Not a Garden Guru
My dad was a farmer before he was a teacher, but good old Michigan muck stayed (figuratively) under his fingernails for his entire life. Till he was in his seventies, Dad raised glorious vegetables in the not-quite-up-to-snuff Wisconsin soil.
My mom took care of plotting and planting and caring for flower beds.
Gardening is in my blood.
Unfortunately some cosmic leach sucks it out at regular intervals.
Those green cells build up enough for me to engage in a spring planting frenzy before the siphoning off process begins again sometime after the summer solstice.
Several years of throwing random perennials here and stuffing the earth with various bushes there could almost make one think I understand how to put my concepts of beauty into practice. It would be hypocritical to let that thought linger.
It’s the mechanics of gardening that elude me.
Not a Grammar Guru Either
As a voracious reader from age 5 upward, syntax and grammar and punctuation and spelling entered my psyche by default and constant reinforcement.
So do sentence rhythm, appropriate locations for apostrophes and commas, and which(not witch) hear/here or there/they’re/their fits where(not wear).
If the subject and verb don’t agree I automatically sense dissension. After all, subjects and predicates and I have been interacting for well over half a century.
The look and feel of good grammar branded itself into my brain.
Yet some unscaleable wall exists between the part of my mind that knows what is right and the part that comprehends how that rightness is achieved.
It’s the mechanics of grammar that eludes me.
(Everything to do with mechanics eludes me. Mathematics and analytics and order and reason. The leetle gray cells are so leetle and gray that I’m pretty certain I sneezed them out during long addition in second grade.)
Recently, my 5th and 6th grade Sunday School class labored over a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. My helper was the high school sophomore sister of one of my students. When she checked her little sister’s work she snorted in disgust.
“Your sentence is ridiculous. Look, there’s a comma. It means a clause follows and YOU NEED A VERB IN THERE.” Because, you know, even the lower orders of mammals comprehend the grammar rule that a clause preceded by a comma requires a subject and predicate.
Never in a million years would I have written that sentence incorrectly, and never in 2 million would the reason for it rolled off my tongue as glibly as it did from a 16-year-old’s.
Hypocrisy Guru? Maybe…
I’m a hypocrite, people.
Last year I did a few posts on the “Garden of Grammar” where I exposed the errors and shoddy language practices that drive a grammarian right up and over the garden gate. But I am neither a gardener nor a grammarian. The snooty grammar guru-type posts were written while I wielded a false spade and hid behind a fake set of gardener gloves.
Yes, I can tell at a glance a rose from a dahlia from a marigold, a cuke from a zucchini from a pattypan, a contraction from a plural from a plural possessive.
No, I don’t know what kind of soil each plant grows best in or how to prune them or fertilize them or identify leaf moulds.
No, I can’t diagram a sentence or easily conjugate a verb.
But. Oh glorious day. I don’t need to grow a rose to know how one smells or looks and I don’t need to name a non-defining relative clause to correctly utilize it to enrich and clarify my sentences.
So forgive me for the hypocrisy. Please don’t come to me for the finer points of grammar technicalities, or to ask for tips on raising day lilies. But I’ll be happy to tell you if your garden—or your grammar use—are things of beauty and precision and care.
I’m the same way, Anita. I usually know if things “look” or “seem” right, but that doesn’t always mean they ARE right, right?!
Anita, thanks for the laughter every time you post something. Even if you (by your own admission) can’t diagram a sentence or rattle off grammar rules, you definitely have a way with words!
I love your line: “Gardening is in my blood. Unfortunately some cosmic leach sucks it out at regular intervals.” That explains a lot! I, too, had parents who reveled in the soil and in nurturing plants. But it was lost on me. Now I know why.
I can identify with your grammar perils. I know what works. I can feel and experience the beauty of a sentence. I can also hear what’s wrong, and usually know how to fix it. But grammar rules instruction is just too many decades ago for explaining why something’s wrong. And it’s too tedious. Isn’t that why we read our works aloud? We’ve got the ear for hearing what’s right and wrong, what works and what doesn’t. That’s all we need.
Also, by virtue of the fact that you’ve admitted your so-called hypocrisy, I don’t think you qualify as either a gardening or a grammar hypocrite anymore.
You know, I think there are people who do revel in the mechanics of grammar and sentence structure, and they are lovely people. But now I think of it…very few of them enjoy actually the process of creative writing! Thanks for the comment. It’s always nice to see you here.