Sunday, July 13, 2008


Lois J. de Vries

Garden Time

Gardeners can lose themselves in preparing a planting hole, imagining what a particular blue flower will look like in a certain location, or making their “rounds,” of the gardens, in the same way that fine artists lose themselves in their paintings, or novelists enter their stories. A while back, I asked Eric, what gardeners can do to string together more of these “being-in-the-flow” events.

Eric's Answer: "The main thing is to re-imagine time. We often get it into our heads that five minutes or fifteen minutes or half-an-hour isn’t “enough time” to get anything done. This is a big mistake. If we are holding a certain kind of experience, like writing our novel or making our garden rounds, as meaningful, then it is abundantly meaningful to turn to it for short periods of time during the day rather than holding that ,unless you have a huge expanse of time, there is no reason to bother. If you have fifteen free minutes, you could certainly glance at the newspaper and take in some news you don’t need—or you could do the thing your heart actually wants to do, which is visit your garden. The trick is to consider those fifteen minutes as vast and not negligible."

This echoes the sentiments expressed by garden writer Marianne Binetti who believes that gardening is a legitimate task to be incorporated into every garden writer’s workday and that time should be set aside for it like other assignments or appointments. Marianne suggests the carrot-and-stick approach, in which the gardening interval is a reward for completing our less palatable duties.

It seems much easier to get into the garden, than to get out of it, however. All serious gardeners are familiar with the elasticity of time, something we are told is a fixed unit. We’re taught that every second is the same length, determined by atomic clocks based on the hyperfine (microwave) transitions in hydrogen-1, cesium-133, and rubidium-7. Each minute equals 60 seconds, etc.

Nevertheless, in the garden we seem to enter Einstein’s realm of relativity. Well, maybe not exactly. Einstein’s theory says that time expands or contracts depending on how fast the observer is moving. My theory of gardening relativity is that garden time expands or contracts depending upon how much fun the gardener is having. Not much fun = expanding time. Lots of fun = contracting time.

Last year, I inserted some gardening work between the time I first start writing and the time I shower (seemed like a practical decision). I take the cell phone with me for two reasons: For 911 calls in case I accidentally slice off one of my own limbs, and to know when garden time is up. Usually, I was having way too much fun and garden time ended too soon. On auspicious days, I’d find any excuse to justify staying in the garden. Looking back now, each of these were times that I, as Eric advises, allowed myself to “do the thing your heart actually wants to do.”

I thought I needed at least 30 – 60 minutes, but I look forward to experimenting with the idea of considering fifteen, or even five, minutes in the garden as vast.


Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. Lois is seeking a publisher for her book, The Transformational Power of Gardening. Visit her blog at . To contact Lois, drop her an e-mail at .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Your gardening post is similar to how I feel. When I garden there is no time. To me, gardening gives me the space to connect with my soul, the earth, dirt, the sun on my face or the overcast of the clouds and the smells, ohhhh the smells, nature, listening to the voice inside that's sharing the next step that feels direction. As you say being-in-the-flow. My heart has it's chance to dance fully and brilliantly when I'm creating in my garden. It's like going to yoga and breathing on the mat. In both spots, I give my heart the place to dance and move with the rhythm it feels.

Thanks for your post...reminds me to go and get some new plants at the nursery.