“It doesn’t matter what you do,” he said, “so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching,” he said. ”The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
It was unusual for me, just sitting there in my garden, being still.
I’d had a long session with the trowel, the weed eater, and my hand pruners, attacking weeds, setting out plants, and generally tidying up my shade garden. Sweaty, dirty, and tired, I found a chair and a bottle of water and decided to catch my breath.
I looked at what I’d done, but more at what I needed to—and began making mental additions to my to-do list.
This is becoming a job, I thought. Gardening is a lot of work.
Maybe I should just take a moment and enjoy all of this, my own quiet corner of the world. Maybe it’s OK to take a break.
Maybe it’s more than OK.
Lately, when I’ve been reading about gardening, I’ve been diving deep into science and methods, all the how-to information. In the midst of researching an interesting new plant, I came across the Ray Bradbury quote above. Now, while I rested, it came back to my mind—and I gave myself a little talk.
Take a moment, take a breath, and enjoy the garden for what it is. Too often, my time here becomes an obligation. Hurry up, get it done, and move on to the next task.
But I am a gardener, not a laborer. It’s important to at times just be in the garden and let it nurture me, not just the other way around. After all, I am a human being, not a human doing.
And so I sat there. A swallow built a nest in the new birdhouse, a hummingbird enjoyed the blooming honeysuckle, sunlight played on the rhododendron. I breathed in the fresh air, and all the smells of spring.
The real beauty in the garden, I realized, was not all the work I’d done, though I certainly had provided some tidying up and structure to this little piece of paradise. The real joy in this place is all the creatures and plants that make this their home.
And one of them is me.
So the most important part of my job as gardener is to sit in a chair and enjoy my own place in this magnificent paradise. Here.
In this moment. ❖
This article was published originally in 2017, in GreenPrints Issue #109.