I wrote the poem I posted for Saturday’s dVerse Open Link Night after a day in the garden, accompanied by perfect weather and the delights of nature in all her springtime glory. I worked pulling weeds that grew between bricks on the walkway and in the flower gardens while David planted his newly tilled vegetable garden.
We worked in relative silence, accompanied only by the wild songs of birds and the occasional growling and rough-housing of the dogs in the recently mown lawn. I couldn’t help but think of the value of hard work completed in silence that lends itself to the contemplative practices of monastic observance.
There are lessons to be learned in gardening. I will mention a few I have gleaned, but I know there are so many more. If you would like to add your reflections, I hope you will take advantage of comments to do so.
• Working in the earth is, appropriately, a grounding experience. It relieves stress and puts me in touch with the ground of my being, the substance to which I will return soon enough. A few years ago we were hit with swarms of very shallow earthquakes—as many as a hundred a day. They weren’t huge, but because they were so close to the surface it rattled the house and my nerves. For some reason, during that month or more, I craved being close to the earth.
• Weeding is a great cure for perfectionism—one of my fatal disorders. When we transplanted a lavender bush to the flower garden it infected the whole thing with grass. Until this year I have tried to remove every single root line. Finally, I realized the impossibility of this goal and just do the best I can. Forget about it once it’s invaded the irises or daylilies.
• It’s quite soothing to stop and capture the moment. To pay attention, for example, to what you can hear—the many sounds of birds, the train making its way to town just across the Truckee River, even a dog barking in the distance. Stretch out your back and legs while you’re at it!
• Waiting is an important part of life. Late February or early March, David started his vegetables by seed in the guest bathroom under grow lights. Slowly tiny little shoots emerged. Weeks later, he transplanted them to larger pots. More recently he started setting them outside during the day to acclimate them to the climate, then left them outside overnight. Finally, Saturday, he planted the small plants in the raised vegetable garden into which he had rototilled chicken poop. Now we wait some more. In our climate the growing season is late and short, though abundant.
• Nature understands the color wheel. Color attracts birds, butterflies and bees to the garden. It pays to offer a variety of plants for them to feast on.
• Living things die in order to bring forth new life. Where dead leaves piled up, the soil is rich and fertile. Earthworms abound, aerating the soil. Annuals die in autumn but re-seed themselves in spring.
• Gardening keeps me active and limber. Sure, my back aches after a while, but I do better after I stretch it out. The more you work at it, the less painful it becomes, and it’s a great cure for insomniacs like me. At least for a night or two.
I would love to hear about your experience in the garden, what you grow and what you learn!