(A series of articles exploring alternatives to the daily barrage of information, images and thought-clutter that comes at us through our handheld devices. I have been experimenting with electronic-free venues in order to reclaim the real estate of my mind and inner life with pleasing results. This is Venue #1: The Garden.)
I water my vegetable garden by hand. That is, I use a watering can which I fill and refill til all my plants have had their thirst quenched. There is a reason that I choose the watering can over the spray attachment on the hose. I use the watering can because I am naturally a very impatient woman. If I used the spray nozzle method, I would get bored of standing there watering; I would tend to underwater my growing things and move on to something else. The watering can slows me down, it forces me to work in measured units of time and energy: fill the can, walk the can to the garden, empty the can, return to the hose and refill the can. As I am slowed, I begin to notice things that I need to attend to in the garden: the tomato plants need to be tied up, the grape vines need trimming and the parsley needs attention because it is going to seed.
As I continue my methodical trudge between hose and garden, I notice my surroundings. The leaves on the plants are not just green. They display a variety of colors: greens, grays, blue-grays, reds and yellows. The tomatillo plant is actually a bright chartreuse. Every hue is splashed with sunlight or darkened in shade and shadow. There are textures. Plants that at first glance present a jumble of growth, upon closer observation, reveal the structure and function of ordered lines and patterns in stalk and leaf, in blossom and fruit.
Then there are the surprises when I lift a leaf: a cluster of red-ripe tomatoes, a zucchini which unfortunately, is way. too. big. And what’s this? Five ripening cantaloupe…where did they come from? And so I water, noticing not only the growing things, but the living things as well. There are black and red bugs sporting graphic geometric markings across their tiny backs, and bitty green grasshoppers (which I only mention because they are cute when they’re small). There are the floating flowers, the butterflies: some cruising the garden on stationary wing, other in a continual flutter as they pass by.
As I continue to water, thoughts begin to surface in my mind: non-gardening thoughts. This is when I have found my garden time to be, not only relaxing, but productive. Upcoming events present themselves across my mind’s eye: business that needs attending to, orders that need to be placed, prayers that need praying. This seemingly unrelated myriad, these bits and bytes of thought, come unbidden. And somehow, in the garden, they arise without the feeling of overwhelm attached to them. The priorities of the day or afternoon ahead seem to order themselves; they are no longer a jumble of “things to do”, but have fallen into place almost without effort. This “prioritizing” would have been a chore to think through, but somehow, in the garden, my brain has found a breathing space, a change of pace, a margin. My brain is again ready to take up the common burdens of my day…renewed…and renovated.