In Writing

Every year, I go a little nuts on my garden spending.  I’ll gladly forego a new outfit for a beautiful hydrangea (or five).  I’ll hold off on a haircut just to fund my rue and hyssop habit.  Garden stuff is my weakness.  From about April through September, I can’t go to the garden center or even to Home Depot without filling my trunk with riots of color and bloom.  (And I find myself there just about every weekend).  For many years, I felt guilty about this.  Now I don’t.

I remember the moment when I decided that I’d stop feeling bad about my gardening spend.  It was a spring about ten years ago, and I’d just come back from buying a burst of color for the planters I keep on my steps.  As always, I was bemoaning how much I’d spent. It was probably equal to about a half a week’s groceries on plants and containers and fertilizer- not a bank breaker, but not insignificant.  I was complaining about it to a wise and dear friend, who asked, “How can making your corner of the world more beautiful be a waste?  You felt like you needed it, so you did it.  It will give you joy well into the fall.  Why feel bad about it?”

It was a simple but powerful paradigm shift.  Why would I devalue one of the basic human needs, the need to be close to nature?  Gardening is a hobby that seems simple on the surface but actually taps into many deep things – the love of beauty, the connectedness of all things, the peace of being near the Earth.  I am rarely as happy as when I’ve got dirt under my fingernails or when I catch a whiff of my lavender as I sweep into my house.  What’s the price of that?

Today I visited my iris plants.  They are throwing up optimistic little shoots all over the place, lining my front walk and driveway despite the big giveaway I undertook last fall.  They fill my heart with joy.  I sat on the ground next to them, a soft rain falling, and wiped the dirt off their rhizomes (I may have sung to them a little, not that I’d admit such a thing).  They make me want to run out to the garden center.  It’s time for mulch!  Fertilizer!  It’s almost time for window box flowers and new herbs for the steps so I can grab a sprig of lemon balm on my way out the door.  The weather is still gray and cold but the earth is stirring.  And what can be more powerful than that?

Sure, I can be smart about my spending.  I trade plants with neighbors and shop the sale aisle sometimes.  But I never once feel guilty about spending money to bring a new plant into my family.  As the saying from the Talmud goes, “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and says, ‘Grow, grow.'”  I want to be that angel to as many blades of grass – and forsythia and hyacinths and daffodils and everything else –  as I can be.

Happy spring.

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maria andreu at NYCTAF