Today the tops of half a dozen cucumber seedlings in my garden disappeared. Snapped up by a marauding ground squirrel, no doubt. The dog would love to trap the trespassers but refuses to sit outside alone, preferring my company to the satisfaction of killing the raiders. Frank would be a serial murderer if I were able to sit in the shade for the better part of the day, waiting patiently beside him for a chance to catch the vermin. I can’t. My day job calls.
In private, I dream of a yard swathed in a sea of green, an opulent English garden, the talk of the neighborhood. In reality, my patch of ground is an odd meandering little space, built on bad soil, poorly managed, begging for water and doing really well in spite of me.
Although I like to think I consistently nurture my hodgepodge of herbs, veggies and natives, in truth my charges live a fairly neglected life, intermittently ignored and showered with adoration. I’ll admit to intense interest in spring, when most of my perennials are in bloom, but bottom line, the fruit trees and plantings I’ve installed on my acre of land survive pretty well without my constant attention. Kind of like my novels.
To flourish in this mountain microclimate, growth requires a bit of hard work, the willingness to learn and experiment, the wherewithal to research best practices and methods, and the gardener’s ability to cull the unproductive. And kill the thieves that steal the bounty. Appropriate nutrients must be added at just the right time to enrich the tender growth. Oh, and you have to be willing to haul water and cut wood. But most of all, gardening requires patience. Damn, you have to be patient.
If you’re like me, you seek a few simple practices that “set you free,” in a sense. Gardening does that. So does writing. A good gardener educates themselves. Does research. Chooses. Plant seeds. Waters, fertilizes. Practices patience. Cuts what can’t survive intense weather, scrutiny, attacks by hostile editors – ummmm, pests. Keeps what makes the cut. Sound familiar?
I acknowledge that – like a good book or a happy life – a successful garden thrives on goals, daily loving care and vision. I’m encouraging three young hops vines this year with an exuberant scheme to make my own beer next fall. Actually, a year from this fall. That’s not unusual for me – not anymore – forming a plan for something that won’t see daylight for over twelve months.
I’ve learned to see my life in the long-term. My farsightedness has grown along with my life experience, in more ways than one. I’m willing to wait for things to evolve. I’m down with the fact that perspective changes in the second half of our existence, and I’m happy about it.
I’ve come to believe that gardening epitomizes the choices we can make. When you’re digging in the earth, you don’t think of problems or issues, you think of loam and mulch and earthworms and possibilities. Writing is the same. It sets your imagination free. After a serious session with a spade – or a pen – you’re less tense, less stressed, less hostile, more focused on what can be accomplished as opposed to what can’t. I garden, I write, I walk in the woods, and love my dog. And my day job pays for it all. For now.