Be: A Challenge

How many of us can just “be” in our gardens?

When was the last time you sat down and relaxed in your garden and just enjoyed it, without making a mental list of all the pruning, watering, and planting you were going to do as soon as you got up from your chair or bench?

Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in a January 1, 1961 column in the Charlotte Observer, “… I added a new resolution to the old promises to get behind my garden sins; the new one is to take time to enjoy my garden. It has been a long time since I sat in it with a book that I didn’t read, and never gave a thought to weeds or watering or plants overgrown by other plants. I have always found it hard to reconcile a resolution to do nothing with one to do everything and do it ahead of time, but I used to find it easy to put my sins and negligence out of my mind. This year, I am going to try to recover the talent for leaving things undone…”

As the prime gardening season gets ready to take off here in the Midwest, many of us are reviewing our own gardening resolutions and goals set back in January, reminding ourselves of our grand and glorious plans for this year’s garden. And most of our plans involve us doing things in our gardens.

Okay, maybe we have already long forgotten those resolutions and goals set in the dark, cold days of winter. We realize now in the brighter light of spring the realities of actually following through with some of them and have adjusted them slightly or a lot, or even abandoned them outright.

But it is still early spring, at least in my garden, and the real beginning of the gardening season. I think now is a better time to set some goals and make resolutions for gardening and the garden.

One of my goals will be to spend some time just being in my garden without thinking about what I need to be doing in my garden.

I challenge you to do the same, to make it a goal to spend some time sitting in your garden, enjoying it and doing nothing and thinking of nothing that needs to be done in the garden.

Spending time just being in other gardens doesn't count. It was easy to be in the Taniguchi Oriental Garden at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, pictured above in early April, far way from my own garden. I easily enjoyed it and thought of nothing else but what a beautiful garden it is.

Try that in your own garden... Just “be” in your garden, and leave a few things undone.

It may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your garden, but it may be the most enjoyable thing you’ve ever done, too.


The quote above is from the book Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson, chosen to be the April-May selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club.

All are welcome to join the book club by reading this book or any book by Elizabeth Lawrence and then posting a book review, your own insights on her writings, etc. on your blog before May 31st. Then I’ll publish a “virtual meeting” post on May 31st with links to all the relevant posts.


Cinj said…
Hmm, might be a bit hard for me since I don't have much of a garden started yet. What if I promise to do it next year?
Leslie said…
I have a really hard time with this...partly because I love puttering around if I'm not doing some "real" garden work. But I have actually been working on the idea of being able to sit and enjoy things...especially before it gets too hot to do much out there. A cup of tea or glass of wine in my hands helps me stay put and relax.
Nancy J. Bond said…
You make such a good point. How terrible it would be to put such love and care into our gardens and then not take the time to enjoy them. Perhaps this is why I love the woods so much...nothing is expected of me in *that* garden. :)
Heather's Garden said…
I've written about struggling with this too, Carol. I've found that if I spend time in my garden with friends I am more inclined to just sit and enjoy their company and our beautiful surroundings. It all comes down to having a comfortable chair!
ChrisND said…
I am a new gardener, but when I began one of my priorities was to actually just enjoy my garden. I agree with the comment from Heather's Garden -- a favorite chair makes a huge difference.

I find great enjoyment from just studying how things are at a specific moment in the garden, including the weeds (really). Of course the next day it's back to work!
Frances, said…
The time when I am mostly likely to not jump up and do something that needs doing, although I do enjoy the doing of what needs doing, is when I am all clean and in good clothes, washed up after working in the garden. Does very light weeding count as doing nothing and just being? Just a couple of pulls of tiny baby weeds?
jodi said…
BElieve it or not...despite all that I have to do, I"m very good at just being in my garden. Although not yet. It's far too wet and cold and messy out there. Does sitting in my chaotic, desperately cluttered greenhouse, just basking in the warmth and being quite happy, count?
Rose said…
An excellent post, Carol. When I started gardening just a few years ago, that was my intention--to create a small place of beauty, a sanctuary. I realize after reading this that, although I thought I was just quietly enjoying the garden at times, even then I was making a mental list of things to do.
Maybe I'll have to start doing my Tai Chi out there. (Then the neighbors will really think I've flipped!)
garden girl said…
I do like to putter and preen, and find that quite relaxing. But I've always been pretty good at just sitting and enjoying the garden. I like to bring reading materials outside with me and relax with my feet up in a steamer chair.

Often I'll just sit and relax, enjoying the garden while the book sits on the table next to my chair. Other times I read, but then I'm enjoying the book and not the garden.
Phillip said…
I admit it is a rare thing for me because there is always so much to be done. I do sit on my patio in the evenings sometimes and just relax. It is a great thing.
Diana said…
Oh CArol, you hit the nail on the head. Every year, I vow to spend more time just "being" in my garden. And I do spend more time there than I used to. Seems most of the time I spend being, is when we have friends or family over and we are relaxing together. This year, I'm going to try reading out there more often, listening to the birds, watching the lizards and relaxing. You should do another post-Spring/Summer post to quiz us all on how we do. That will make me more accountable -- tee hee!
I used to spend a lot more time just "being" in the garden when the kids were toddlers, as we used to sit on the garden swing & I would sing to them. Now if I want to hang out with them, I have to sit on a swingset swing, which is just not a relaxing contemplative place. I'll have to work on getting DH to sit out there with me in the evenings after dinner.
Annie in Austin said…
As you know, Carol, I'm pretty good at being an Austin slacker! Yet I seldom just sit and look at the garden. But is that really the way to be in a garden?

It's a different matter if we're working on the garden so it looks good for neighbors [or for the Bloom day camera!] but for a real gardener, that time spent tending our floral friends while the birds sing, the bees buzz and the breeze blows already seems like a different level of being. Do the butterflies just be? Do the birds just be? Not even the Bees just be!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
I often start out just sitting there relaxing. Then I begin to think about what needs ot be done so I get my journal and write a few things down. Then I think, welll I could just pull that weed or move this or that. Then I get going again. A vicious circle.

I do get a few minutes now and then to just be.
cake said…
annie in austin said what i was thinking. for me, just the chance to work in the garden is a sort of meditation, and a complete pleasure.
chey said…
Love the post! It's truly a meditative experience when you just stop, relax and enjoy your garden for a while. Don't do it often, but when I do I'm at total peace.
I can't do this at all--though I try and try. This is the best week of the year in my garden and Austin's been blessed with unusually perfect weather: mild temperatures, clear skies, dry air. SAM is visiting for Spring Break and AJM has the week off. Spring Fling is over and I don't feel the pressure to get the garden ready for visitors.

Can I sit and enjoy it. No I cannot. The closest I get is watching the fish for awhile. Then I notice how dry the plants are, or that the bindweed is strangling the newly-planted north border, or that the cilantro is past its prime and needs composting. And I should repot those plants. And start some summer seeds.

A glass of wine. A book. Sit still in the chair, dammit. I can't. The garden whispers, presses, stirs me into action.
The only way I find to sit and enjoy the garden is when I invite my gardening friend over. We take our glasses of iced tea with us, sit down in the paths and weed to our hearts content. She is so attuned to the garden that she makes comments here and there. We enjoy the sunshine and solve the worlds problems. It's the best I can do.

Carol, thanks for this selection. I've ordered mine.~~Dee
LCShores said…
I had a fantastic opportunity to do this last July when we hosted a site on our local pond tour. It was wonderful to sit outside all day, occasionally chatting with people but mainly just enjoying the pond and garden. I might just have to do it monthly this summer....
lisa said…
Heh...I'm already a tad TOO good at this! Very important to enjoy the fruits of your labor, though!
Amy said…
Thanks so much for encouraging us to take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labours. I've lost count I've how many times I've read an article about someone's absolutely gorgeous garden. There's always some gorgeous spot to sit and relax - but the gardener almost always admits that they never, ever use it because they're just too busy "doing" to sit down and enjoy the result. This has always struck me as being so sad.
patientgardener said…
I went for a walk round the garden last night to unwind and came back with a long list of things I needed to do to add to the already long list!!!!