The Poetry of The Garden
"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." (May Sarton)
It’s hard to convince myself that gardening is an instrument of grace when I am plastered in mud and weary from a day planting bulbs. In fact I’ve been planting bulbs for the last month; 2,715 of them – I trudge around the garden zombie-like, weighed down by the sludge on my boots and trousers. I’m a bulb-planting zombie. But May Sarton is right; the slow process of digging down deep and burying my little nuggets of treasure, does set me back into the ‘slow circles of nature’.
That is what I love about working closely with nature. I have to work at her pace and now, in November that is slow; slowing down to the virtual stop in December. And after a busy year in the garden I need the break. Spring with its excitement, followed by the colourful chaos of high summer and the flurry of harvest and preparation that comes with the late summer and autumn, all combine to make the gardener’s life a pretty busy one. But even the most back-breaking jobs and the coldest, wettest days, never once make me want to do anything else for a living and I am always deeply grateful that life has allowed me to live my path this way.
Working with Gaia, feeling her life-giving soil in my hands, nurturing her wild seeds and my own chosen precious gems, embracing the beauty and wallowing in the scents she sends, it is a wonder to me that anyone would want to be anything but a gardener! Luckily everyone can be a gardener – even without a garden: With so many wonderful community gardening projects to join, allotments to be had, window boxes to install, gardening is within pretty much everyone’s reach. For those of us lucky enough to have our own gardens, the path to happiness is just a step outside the door.
Biophilia – our instinctive connection with nature – is part of us all. Living without this connection can lead to illness and a feeling of ‘something missing’ in our lives. Going for a walk or enjoying a view bring a certain amount of connection but for me, the act of working with the land, as gardeners do, brings even greater benefits, involving, as it does, the elements of creativity and nuture that fulfil other human desires. Creativity - art - is what we are able to give back to the world. Working with the world, with Earth herself, nurturing Nature to create art in the form of a garden, is incredibly fulfilling. It is joyous, sacred work. I worship daily; kneeling in the dirt, loving every minute.
In the Blue Zones of the world (the five areas where people live longer, happier and healthier than anywhere else) the people engage in daily unautomated tasks such as gardening, eat plant based diets and place great value on social and family life. In many ways, they lead a ‘Simple Life’ – something to which many of us aspire. Gardening takes us back to that simple life.
We don’t need a horticultural degree to make a garden – everything we need to know is out there in the Collective Unconscious (or, failing that, Google). Humans have been working the land for thousands of years – it’s what we’re meant to do. If we give ourselves a chance we can re-find our way into the flow of natural life. In fact it is an easy and instinctive act to step outside and back into May Sarton’s ‘slow circles of nature’.
It’s not so easy, though, in my experience, to remain entirely graceful while you’re doing it.