Friday, January 13, 2012

Bliss in a Garden

My primary reading material this week (now that I've gotten past the latest Tom Clancy and Stephen Hunter novels) is The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.   Subtitled "One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World", the book is exactly that; a tour of places in the world where people seem to have high levels of happiness, from Bhutan to Switzerland, to Asheville.  This was a bargain-bin hardback I picked up last week for $2.98 and it is, as bargain books often are, slightly outside of my normal reading genre, but I've found it both entertaining and thought-provoking.

So how, you might ask, is this book related to gardening?  And my answer is that it isn't, but there are many lessons inside it to apply to our gardens.  As you read, you internalize some of Mr. Weiner's thoughts on the nature of happiness and realize that Eric is on a quest of places with high average happiness.  And that leads you to thinking that you don't care about Bhutan's penis-adorned fertility shrines, or the legal pot and prostitution party that constitutes The Netherlands, or the regimented clockwork society of the Swiss.  What you care about as you keep reading is thinking about what would make/does make YOU happy, or your immediate family happy, right there in your own little world.

So, my fellow gardening friend, what makes you happy?  And how much of your happiness is tied to your garden?  These are the deep questions of our gardening souls and each strikes at the reasons we bother to garden at all.

ProfessorRoush, unlike the grumpy Eric Weiner, is generally a happy guy.  I have my manic times, but those are not balanced much by black periods; in other words, I have lots of "ups", but very few "downs", generally making myself a cheery nuisance in the lives of those nearby me who prefer instead to go through life in a sour mood.  And part of my happiness does indeed come from my relationship with my garden, but, as I think about it, not in the way you might expect.  I don't gain a lot of joy from walking around patting myself on the back for the beauty or design of my garden (it commonly lacks both).  I actually grumble a lot about my frequent poor vegetable production or strawberry production from my garden.  My frequent readers can probably easily recall a number of blogs complaining about the drought or Kansas soils or freezing rains, or the wind.  You'all know that most of those complaints are tongue-in-cheek, right?  Or at least good-natured grumbling?

No, it is the PROCESS of gardening that strokes my happy note.  The simple daily activities of planting and pruning and digging and caring.  The blooming of a baby rose, a daylily not yet seen, or just the tall and rapid stretch to the sky of an ornamental grass. The sweetness of a blackberry warmed by summer sunshine, or the sound of rain quenching the thirst of the earth.  The intense concentration and smile on Mrs. ProfessorRoush's face as she inhales the perfume from yet another new rose.  I go through my garden work in a Zen-like trance probably closer to Bhutan's Buddhist lamas than I would have admitted.  Those are the good days, the days of not thinking, but just being, in my garden. Outside the garden, my happiness is in life, in total, lived once and lived well.  If only I could stay on that path every moment, there would be no regrets at the close of daylight.

So what, my friends, makes you happy about your gardening?  For some of you, we've spent enough time corresponding that I could almost guess; for others, I have yet to learn your dreams.   But we would all benefit from taking time, in this winter of our leisure, to think about happiness, in our gardening and in our lives.

3 comments:

  1. So in context, its the journey not the end.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this post!"The glory of the garden lies in more than meets the eye" ...I have written of the same feelings in my blog 'Serenity in the Garden'...

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's the dirt under my fingernails, the plodding work of hoeing or weeding. Seeing seedling sprout. Waiting for a rose to open. Seeing rose hips. Being outside. Not doing the dishes. I love the work of gardening.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I like to meet friends via my blog, so I try to respond if you comment from a valid email address rather than the anonymous "noresponse@blogger.com". And thanks again for reading!

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