thinking about abstractions--tossing pea pods into a bowl becomes very automatic, while as a proofreader you must force yourself to slow the automaticity of reading way, way down. I find proofreading a bit more pleasant than picking peas. my hands don't get so dirty and I needn't kneel on the ground to do it (though I suppose I could, if I wanted...).

and there is the fact that pretty much any kid can go out and pick peas (in fact, if you want any, please come help yourself to ours). but I suspect my crazy brother wouldn't have much luck trudging through a typeset manuscript with a red pencil.

this week--well, really the whole time since I've come home--I have been a doer and a maker and an adventurer much more than a blogger and writer. the notebooks are always in the other room, or I have stayed up too late already, or I only have a few more minutes to wait for bread to rise or only three more seams to press...

but I must not allow my dear blog (or any of the notebooks, either...) to sit unattended for too long. I like having more time to post this summer. next week there will be some posts about cool things that came in the mail, food, and a few other projects I'm working on. like this one:


Nic S said...

amelia chesley said...


MediokurGenius said...

I wish I was as good at analogizing as you are it would really help with my teaching. It's hard to find metaphors for microbiological processes.

amelia chesley said...

aw, thanks. I'm more often afraid the weird metaphors confuse everyone... but hopefully they don't always..