A Writer Tries and Fails to Find A Metaphor in The Mud
Onion Scented Inspiration
Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay
When historic levels of rain and snow came through California this past winter, phrases like “atmospheric rivers” and “bomb cyclones” became just another Tuesday for those of us living in the Bay Area.
After each crazy storm ended, I would put on my muddin’ boots and find my way out to the wild and unkempt backyard to assess the latest damage.
I live in a rental home, and our yard has been neglected for years by several generations of tenants so it’s a bit wild and untamed. I like to garden and I work on it a little at a time, but it’s a lot.
As I pull back the layers of abandoned trash and weeds, I keep finding little surprises. Nature does have an admirable way of prevailing, even when we humans don’t keep up our end of the bargain.
One such little surprise arrived when I moved a plant pot that had sat in place for many months. In the soil underneath I found a tiny snakelike creature.
The conversation went like this (because yes, I talk to the wildlife), “Oh, let’s see, what are you? Are you a worm? Wait. You have arms and legs? WHAT?!”
Turns out I had found something called a California Slender Salamander. I have since found three more. Cute little things. A little creepy. But also cute.
The Odorous Discovery
After carefully returning the salamander to its home, and going about my business dumping water out of several overloaded plant pots, I finally got around to draining out a very large bucket that was filled with a variety of garden items.
I poured out black water, oh my did it stink. In addition to the rotting and molding funk, I could smell the very distinct aroma of onions.
I wondered to myself “Did that water get so gross it now smells like onions? Is that even possible”
As I continued to tromp around the yard, I kept smelling what was a fresh oniony smell and not a rotting leaf sort of oniony smell.
It took me a while but I finally looked down between my rubber boots and saw ’em. Green onions. In my yard. Everywhere.
The rains had come and apparently brought onions to the yard.
I didn’t remember onions being in the yard last year. Did birds or squirrels poop out seeds in our yard? Did the heavy rains wash onion seeds down the hill? Were onion seeds buried deep in the soil and the heavy rains brought them out?
I had no idea. What I did know was that I had several patches of green onion all over the place.
As I yanked them from the muck, I had a moment of clarity. “Oh,” I said aloud to the scrub jay supervising my work (I told you, I talk to wildlife), “That’s why the British call them Spring onions. It makes sense. I’d always wondered.”
There were a lot of onions and since onions’ main defense mechanism is their aroma, the more I yanked, the more my yard smelled like onion.
But where’s the metaphor?
Since I am a writer and observer of the world, I thought that these unasked for and unwanted onions were perhaps a good opportunity for a metaphor.
I envisioned a whole neatly written, clever, and profound essay where I tied the onions to something in my writing mind.
Say, for example, surprises grow among the clover. You never know what you might find when you explore the wilds of your brain.
Or maybe, be careful tromping around in the wilds of your brain, you might stumble upon something stinky and eye-watering.
Perhaps, you might plant green grass but be ready for green onions instead.
Nah, you know, none of those really seem to work. I’m pressing here.
I really thought I could be writerly and make a metaphor happen.
I guess sometimes an onion is just an onion.
And sometimes when I want to write something profound, what I get is squappity**.
So I guess I’ll keep exploring the wilds of both my yard and my brain trying to yank out both the real and the metaphorical green onions.
Tears are optional
** Squappity is one of my favorite made up words meaning nothing, nada, the mental equivalent of TV static.
This post was originally published on Medium and more of my work can be found over there @karenfayeth.