In the weeds
I’m putting on a final push to get a new book out. I’ve entered the phase that’s sometimes called “in the weeds.” To me, that expression describes a point where you’re entangled in the small details and complexities of things. A comma here, a dangling participle there. My sister Jane is copy-editing the book, and she’s an editor with whom you do not want to mess.
But here on PEI, I’m wondering if “in the weeds” would always suggest a negative meaning. Our weeds impress me. They take over ground that no one tends otherwise, and carpet-bomb it with rootedness and colour. Lupins march out of the ditches, musk vaults the canebrake barricades. Dandelions bloom right through the sidewalks, with a yellow primal scream.
My father Frank was a gardener, but had a real weakness for the redeeming quality of Island weeds. We’d just get a flowerbed cleaned up, and he would transplant something wild and rhizomatic into it. And then you could never get it the hell out. The gorgeous weeds would tower over any annuals we planted. Not choking them, but staking their ground and declaring a firm intention that they were not going anywhere soon. Trying to pull them was a slow exercise in gaining appreciation for their endless, sinewy, and tough network.
I’ve been asked to make a point about Island culture here. I’m going to say that, when I talk with other creative people at this late-winter time, we’re in the weeds. And that’s not necessarily a negative thing.
To talk with an Island artist, at this time of year, is to be impressed with the intricacies and uniqueness of doing the work.
Here’s my email inbox this morning. Friday rehearsal is no good for my brilliant folksinger co-performer, because that’s his fullest day of music lessons for ages eight and eighty. I’m looking at the new painting of my theatre-owner friend, who is renovating another property between pharmacy shifts. He’s an exhausting individual. I write a response to an tireless artist/candidate/advocate, because we might work together on a book event.
I am truly impressed with these people. They’re resilient. They get the creative work done and push the damn dandelion right through the pavement.
PEI certainly has more artists, and artists of high calibre, than any per capita measurement would give us right to expect. Funding doesn’t create an artist, anymore than a government highway worker plants a lupin. But it’s right to play close attention to the conditions that support this growth. Why?
One thing that’s important to understand is that artists will be the last to ever give up this ground. It is positive to see a new enterprise open a large building, with a picture in the paper and a fancy bed of annuals out front, spelling the company name. It’s part of a good ecosystem. It’s easier to appreciate.
But it’s also fair to say that there will never be a closure resulting in the immediate departure of fifty artists. We’ve created every filament of our work and our lives to keep us rooted. We’re taking on a versatile blend of jobs, we’re appearing at your community fundraisers, we’re intertwined in diverse support networks.
Why are artists important? You’re going to have to look a bit closer and trace out the length of the answer, which can be complex, filamented, and impressively exhausting.
Because we’re in the weeds. And we’re not going anywhere soon.
—Patrick Ledwell is a writer, comedian, and technology designer. His new book An Islander Strikes Back will be launched May 6 at The Guild.
The Guest Book is a monthly Buzz feature whereby we invite a guest writer to contribute an essay on whatever is on their mind.