One night this winter, while the lakes were still open, it was dark outside and a driving snowstorm. As I sat in traffic on the causeway, I looked to my left and saw a fisherman out there, in the dark, windy snowstorm- knowing that he is over 1 land mile from the nearest boat launch or home pier and thought- “Man, he must really hate his wife.”
Many gardeners, including myself, obsess about their gardens- where should I put the ferns, what should I order for dry shade, when will the eremerus bloom, how will the colchicums look against the pink-tinged fall leaves of the perennial geranium? The question we don’t ask ourselves– and I suspect that fisherman didn’t either, why?
Hobbies are like that.
I do not hate my husband, although gardening is a good stress relief after a disagreement. The reason I love gardening on my own plot of soil is because no one can tell me what to do. I can screw it up. I can make it look wonderful. I can buy expensive plants. People can give me free plants. I can dig up demon turf and replace it with antique primroses. I can learn about something that has no bearing on whether I am successful in my career or not.
I also like the physical aspect of gardening. As a bad marathon runner, I recognize the camaraderie that real gardeners feel, akin to runners, folks who prune their crabapples in a snowstorm, plant new perennials in a light mist, fight through gusts and freezing cold to wash off dahlias for the winter. I like the painful ache that comes from hauling wheelbarrows full of dirt. I enjoy destroying garden forks trying to turn my heavy clay soil.
I also love the serendipity of gardening. How sometimes you discover black swallowtail butterfly larvae on your dill plants- or a long dead rose comes back to life.
Unlike almost any other activity that I know of, gardening is truly a hobby that is life affirming. I have heard that, on her deathbed, Vita Sackville-West was worrying about next spring’s garden. In darker days of life, it is still exciting to think about the hundreds and hundreds of spring flowers patiently waiting for spring to end. And everyone knows about growing seeds- every time even the simplest marigold grows, I am still amazed that is possible.
I enjoy the challenges as much as the successes. As anyone who knows me will attest, I don’t dwell on anything (good or bad) unless there is something I can do about it. Bad things in the garden can be fixed, corrected, ignored. Japanese Beetles? Lovely- what plants won’t they eat? Artemisia always looks bedraggled? Buttare via. Dogwood is too big? There’s always next year to take it out. Good things? Take a picture- the next hailstorm is around the corner.
I like gardening so much because it is so different from what I get paid to do. With gardening, there is beauty, and physical activity, and time outside and creative thinking. There is no sitting in an office, reading things, critical thinking, writing things. That’s good too (especially since I get paid for it), but it is nice to have a little break- and get out in that snowstorm with the fishermen.