Gardening is often thought to be a quiet activity. Here on sabbatical, you might imagine me spending my time among the flowers in a haze of peace and tranquility. In your mind’s eye there is only the humming of bees or the singing of birds to accompany the pleasant thoughts that roll around lazily in my head. And sometimes that is true. But to be honest, sometimes it’s more like this:
Yes, that soundtrack was recorded live while I was taking the faded blooms off of the daisies at the side of the house.
My son A. often likes to stand outside and play the bagpipes in the early evening. I like much of the music he plays (although I confess I don’t enjoy the AC/DC as much as the jigs, reels and hornpipes). Having him play in the backyard is much better than having him play in the living room.
Some people hate music in the garden, finding it an intrusion on their quiet time or personal space. This is true for me sometimes. Personally, however, I am more bothered by the landscaping company’s leaf blower across the street or our next door neighbour’s air conditioner than I am by A.’s bagpipes.
Besides, gardening is not always a quiet, serene activity. Visiting gardens may often be that way–as the Quiet Garden Movement proves–but caring for a garden seldom is. Caring for a garden, whether it is full of flowers, vegetables or both, requires a great deal of effort. Heavy things are lifted. Hoses are dragged hither and yon. Holes are dug in hard ground. Bugs are cursed at.
The mind of a working gardener is not always quiet and serene, either. When I am frustrated or upset, I go to the garden to pull up nasty, prickly weeds. When I am forced to clean up a mess left by racoons or other pests, I angrily fling garbage bags and tools around the yard. Sometimes when I am tense, I ruminate for hours on a problem I have yet to solve while staking tomatoes or edging flowerbeds. Last summer when my mother died, I poured water on the zucchinis and wept. And I did not feel serene.
I believe that every emotion belongs in a garden. Anger, despair, hope, delight–a gardener can bring all of these among plants and flowers. There is no one to judge, and no one to argue with. There is the opportunity for a fresh perspective, or even a needed escape. Adrenaline dissipates with digging and weeding. Flowers will celebrate. Vegetables will listen to you fume. Ladybugs will quietly keep you company while you cry.
So I don’t mind a few bagpipes now and then. Sometimes it even matches my frame of mind.