Valentine’s Day, Living Love

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Why I Passionately Love To Make Gardens

Perhaps twenty years ago, I met a wonderful woman who wrote an inspiring book about heroism in women’s lives. I deeply enjoyed reading her book and invited her to tea in my garden. At one point, I had to give a child a ride and left her wandering in the garden. When I returned, she looked dazed and horrified. I asked what was wrong and she said, “This seems like so much WORK; how can you do it?”

I was in turn baffled and a bit hurt. For me, while academic writing had it’s pleasures, gardening was actively fun. It was a release from indoor work and home schooling. It was an art form, a creative, beautiful expression of my love for plants and the whole natural world. It was also the source of my work; everything I did served to feed the articles and books I was writing to support my family.

Earthy Lovers Are Lucky

The event made me aware that we gardeners are extremely fortunate in feeling so at home out of doors. We revel in getting “dirty”, in plunging our hands into lovely soil, in spreading compost, in getting a load of well aged manure.  As a young woman, the garden taught me that I was capable of having great fun, even though I dislike parties and most social gatherings. My idea of fun was just different, as my ideas about what’s normal also proved to be. Different and rich and wonderfully rewarding.

Over the years, my gardens have taught me true patience. I realized at some point that in adult relationships, I had rarely really been patient, just long-suffering. Plant love showed me where I truly am patient, contented to wait for buds to appear, swell, open and develop into fruit. I truly delight in the slowly building joy that comes from growing a tree or shrub from seed. I’ve learned to delight in the passing of the seasons as my plants rose in triumph and fell in decay. I’ve learned to appreciate the role of decay, not as loss but as recycling summer’s beauties into compost.

The Love of Like Minded Company

For many years, I gardened alone and prized each hour as a gem. Thanks to various public gardening projects, however, I’ve learned that gardening with others is equally rewarding. Not long ago, I helped a group of volunteers clear a site of ivy. The oldest member was pushing 80 and no one was truly young, yet everybody worked with vigor and pleasure. Watching the group, I realized that another gift the garden gives us is pacing. We may love our work, yet as we mature, some of it gets beyond our abilities.

These wise gardeners had learned to work steadily but slowly. They changed jobs often to avoid straining aging muscles. First they’d pull and pry strands of ivy off the tree trunks, reaching as high as possible. Then, they’d turn their attention to the ground, gently but firmly tugging out yards of roots from the rain softened soil. Before they got sore, they’d bundle ivy into balls and drag it to the green waste dumpster.

Plants And People Working Together

As we mature, gardening also teaches us to appreciate teamwork. Instead of straining to move a huge mass of ivy alone, the group worked together. With lots of laughter and encouragement, they managed to move an ever-bigger ball of ivy to the roadside for collection. A few folks worked in teams, picking a single project such as clearing a tall stump or tree. Others wandered, helping with each project in turn.

Perhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned from my garden is how to nurture myself. Whenever I feel discontented, it only takes a few minutes of active work in the garden to reconnect me with the flow of time and change that gives gardening much of its allure. In touching the earth and handling living plants, we are joined into the great changing cycles of life that connect all living things. As we work, whether with other people or alone with plants, our spirits are soothed and supported, which is a great gift indeed.

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2 Responses to Valentine’s Day, Living Love

  1. Clare says:

    Lovely piece, Ann. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who prefers the garden over most social situations, too!!

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