Elusive Zen of Gardening

I’ve had so many friends over the years who describe gardening as a zen-like experience.  I, myself, have had zen-like experiences but never while gardening. I don’t doubt my plant-loving friends. I find that zen feeling while cycling or painting or staring through my lens or doing yoga.  I want to love gardening. I want it to be a peaceful, rejuvenating activity.  And not because I lack those experiences, but because I love flowers.  I love big splashes of color emerging from the deep brown soil.  I love the blanket of greens that hold the blossoms aloft.  I love the diversity of blooms- the giant sunflowers plates; the elegant calla lily vases; the fragile tulips cups; the bold dahlia pompoms, the ruffled iris beards. They are all just so overwhelmingly beautiful. When I visit a garden someone has lovingly created, I can feel my pulse slow and my blood pressure drop.

But I am not a gardener.  The truth is that, even wearing gloves, I hate having dirt work its way under my nails and all over my skin.  Kneeling and leaning over a flower bed makes my back scream in pain.  Also, I look horrible in big floppy hats which, for some reason, I feel is required attire.  The upkeep -endless weeding and edging- is exhausting to think about. I mean, weeds just keep coming back no matter what you do.  Also, the bunny rabbit family I thought was so adorable in May has lost its appeal. I now see them as marauding, viscous plant predators. I’m not proud of that but there it is: I hate bunnies. The only thing I really like about the whole gardening experience is the end result- a lush expanse of velvet hues on a bed of emerald.

I’m not sure why, but I have felt bad about this, as if my gardening aversion is some sort of personal deficiency. I should want to pop out of bed on Saturday mornings, don my gloves and floppy hat, grab a spade and trowel, and set out across the dew-covered grass to remove weeds and humanely relocate slugs.  But when I really think about it, I see it is not a personal deficiency. It is a personal preference. I don’t like gardening. And that is not in conflict with my desire to have a garden.  I like music. Music gives me a zen-like experience.  I don’t make my own music. My inability to make music does not mean that I should not still have music in my home.   So, I am going to have my garden, unapologetically maintained by someone else.  I might select some plants. I might even put them in the ground. I am not going to weed the garden and I am not going to worry about it.  I will happily pay some hard-working individual to weed that garden.  I will enjoy the zen moments of sitting in my backyard surrounded by flowers without guilt. I wonder how many things we hold onto because we think we should be or do something that doesn’t really fit us. How many things could we let go of to more fully live our lives?

I selected the photograph, Overwrought, for this post because this reminds me how important weeding is. I found this stoop on a tour of Charleston, South Carolina. It was so lovely, a sea of green blanketing the front steps of this elegant old home.  And yet, it is also a bit insidious. The plant will just keep growing unchecked until it covers the whole house.  It’s a delicate balance.

Ivy covered steps of a Charleston home
(1/320 sec., f/10, 400 ISO, 135 mm)

Copyright Catherine Matthews 2018.

8 thoughts on “Elusive Zen of Gardening

  1. We are so much alike…I too would rather pay someone to do my gardening, than to do the work myself. It’s not a flaw, it’s just discovering who we are, and then being comfortable with what we find. Take me for instance…I’m visiting my Mom and Dad right now in a small rural town in Minnesota. A place I DO NOT fit in with, but it’s okay, as long as I remember who I am, and stay true to myself regardless of “the past” that surrounds me. Many hugs…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the note! You are so right about staying true to ourselves. I think the self help industry has focused too much on fixing when we should be focused on revealing our true selves and letting that light shine unapologetically! I hope you have a good trip! hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Catherine, I’m only just learning to do what I love. Yes, a slow learner. Your post makes me wonder how much time we waste living up to expectations not our own. I love that you love gardens. It doesn’t mean you’re any less if you’re not a gardener.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Robyn,
      Thanks for the note. I’m the same way and I am energized that I am still learning! Self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-awareness seem to require some maturity and life experiences so maybe we are right on time learning them whenever the lessons finally come to us. 💓

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I do enjoy gardening and am often in the “zone”, except for when the mosquitoes cloud the air or the cold penetrates my work gloves in only 15 minutes. Otherwise, it’s great! Strangely, there is another yard activity I enjoy even more. I’m not aware of time and am completely in the moment: digging ditches and releasing the rain water backed up in channels filled with sediment and debris. It’s great!
    My monthly essay blog on gardening discusses this strange pleasure, and the whole concept of “Flow”, also referencing the book of that name, in the November post which you’re invited to enjoy here:
    Thanks for another enjoyable perspective on gardening, and I DO share your attitude toward music: I’m happy that others are so good at it!

    Liked by 1 person

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