I know this is a common refrain you've heard from me this year--I have felt rushed and overwhelmed by life. Work has been hectic and just the general craziness of life has made me feel as though I have little control over things. It leaves me drained and unsatisfied and on rocky terrain. In Anna Pavord's The Curious Gardener, one of the topics she takes up in her June chapter is "Slow Gardening". It resonated with me as I think what she says has a lot of validity.
"We live in an impatient age, used to quick results. Because people move around more than they used to, they don't plant things that won't immediately benefit them. This is a danger in gardens. It leads to layouts that, like instant takeaway food, are ultimately satisfying. The ingredients are limited and, after the initial gratification, there is no lingering sense of longer pleasures. But a holly tree, though slow, can give you that in spades."
She's writing, of course, about something specific, but it is something that can easily be broadened out to apply more generally to other aspects in life--even reading. The art of slowness? Slowing down? Yes! The 'slow' movement seems to have become popular when it comes to eating, so why not gardening, too? (Why not, for that matter for reading or other things that are rushed through in order to 'finish').
Pavord begins by telling the reader about how she flies down the A303 and so disrespectfully sees Stonehenge rise in the distance and then fades away in her rear-view mirror in just a matter of minutes. Somehow that seems entirely wrong. From there she segues into a description of Joseph Hooker's travels to the Antarctic and India and how he sent seeds back home, which of course took ages, and then compared how easily we buy our seeds these days from a garden center, rushed--in order to plant then--just one more thing to tick off a list of things to do. So it's only a hop skip and jump to slow food and then the idea of slow gardening.
"If the mood now is instant, disposable, then our gardens can become places where the opposite things are going on. We should be planting slow, steady, sustaining things. In the garden at least, if in no other part of our lives, we can dream a future."
Like the holly tree she mentioned, it is like a thread to connect the before with the after. While it's taking its time there is nothing to stop planting your garden around it. This is entirely peripheral thinking, but she puts me in mind of Roger Deakin who was such a careful observer. I can see him taking life slowl and really Looking. While I am not more than an armchair gardener (and I have failed on my own planned planting--maybe I should think fall plants? Maybe there is some way to salvage my plans?), the idea of taking things slow, enjoying whatever I am doing, not rushing tasks--the pleasurable ones anyway, is something that I am taking away from this month's reading. If only I could be a less impatient person in general, though (especially with books and reading).
As usual Pavord moves from subject to subject--mooching about in her garden, a mini travel narrative about the Courson Fall Plant fair, dilemmas of clematis (which I have always thought was cool and would love to grow), roof gardens, etc.--in an always delightful manner. If you are going to armchair garden, Pavord certainly takes you on the rounds. I did pull one bit of useful trivia (maybe more than trivia, actual helpful advice), and you likely already know this but the longer the grass the faster it grows so her advice is to mow as regularly as you can.
I'm in the mood for a little hands on nature experience so if the weather cooperates (meaning no rain and not the excessive humidity that we have been having here of late) I plan on spending some time at my local botanical garden on the Fourth of July. I'm not a fan of picnics and barbecues or parties in general, but I'd like to see their birdhouse exhibit and spend some time relaxing in the marsh habitat, where it was so peaceful and quiet last time I visited.
Although I am trying to keep my reading under control and focus on my summer reading project and maybe finish a few languishing books, I'm keen to read more nature books. I am thoroughly enjoying Founding Gardeners (am past the halfway mark now--I had no idea that they bickered so much once the business of the Revolution passed and the forming of the American government was taking place--but then this is politics, so should I be surprised?) and have a few books in mind to queue up next. I'd like to read Roger Deakin's Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees and as a companion book, (thanks to Ms. Buried in Print for this reading suggestion) I've just added Theresa Kishkan's Mnemonic: A Book of Trees to my reading pile.
But I am going to work on being patient, and taking my time.