Gardening as spiritual practice: Waiting

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

August in my garden is almost always a time of waiting. The garden is my primary source for renewal and peace. It is where I am creative, and where I have space and quiet to think. But this August, after so much rain, it is a place of weeds, mud, mosquitoes, and rot. When I head out the door, I don’t see the fruits of my labor, or a blank canvas waiting to be painted. I see enemy territory. I see a long list of my least favorite chores. The garden, for a while, is nearly the last place I want to be.

Gardening teaches (and re-teaches) patience in lots of ways. We learn patience through happy anticipation, waiting for seeds to germinate, for flowers to bloom, for snow to thaw. Why is it that I struggle to view my late-summer landscape with the same anticipation? Is it because the lushness I see outside comes mostly from plants growing in the wrong places? (You know.) Their flowers and seedpods mean the same work for me next year–or perhaps even next month. Is it that this season’s relative dearth of butterflies and bees makes the environment seem lonely? Is it mostly the mud and mess, combined with a lack of available cash (see vacation photos…) to ameliorate the problem?

Whatever it is, I remind myself that the feeling is temporary. The humidity will break in a month or two, and the fall blooming plants will take their turn to delight and surprise me. Those weeds will always be with me, and I must learn to change my attitude about them. So many of them offer critical food or nectar sources for wildlife that I cherish. And so much is happening that I cannot see. Remarkable processes and relationships, which have taken ages to evolve, go through their rhythms before my unseeing eyes.

ants on peony thru magnifying glassI remind myself again that in the garden, there is always something to anticipate happily, and there is always something wonderful unfolding before me. The difference in the garden between a time to mourn and a time to dance is in the gardener’s intention to hear a waltz instead of a dirge.

 

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4 thoughts on “Gardening as spiritual practice: Waiting

  1. There’s always that end of summer slump to get through. Annuals and tropical help me make it through, and I just ignore the weeds or just weedwhack entire beds to make it through to fall.
    My cyclamen are starting to send up buds, that’s always a refresher!

  2. So true! In my case, July and August mean weeks of endless watering, since we get zero rain here in summer. It’s totally the opposite of your situation and yet the same because I start to think of the garden as a place of drudgery and failure. But yesterday we had 15 mm (more than half an inch!) of rain, and today the garden (and the gardener) look and feel revived. And of course, so much of this is psychological; thanks for this reminder.

  3. The rain and mild weather has made for a very gentle August here. Even so, there is always something negative to focus in if you’re in the mood. But as you say, there is always something new unfolding – that is part of the magic of the garden.

  4. Gardening is all about perspective and learning to really observe what’s in front of us as opposed to what we think we see. Our gardens will always be the teacher and the gardener the student. Wise words in this post. You and I have a lot of the same philosophies.

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