Just another Pleasant Valley Sunday.
They hate their job. They absolutely loathe it.
I hate it for them. But what I hate most is that they confuse this excruciatingly tedious work with my job as a gardener. I experience my share of tedious jobs, certainly; but as such work is integral to the overall stewardship of the landscape, the sting of that tedium is lessened by its value. Thus, mowing is not mowing – it is a framing of paintings I have created with plants. Clearing invasive brambles is not clearing invasive brambles, it is thoughtful editing to allow desired saplings and spring ephemerals to carpet the woodland.
When you fail to cultivate connection to your outside space, you cheat yourself of experiencing a profound sense of purpose as steward and caretaker for your little part of planet Earth. You become a slave to something that doesn’t excite you. Something that never ever stops growing – yet never grows into something remotely inspiring. A landscape that doesn’t pay you, doesn’t look any different from year to year, and continues to take a toll on your back, your hands, and your life energy.
To dominate that landscape and make the hated job easier, you rely on pesticides and herbicides as weapons, not tools, and you are likely to spend thousands on anything and everything that promises relief from never-ending toil. The herbicides end up in the Bay, the newest effort-saver ends up in the landfill, and you still end up staring at the same scene next year.
There is another way.
Rick Darke, keynote speaker at the conference and author of numerous books on the aesthetics of living landscapes, urged the audience to think in terms of ‘creative dynamic stewardship’ – challenging home owners to re-vitalize their landscapes by visualizing them as a haven for wildlife and the natural processes of decay and regeneration.
“When we see something is beautiful,” he pointed out, “we are more likely to conserve it.”
I would add, we are also more likely to become connected to it.
But how do we make that shift? Perhaps it is as simple as surveying our landscape whilst pondering the words of Alexander Pope “Consult the genius of the place in all…”
“To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the column, or the arch to bend,
To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot;
In all, let Nature never be forgot…”
Here on my own property at Oldmeadow, I am exquisitely aware that I could do little but edit the woodland, mow around stately trees and shapely ones, keep the invasive brambles at bay and set up bird feeding stations and toad houses, and I would have a landscape that invigorated and inspired me. The ornamental and vegetable gardens I obsessively tend are just gravy.