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20 May 2009

Garden Yoga

I never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large Garden.

~Abraham Cowley, The Garden, 1666

When I became a gardener, I fell in love. I fell in love with the permanent dirt stuck btn my fingers, toenails and on my knees, the small scratches all over my arms and legs, and how I became miraculously immune to the toxic leaves of poison ivy. I fell in love with my new state of mind which grew healthy from the daily fresh air of being outdoors and my body responded by falling in rhythm with the changes of the seasons and the womanly phases of the moon. Mostly I fell in love with how gardening planted peace in my soul and exercised my already active imagination.

I could and still do spend hours envisioning the final established fully grown product, months from now and years from now. I loved becoming fully absorbed in thoughts about where will things thrive, how big will they get, how long will that take, what would look best next to that and rearranging plants and ideas until at last I have my future, lush and wild green garden exactly the way I pictured it in mind over and over. The imagination does not stop there. When my garden's established 3 maybe 4 years in, my soul is satisfied at last, yet my mind is already racing - for a gardener's work is never really done right? Plants need to be divided, transplanted, added, weeds pulled, more compost added. It's like Karel ńĆapek, The Gardener's Year, 1931 says: "Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart."

In the garden, every day is different. I have to see things from the plants point of view. The plants will tell me their needs and I will respond as their loving garden-mother, giving them everything they need to thrive and grow strong. Being sensitive to their needs is essential for happy plants. They all expect different things from me. Some like more water, some insist on shade, others demand sun all day. Sometimes, they require a sibling – like my blueberries who refuse to put out fruit unless planted close to their brother or sister blueberry. Some are extremely demanding and ask that I keep a close eye on them and give them haircuts every so often, pruning away their wild growth. Others keep more to themselves, asking only that I visit them every so often.

Sharing our garden is the most rewarding part of Warren and I’s hard work. When someone stops by to experience the feeling of our garden, I know we’ve accomplished our goals. Our current garden, in our front yard, serves the purpose of being a shaded, green, lush miniature rainforest full of zen and quiet calm. Friends and neighbors stop by to comment and walk around it, sometimes sitting for a bit, absorbing the tranquility, maybe hoping in a sense to take some of it with them.

Gardening is definitely laborious work but it’s not just the wondrous end result that I wait patiently for. Whether I’m weeding, digging, planting, mulching, sweating, getting sunburned, or using muscles I didn’t know I had, my body, mind and soul are being cleansed and revived. My mind gets to wander while my hands work in the dirt. And the outcome of each gardening session is like a satisfying yet intensive yoga class. I’m worked, I’m worn but I feel incredibly gratified and fulfilled. And after a shower and a good night’s rest, I’m more than prepared to go outside, grab my tools and do it all again.

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