36: Stopping to smell the roses.

- July 23, 2017 -

If I had to distill the many insights I’ve gained from gardening into just a single thought, it would be this one: everything is temporary, and, knowing this, we must learn to engage with the world accordingly.

You see, no matter how much time you spend in the garden on any given day, no matter how many weeds you remove or how many flowers you prune, there will still be more work for you to do the next time you return. The weeds will regrow, the flowers will again need pruning, and, of course, the plants will still need to be watered every morning. But these are just the factors within your control.

There’s also the matter of the weather, sometimes friend and sometimes foe. Too much sun, for instance, and the plants will wither away, but too little sun and they’ll become limp and lifeless from lack of nourishment. An occasional afternoon of rain can be a great gift, helping to ensure that even the deepest roots get the replenishment they need, but days of non-stop rain will likely do more harm than good. Then, there’s the additional concern of extreme weather like hail, strong winds, or frost, any one of which can quickly undo the work of an entire season.

All of this is to say that the days when you’re simply able to enjoy the fruits of your labour are few and far between. (Truly, it’s a rare moment when your only task is to appreciate the beauty of an unfolding blossom or the small miracle of a weed-free flowerbed.) Strangely enough, though, I’ve come to realize that this infrequency is actually one of the most magical things about maintaining a garden.

There’s little that’s rational about it, as six or seven hours of outdoor labour might translate into ten or fifteen minutes of contented spectatorship before the cycle begins anew. And yet, even so, I’ll always feel a deep-seated sense of joy whenever that brief window of time opens up once more.

On those rare and blissful occasions, when I’m eager to make the most of what I know will only be a passing moment, I’ll gently crouch down in front of each plant, noting with great care their delicate and varied states of bloom. I’ll tiptoe my way through the soil, stopping every few steps to better appreciate the garden from different angles. I’ll walk backwards onto the lawn, pausing at a distance of some twenty or thirty paces, to marvel at the symmetry of so many plants growing in unison.

And although I’ll know that theirs is only a temporary beauty, that those now-flourishing petals will have decayed by the following week and that I’ll soon be the one to remove their then-brittle leaves, I’ll nonetheless find myself overcome with gratitude — gratitude for all of the many things that had to go right just to orchestrate that brief moment of wonder, a moment simultaneously so full yet so fleeting.


Gardening gloves in tow,
– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.