The yard was muddy, but the sun was out and the call of the garden undeniable. I’ve been turning our front yard into a perennial garden over the last 10 years. If a garden could have attention deficit disorder, it would look like mine. Nothing is planted by height or color or for an eye-catching display as people drive by.
There’s probably 50 different kinds of plants and flowers – things that caught my eye at a nursery or roadside stand or even better, plants that people have offered up from their own gardens. I have a high disregard for manicured lawns, because the cost of maintaining a monotone field is too high. Too much water, too many chemicals, and not enough joy. I rarely see people playing or sitting on their beautiful lawns.
On my haunches and muddied knees, I dug around beds, cleaned out weeds. The sun was warm, but a chill spring breeze interrupted occasionally. I paused at moments to let bees pass by or notice the first of the season’s butterflies. I found cicada husks from last August and a rabbit’s burrow from where the first batch of bunnies emerged this spring (they’re now teenagers in the backyard grazing on everything).
I’ve been writing a lot of serious stuff lately, caught up in the news and politics and issues of the day. It occurred to me that it’d been a long time since I’d felt the kind of joy I feel while in the garden. I pondered why being there made joy possible. It was certainly not the end result, my potpourri of mismatched and misshapen plants. Even when my garden is in full bloom, I have the critic’s eye.
It occurred to me that when I’m in the garden, I’m not worrying about what needs to be done, what was said, what will happen. I just work. I thought “What if this was all I had to worry about? What if gardening is the only thing that I really had to do?” Now, anyone familiar with Buddhism or meditation could call this for what it is: being present.
Gardening isn’t something I just do. It is something I am part of – I am a caretaker of life that has little regard for me. I am honored to be in the presence of bugs and plants and birds and animals. I feel, sometimes, that they allow me to be there, this oafish, destructive human. And it brings with it a sense of freedom – this sense that at this moment in time, everything is enough.
I am a grasping sort of person. I always want more – more knowledge, more books and music, more muscles, more economic freedom and better running shoes. Part of it comes from growing up poor and feeling like I was in a perpetual state of want and envy. Part of it is that we live in a society built on the very concept that success is only precipitated by want. Our economy teeters restlessly on the backs of our desires. Our politics would be earnest and lackluster without the want of power.
But always wanting is exhausting and demoralizing. It means that we are never satisfied and never feel we have enough. And the more denigrating message is that we, as humans, are not enough. I played around with this idea in my head. Not everyone is delighted by or has access to a garden. How can this idea apply for others and in different circumstances?
I thought about how to repeat that feeling, that sense of freedom throughout my day. What else relieves me of the burden of want and anxiety? If I’m deep into writing, I feel it, but it means wading through perfectionism and troubled expectations of myself. It’s a lot of work to get there. Where do I find the joy like I find in the garden? And I end up, once again, with more want. I could certainly do with less irony.
Where do you find your joy?
What keeps you in the moment?
When does it feel like this is enough, I need nothing more?