The weather is finally turning a bit, and I’ve been planting like a busy bee. Today, as I dug holes for an apricot tree and four shrubs (a forsythia, two red-twig dogwoods and a golden arborvitae), I thought about why I garden. I was covered with leaf mold, cotton burr compost and dirt, and yet, I felt like a child again. All around me violas, pansies, crocus and daffodils were blooming. Bees were just starting to buzz, and every day, something different was poking its leaves above ground.
In our ever busy, super techno world, it seems people are more cynical, and many try to regain their childhood in unhealthy ways. I can promise you playing Xbox is not the path to happiness.
I had a bone density test this morning, and as is often the case this time of year, I stood, in jeans, boots and gardening t-shirt, waiting. All around me in the waiting room were important looking women in their suits and heels with polished profiles. One looked askance at me, and I said, “I’m a gardener” and smiled. I smiled because every time I say those words, I feel the fluttering wings of joy in my heart. I was once the woman in the suit, and I am no more.
Next, the other person will generally say they can’t garden, or ask a question about a plant with a kind of embarrassed look about the eyes, but every once in awhile, they will lean forward and whisper almost reverently, “I’m a gardener too.”
Now, close your eyes for just a moment, sit back in your chair and be still. I know it’s hard, but essential things often are.
Just rest. Rest is essential.
After you reopen your eyes, think back to when you were a child. It’s Saturday, and all of your chores are done. The rest of the day is yours until supper. What will you do? My sister and I often went out back, made mud pies, and played with rolly pollies (sowbugs) and earthworms. We dug holes, and filled them with water. Sometimes, we even planted seeds. I’ll never forget (and I’m sure my mom won’t either) the time when I found a dead bird, and I put it in the planter where some rose moss grew. I knew it would break down in the soil, but I didn’t realize how bad it would smell in the meantime.Whoops.
I often transplanted weeds here and there pretending they were roses and other beautiful plants. We would crawl behind shrubs and make these small spaces our “houses.” What I was doing I now realize was learning my craft, bit by bit, or bird by bird as Anne Lamott would say.
Now, bring yourself back to present. So many of our childhood memories involve the outdoors, and I hope you found some beautiful ones fluttering within your soul. Forts, flowers and fun were the watchwords of our childhood days.
So much of the time when I meet people who say they can’t garden, I am perplexed when they then wrinkle up their noses in distaste. I believe it’s because we’ve forgotten how to play. And, at its heart, gardening is simply play. I still get to dig in the dirt, stretch my muscles, fill holes with water, and get so supremely dirty, that a shower is a relief.
Michele Owens, one of my favorite writers, has her first gardening book out, Grow the Good Life, which explains some of why we have problems with gardening. After reading it, I think many of her assertions are dead on. Success lies in how we judge gardening. If we see it as a problem, or as warfare, we don’t want to do it. Our perspective is all wrong.
Instead of worrying about which bug to kill, we need to remember how much we loved to play outside. You know . . . re-awaken our sense of child-like wonder.
I’m willing to grow the good life. How about you? What will you do to change your outlook on gardening and the great outdoors?