"Whenever I went to the garden I was leaving work behind. Words and books, the writing life, the expectations others had of me. I was forsaking deadlines and logic, a liberation I had not realized, until that spring, that I was seeking. I was giving up on the notion that words alone can solve the riddles. You can write yourself into your life, or you can write yourself directly out of it; I had been losing track of me. I had found myself measuring myself by my words, found myself too awfully focused on the need to get things right.

"But you are never perfectly right when it comes to words. You are only yourself, and when you are alone as much as I had been alone with the work, yourself becomes too tight and stingy. You try to put too fine a point on things; you lose your talent for idle thought or lazy dreaming. You start doing battle with yourself over finally meaningless things when you could and actually should be out helping your neighbor rake her leaves. You obsess (but of course you obsess) until the joy is gone from that thing you'd love, until your fury overwhelms your passion, until you no longer know how to sit with your back against a tree and write poetry that no one but you will ever see. I had become a writer because I'd loved the sound, the kiss of words. But now language seemed vacuous and puny.

"What I had loved had become what I felt compelled to do; it was time to walk out my own front door. 'Keenly observed,' Gretel Ehrlich has written, 'the world is transformed.' I went to the garden to see more truly. I went for transformation's sake and to win back my talent for plain living."