It is very definitely autumn turning towards winter here now, and as my season ends and the hecticness of sending out flowers daily is on hold for a while, I can get down to some of the tasks I need to do outside and in. And as the pace of the year changes I have found myself reflecting whether gardening should not ideally be an occupation for the young and wondering whether we should move into the cities without green demands and enjoy a hedonistic or sybaritic lifestyle when we are older? I’ve been thinking about this lately not because of laziness but because gardening is all about the future, it is about patience, waiting, planning and planting for another year, another decade, even another generation, it is the ultimate delayed gratification where all is about waiting. Waiting in awe admittedly, waiting with joy and hope and delight in what we hope will happen next. But waiting nonetheless. And as we get older how long should we wait? Should we not live in the day, the hour, the moment?
Every Maytime there is a delicious moment when everything in a garden is poised waiting to break out and shoot forward into full growth and leaf and blossom and fecundity. The greens in the garden then are both pale and bright, light, myriad, subtle many toned, buds are forming and breaking, leaves are unfurling, branches untwining and shooting outwards and upwards to clutch at the sky. Life is rushing onwards energetically, joyfully, noisily, exuberantly, rushing to its peak and rushing to its death. There is so much expectation of fruition to come. But the moment is just a moment, a perfect moment. Pause and look around for a glance too long and existential angst sets in. If you’re not careful the very joy of that perfect moment full of expectation is a sadness in its passing.
Yesterday I planted peonies for an hour in the rain, before I was forced inside completely sodden despite layers of waterproof clothing. As I planted I was thinking how glorious they should all look in 5 years time, and thinking also of all the weeding they would require while they grew large enough to cope with whatever else grows up around them. Definitely delayed gratification. Then it was too wet to spend time clearing outside so I set to planning, deciding which trees to buy for a new orchard. I may never see these trees come to maturity but it doesn’t stop the pleasure in planning or the joy of imagining what they will look like. But, and I have only recently realized this but, gardening in some ways makes life pass even faster - I am always looking at pleasure that will come in some way in the future by imagining what will come next, by thinking that if all doesn’t work this year that’s Ok because there is always next year and the one after and so on (I hope). And by looking always into the future I feel life careening past at a swifter pace than I might now wish because I am always looking forward to something in years to come rather than fully enjoying the moment.
I do enjoy the moment too, of course. But when I’m always looking forward I do sometimes feel I’m rushing too fast towards older age!
But I’m sure I’ll be back on track in a day or two, maybe once I’ve got some of those bulbs planted that are sitting in trays in the shed waiting. Or when I’ve moved the compost heap to get rid of the bed breakfast and evening meals and snacks I’m providing for the incoming rat population. Or when I’ve sorted out the building of the new shed. Or written the article with the threatening deadline. Or the chapter of the book I have promised. Or painted a bedroom. Or dug some new beds. Or weeded the field beds where I need to move perennials. Or cleared undergrowth and mulched for all those hellebores I’ve ordered. Or cleared the wildflower patch. Or cleared the floor of the orchard or managed to pick some of the tons of apples that are currently homeless. Or re-done the website. Or sorted out photos. Or made a wood shelter. Or a thousand and one other things………………..