A common Post-Enlightenment concept is that occupations have an art and science to them. As a therapist, sometimes I approach an intervention from the science side, using the concept of evidence-based practice to guide the rehabilitation process. Biological, neurological, or psychological theories set the pace of therapy. At other times, I rely on the art of practice, usually when it comes to engaging and motivating a client to utilize the science. I view gardening much the same way. Ask me about soil health and I’ll give your two hour lecture on the benefits of fungus. Then again, don’t ask me. Let just take a stroll in the garden, enjoy the view, and I’ll show you some really cool mushrooms along the way. That is the art of gardening.
I do find that gardeners do tend to fall into either the artists or the scientists when it comes to their occupation of growing. In our region, if you ask someone if they keep a garden, that means that they grow a vegetable garden, in other words, they are scientist about growing food. On the other hand, the artists have flowers. Inevitably, the gardeners run the law mower that keeps the flowers in their bed, and the artists complain about the mowing that destroys those Spring Beauties and Forget-Me-Nots that runs free through the pastures of law. Though animal husbandry is not in the discussion, the legend of Cane and Able plays out when artists set designs on the garden, and gardeners try to establish boundaries which nature ignores
A couple of weeks ago, a writer/blogger friend, Cynthia Reyes, sent an e-mail requesting to verify my address. A new book was on its way (full disclosure, she figured that she would just send me a complementary copy to read as she knew that I would write a review, hence I am typing now). A few days later, Twigs in My Hair, A Gardening Memoir arrived in our mail box. I had just finished reading a volume on the biology of soil health (aka science), thus an artist tome about gardening was welcome.
You may recall, Cynthia is a writer of memoirs, A Good Home and An Honest House. Twigs in my Hair is the gardening companion to these other recollections and reflections on life. While the prior memoirs focused more on personal history in the context of the dwellings that Cynthia has occupied, Twigs in my Hair expands on the gardens (vegetable and flower) which provide the environments surrounding those structures and events.
Cynthia embodies that art of gardening. Her husband, Hamlin, is the scientist of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. I wonder if they combine their skills in the kitchen, or play out a Montague-and-Capulet rivalry with knifes, cutting boards, scissors and vases. I think I shall wait out on the veranda for tea to be served.
Cynthia’s writing style is a delight to read. Each chapter covers an aspect of gardening, flowers, design, vegetable, cooking, critters, fences and arbors. More importantly, in Cynthia’s view, each chapter covers an aspect of living, magic, discovery, patience, and relationships. Gardening is not merely about plants, it is about living.
“At church, at school, and especially at our dinner table, my sisters and I obeyed the rules and followed the belief of the adults around us. But when we were together, alone, we lived by the rules of our own world, complete with magical flowers.” Ah, the secret gardens of children and companions.
“Gardening, however, is much more than growing pretty flowers and nutritious vegetables. Gardening forces us to consider how we live with nature.
“If you garden, and especially if you garden in the countryside, you will sooner or later find yourself clashing with the wild creatures that share our planet” Ah, the bucolic garden besieged by bunnies!
“But let us not dwell on failures. A new spring is a time of hope. hope that the long winter is past, and that the summer will be heaven. Hope that the garden season will be joyous, with just enough sunshine and just enough rain, and not too many aphids, cabbageworms, earwigs, or mosquitoes.” Ah, the seasons governing our time and moods and aspirations.
The Fall Harvest is currently is full swing with too many tasks that beg for time: picking, canning, cleaning garden beds, putting hay and manure form the goat barn down. But, Winter will be here soon enough. Be sure the order your copy of Twigs in my Hair now. You will have time to read it on a cold, Winter’s day, or dark Winter’s night. Let your mind winder to next Spring’s garden design or seed catalogues for discovering some new vegetables.
I do know of a garden that Cynthia and Hamlin have not visited. Maybe next Spring we can stroll. I may have to take two laps. With Cynthia, I shall share the magic of flowers and winding pathways of life. Hamlin and I shall take about the value of fungus on vegetable health and nutrition. I suggest they stay out of the kitchen and enjoy the view from the deck until tea is served.