In her poem “An Observation” May Sarton writes that we must “pay with some toughness for a gentle world”. This poem was written while observing her mother’s elderly, gnarled hands, feeling judgmental, then upon reflection, seeing instead, they represent a lifelong faithfulness to the task of tending. I think this is an astute observation on her part (well, she IS May Sarton!), especially as I’ve been working in my yard for the past few weeks, trying to figure out how to deal with the dreaded Lesser Celandine, which has invaded all of my little green space. And my hands, certainly gnarled and rough is the result.
Gardening, for me, is about much more than the final outcome, for which, if I’m being honest would be picture-perfect and supply baskets of produce! In my imagination the result would be a reflection of my vision for what I believe is possible if I were the perfect gardener. However, despite gardening for over fifty years, that concept of perfect, or even close to perfect, is elusive.
It takes hard work, vision and persistence—and perhaps foolhardiness—to wrangle with nature’s plan, and expect a fruitful outcome. And this, then, for me, is the lesson: make the journey be the goal, not the destination. In other words, I must just BE IN THE GARDEN. When I choose to spend hour after hour outside with my hands in the dirt, I realize how satisfied and fulfilled I feel afterwards, as if I have discovered the mystery to life itself.
And perhaps, just perhaps, I have.
Sarton’s poem concludes with this:
“To move among the tender with an open hand, And to stay sensitive up to the end Pay with some toughness for a gentle world.”
I could not have said it better myself!