Spring is here at last, but before the busy season in the garden gets under way, now is a good time to take a moment and remind ourselves of the six most important things our garden is trying to tell us.
1. Be hopeful. To garden is to hope. The planting of a seed or the tending of a small plot of vegetables or flowers is founded on hope, a belief and certainty about a better future. It is a curious thing about gardening that the reality often disappoints – a color scheme does not look quite right after all, a hoped-for gorgeousness does not materialize, a beloved tree is destroyed by pests or hungry animals in winter, weather and disease and the gardener’s poor judgment or deficient skill so often ruin all our best laid plans. And yet even a lifetime of disappointment strangely only feeds the gardener’s hope rather than diminishes it. We are cheered to plan the garden of midsummer in the depths of winter, we lay the plans for next year’s spring garden glories in the shambles of the exhausted and dying autumnal garden, we ignore our failures (hopefully, after we learn from them) and revel only in our successes. In our mind’s eye we see only the ideal we are striving toward and the world as it ought to be. We are willingly bedazzled by this beauty of optimistic hope.
And yet, gardeners are also anchored in the soil, so much a part of the earth they care for and so planted with their feet on the ground, that this optimism is never allowed to become unhinged or foolish. Rather, it is a different way of seeing altogether, a kind of far-seeing idealism that takes in the world as it is, but lives within it as it really ought to be, and can perhaps be.
2. Be Persistent. Persistence goes well with hope; combine the two and you have a very powerful mixture for goodness and happiness. Every year – indeed every week – brings heartbreak and disappointment in the garden: death, loss, frustration and disappointment. But every season also brings with it delightful surprises, unplanned beauties and undeserved successes that mix with the disappointments and offset them, obscure them. It does not actually matter if the successes exceed the disappointments as long as the gardener has the temperament to focus on and retain the former, and endure and ignore the latter. This sort of disciplined, impressionistic editing is essential to gardening happiness, or to life happiness for that matter. It leads to taking the long perspective.
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