If any of you are deluded into believing I am gardener, let me dispel that notion right now. I am a lucky person who came upon a nice piece of land which was once a very nice garden. However, I received it quite like a monkey given a garland, with utter disregard for its beauty and value, ignorant and unschooled to take on the responsibility. I knew not the difference between annuals and perennials let alone the subtleties of nurturing and cherishing a garden. I did not get the bother. Why would people slavishly devote so much time to a pastime which meant naught, since everything disappeared in the winter anyway and you had to start all over every spring? I just did not comprehend why anyone would invest so much time,money and effort especially in annuals which were then replanted year after year. Or the hours of backbreaking toil, weeding, when even the most stubborn among them, disappeared in the winter? The race against those weeds is often a losing expedition, since they grow a couple of inches everyday during our short summers?
Now, I finally get it. And what that means is that I get the rhythms of this country with its four seasons, the cadence with which life alters and the importance for us of aligning with these rhythms to enjoy life and nurture one’s soul here. It’s almost a study in Eckhart Tolle. With the garden you have to be in the “now”. But the personal growth that has brought on this realisation, has been a painful one full of bloopers.
When we bought our house, it came with a landscaped garden which had a collection of wonderful plants well suited to and aligned with the contours of the land, the soil quality and the sun exposure in different parts of our front and back yards. Sadly, I had taken a scant interest in plants until then and knew not the difference between the good ones and weeds. I realised quickly that I had to work hard to keep it in its pristine form. It was not long before I saw the land as an adversary which had set out to embarrass me with overgrown weeds. I struggled with feelings of resentment for all the work I had brought upon myself. Finally I decided I needed some help. So I hired a gardener to clean the garden of weeds and he simply went over it all with a rototiller. He was not going to spend the hours that I was not willing to spend on it. He took my objective quite literally and just wiped out all plants, good and bad. I still remember it as the Friday massacre. I had a frantic phone call from my mom who was visiting from India. Heart pounding, I could hear her wail at the other end of the phone, “who are these guys and why are they killing all your lovely plants”. I rushed home but not on time to witness the carnage. By the time I arrived, it was all over, swept clean and stark, no sign of the beauty and grace that had thrived amidst those weeds.
A garden is a doozy. It takes, muscle, will, intelligence and lots of knowledge to take on plants. You are like a teacher managing a class of juveniles. You can bring them in line and get them to behave and realise their potential. But it takes care, individual attention, patience, time, knowledge, intelligence and lots of good intentions. A quiet mind and patience are the meditative elements that allow one to persist despite the critters that sting you, the dirt that gets into your hands, when gloves just will not do it, and when the sweat pours down the body through back breaking work. Like everything else it is about building a sound relationship and gaining intimate knowledge of your ally, the land, and adversaries, those stubborn weeds. Just two years ago I discovered the spade. Wow what a difference it makes to clearing and weeding. I had been struggling with lesser tools. So using the right tools is key to taking on this challenge.
Hidden in every garden are some wonderful life lessons. There is an awareness of the cycle of life as beauty re-emerges every spring and the summer when the plants are in full bloom. And then there is an appreciation of the wonderful worker bees of nature, the pollinators going about their duties as karma yogis and the birds that bring it all alive with un-selfconscious song.
Work and life lessons I have gained:
Use the right tools to take on any challenge
Immerse myself in knowledge
Understand my allies and manage them wisely
Understand my adversaries even better
Ignore the gross and understand the subtleties
Give myself up to the “now”
Know that change is inevitable and embrace it
Trust that renewal is always around the corner
Engage in hard work which pays off in spades
Realise that when it all seems bleak and futile there will always be a bloom bringing on hope and renewal.