There’s been much said about the garden being a sanctuary — a place that provides solace. And I believe we each make a garden for ourselves that’s simultaneously a reflection of who we’ve been, who we are and who we want to be. It’s nostalgia, remembrance, hopefulness, aspiration, belonging, community, nurturing, experience, learning, and embrace all in one, constantly-changing package.
Something wonderful about the garden in winter is that with much of the exuberance of the warmer months gone, it’s easier to see what’s there holding it up the rest of the year. That foundation upon which everything else is based.
Of course it’s easier to spend less time on it too, if you want. The winter garden requires less of you because its changes are more subtle and often slowed down. Cold has a way of putting things in stasis and inviting reflection.
So that got me thinking about how easy it is to just enjoy the winter garden. To simply be with it in those times when it’s not raining around here. And, of course, that also got me thinking about how I could make that possible the rest of the year too. Those times when I feel like a bit of a slave to it.
There are moments you need to dive in head-first into your garden projects — to get big changes made, or to do a big seasonal cleanup. But my propensity to never be without a big garden project is starting to feel exhausting, and rather like missing the point.
A day’s garden work is rewarding, and fun, and good exercise. But it starts to feel less that way when it’s not balanced with days of enjoying the fruits of your labors. Or when all you can see is what needs to be done.
Now, I’m not saying it’s bad news to have aspirations and dreams, but to have your garden be a solace, you have to treat it that way. You have to allow yourself to see it as a solace rather than a project.
When I think of the places I find most restorative, there’s very little about them that’s tied to ambition and perfection. Nature is powerful, but its beauty is in how it just is.
So my challenge for myself for the next year of gardening is to stop interfering so much. To stop seeing what could be, and instead enjoy what I already have. Isn’t that the key to a happy life in general?
I’m sure I’ll still be tempted by a new plant, or a different arrangement of existing plants. My goal isn’t just to let everything revert to chaos, but instead to provide more of a guiding hand rather than a sledgehammer.
Perhaps I’ve reached this point in my life in general, or perhaps this is only possible because of the work I’ve put in already, but it feels like a welcome change in perspective nonetheless.
Life isn’t always reasonable, or fair, or what you expect. Just as your garden isn’t that way either. But the lesson of the garden is that it’s enjoyable anyway if you choose to see it that way. It keeps evolving and demonstrating new beginnings regardless of what happens to it. It’s a patient teacher, the garden.