Last week, the gardens got very dry. It seems to be the one down side to my raised beds out front: they drain very quickly. Since I now have three rain barrels, however, I managed to water them every few days by hauling watering can after watering can to the front yard.
As I watered–a slow process to be sure–I thought of writer Patrick Lima’s comment about the tedious job of thinning carrot seedlings. It is a job he refers to as ‘meditative thinning’. I have now begun to think of my watering that way. It is a quiet task, and one that cannot be hurried. The water will only pour as fast as it will pour. And, as the rain barrels empty, water flows out more and more reluctantly. I seem to find myself engaged in ‘meditative watering’ a fair bit.
Although I will confess that on occasion I sigh to myself and wish the water to hurry up, I like the the fact that watering by hand forces me into a few leisurely moments. I might notice that a few weeds need pulling, but I am not weeding. I might think about how I could trim off spent blooms, but I am not snipping. I am free to simply observe the progress of the beans or the colour of the lettuce.
It is a sabbatical luxury, this meditative watering. I am keenly aware that right now there is ample time and space in my life to let a job like this take more time than usual. I can be completely inefficient and yet not feel at all frustated or uptight. Which also makes me think there must be something wrong with the way we usually live, all hustle and bustle, hurry-up, hurry-up. Why do our regular lives not have room for a few minutes of quiet, restful observation? Why are we always so focused on output, efficiency and finished products? Why have so many people suggested to me, as I pour water from a spout, that a hose could be attached to my rain barrel so I wouldn’t have to water by hand at all?
This week, as I visited the garden of my friend’s mother, I noticed that she had a beautiful vintage watering can sitting at her back door. She has tended her backyard with it for sixty years now, slowly watering her plants by hand instead of with a hose. I know that she has engaged in the same kind of meditative watering as I have, and she wasn’t even on sabbatical. I really admire that.
One of the goals of my sabbatical is to learn new ways of living once I return to parish life. So I am thinking that there might be other mundane tasks that I could learn to do differently. Perhaps I could try meditative vegetable chopping? Or meditative ironing? Hmmmm. For now I think I’ll stick to meditative watering.