I’ve never thought of gardening as a spiritual practice before, but spending time in my garden today has inspired me to reflect on the processes involved and how they intertwine with what it means to me to grow, both spiritually and practically.
It’s not about being perfect.
My garden is not perfect. It never will be. I yearn for a lawn big enough to have a trampoline on, and enough space to host my friends, as we while away a lazy afternoon, eating, drinking and laughing together in the sun. But when I think to times when I’ve had large gardens (up to 1/2 an acre when living in Alderwasley), I think how overwhelming it was, how it was a constant pressure just to mow the lawn, let alone keep on top of the weeding, pruning and actually growing the things I wanted to grow. My present garden is tiny yet manageable for me, a little bit of time spent in it makes a big impact and it means I have time to lie back, relax and enjoy it (sunbathing is one of my favourite activities, and right now I’m multitasking by writing this whilst laid-out topping up my vitamin D).
Currently my garden sports a large collection of pallets, that suit my budget (ie free) but not my aesthetic. They are ugly (too square, too utilitarian, too cheap!), but useful and have been repurposed as strawberry planters, a vegetable bed and sun bathing deck. One day I shall have raised borders, with proper garden furniture and a new fence that I can safely grow things up. I’m enjoying the process, however, of getting creative with zero budget (I have wonderful friends and family who donate seedlings and cuttings to help my garden grow and develop) so that I can save money for the big stuff.
Plants aren’t perfect either. No one says “oh that birch tree is gangly”, or “that lilac smells too much, turn it down a notch” (see Hollie McNish’s poem ‘If flowers had disposable income’), and yet my garden is full of beauty, and scent, and texture, and things that bring me pleasure every day.
The work is constant
If only you could weed once and that would be it. Not even an annual event. Just the once and no more weeds, ever. But much like the negative thoughts that are a seemingly constant, internal companion, when weeds are accepted as part of the deal with life, are confronted often and early, literally nipped in the bud, they are far easier to contend with and maintain than when left to run rampant and unchecked. Don’t let them become monsters!
My garden also reminds me to celebrate the little things, like the promise of my strawberry plants getting flowers on them, pea shoots sprouting to the sky and the return of the stunningly deep red/brown/burgundy/purple (it changes daily) leaves on the copper beech tree on the opposite side of the road. I’m grateful I have a space I can do yoga in, dry my washing (what’s better than snuggling down into bed sheets that smell of outside?) dine alfresco on food that I’ve planted, watered, nurtured and harvested, and have water fights in with my son.
I could go on. I’m practicing the art of not being attached to outcomes, and my garden is a great proponent of this, but I think that’s a separate article, that I may or may not get round to writing. And I had to come in inside because I’d had enough time sunning my back (I didn’t realise how long this would take to explore/write when I first got started), and I can’t sun my front whilst writing this. So I’m off back outside to sunbathe a wee while longer, dig up a bit more earth, get mucky and grow things, myself included.