Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why I hate gardening

first let me clarify. it's not the idea of gardening i hate. i love the idea of gardening, the elemental notion of oneness with nature, coaxing life itself from the earth, watching, literally, for the fruits of your toil. i can see the attraction of playing in the dirt, getting muddy, remembering what it was like to be a jobless, worry-free, unmortgaged kid again (though let's be real: i was never that kid). i get that it's sensual: the warmth of the sun, the hose livening in your hands, the gorgeous ache in your muscles at the end of what must be the most honest day's work. i love being out in nature, and i love nature itself, as rendered in a yard, love having tomatoes, herbs, lilacs, trees, and flowers.

but as for gardening itself? i detest it with a passion rare. my hatred is visceral, emotional, and unequivocal. i loathe it with every fibre in my being -- and that's saying something, since when i garden i actually feel every fibre in my being. my knees hurt. my feet cramp. my back aches. my neck hurts from the inevitable sunburn. sweat runs into pools at the bottom of my glasses, which then slide down my nose so i can't see anything. dead branches macerate my legs and splinter my hands, usually right on top of the raking blisters. mosquitos torment me, so add welts the size of a quarter and dirty smears all over to this pretty picture.

but it's not just the physical misery that does me in. gardening is soul-shatteringly dull. i would rather watch golf on TV. in slow motion. sure, you can thrill to the idea of gardening for a little while ("look at me, making things grow!") but when that smug four seconds is over, it's man against the intellectual void. the only thing to keep the mind alive is pure antagonism: to caragana, to crabgrass, to suckers, to ants, to tools that won't stay sharp, to the cultural ethos that says it's "wrong" to spray the whole damn mess with industrial-strength pesticide and head indoors to read a book, antagonism to chicory (chicory? is that what it is? the rhizomatic weed i hate the most?), antagonism to the very activity you're wasting a precious sunday on -- time you can never have back, time you know you will regret on your deathbed because you already regret it now. oh, it's mentally tough, gardening.

and then there's the endlessness of it. you weed and weed and weed and weed and weed and weed and weed and weed and weed -- and then you think, well, that's a job well done, good for me, time for a break: and only three minutes will have passed. no matter how hard you work, the yard is never finished. crabgrass and weeds, apparently fueled by some mysterious antagonism of their own, just keep growing back. ants triumph over doktor doom. plants need fertilizing, or separating, or augmenting, or watering, or composting, or banking, or deadheading, or mulching, or cutting back, or staking, or shaping, or something. the yard never achieves the serenity of a clean room.

year after year i subject myself to the agony of gardening. why? because i believe that gardeners are a higher class of being, and i want to be a better person. homo plantarum is patient, forgiving, and way, way less anal than me. i want to be improved. i want to be zen enough to view weeding as an opportunity for the mind to play. i want to experience childlikeness. i want to welcome the wild, live a life shaped by elemental principles, take lessons from an earthworm.

and i really want a yardboy.


Anonymous said...

you know, Rachel Maddow was a yardboy for the woman who eventually became her partner. If you found the right yardbutch, you might look at gardening differently...

Anonymous said...

I too was just going to give you the name of a pretty good "yardbutch"!

Heather Zwicker said...

dudes! full names and phone numbers, *please*!! (of the yardbutches, i mean, though maybe also yours...)

Darren Harkness said...

I think you need to practice the style of gardening I do each year: observational gardening. It's an important style of gardening, because without the observational gardener, who would appreciate the efforts of the gardener who pulls weeds, divides plants, and spends hours agonizing on their knees over its shape and structure.

Of course, there's challenges to being an observational gardener: first, there's all the looking. Not only do you have to look at the garden itself, but often the gardener as well! And it's thankless, as most gardeners do not appreciate the concentration and willpower involved, misconstruing it instead as sloth.