The Garden Inside Us

I’ve known for a long time that I had a special relationship with my garden.  That point was driven home recently when I read the book called The Garden Interior written by former Comcast executive and passionate gardener David Jensen.  Jensen explains that the garden interior is that sense of the garden that we all have inside, binding us to the garden and the garden to us.

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article described Jensen as a spiritual gardener who believes all of life is experienced in the garden – beauty, decay, joy, sadness and constant change.  I couldn’t agree more.  Jensen suggests that our lives are lived to the fullest when we are present, observant and open to the lessons our gardens are prepared to teach us.  Clearly, Jensen believes we are partners in the garden, probably junior partners at that.  I love Jensen’s comment that “a really great gardener has gotten most of the ego sandpapered off him over time.” 

One of Jensen’s most powerful statements is that the garden, like the gardener, is constantly changing.  Gardens are different every day in subtle ways such as a new or fading bloom, evidence of critters nibbling leaves, a newly constructed bird’s nest, or the light casting shadows in a certain way.  Our gardens teach us to see, to really see; they demand our attention and observation.  Attentive gardeners know that this constant change, these captured moments in time, are a reflection of the gardener who is also constantly growing, aging, evolving.  Jensen accurately states that “Our gardens are not lasting monuments to ourselves.  In fact they outlive us.  Recognizing the transitory and ever-changing nature of things is part of the wisdom the garden provides.”

A house wren constructed a nest in minutes over the speaker on the covered patio

To be true gardeners, we must get our hands in the soil and become one with the garden and its residents.  Jensen claims this physical connection is important as it’s what connects our interior selves with the exterior space. The same can be said of human relationships.  We have to get involved, participate, and extend ourselves in order to get the most out of life and our partnerships.  Investments pay dividends.  The garden knows this and responds. 

As gardeners we plant seeds and expect something to grow.  We are sometimes disappointed because plants don’t perform as expected, leaves are consumed by pests, or blooms are destroyed by a late winter frost; but our optimism never dies.  While every gardener experiences some form of disappointment, these frustrating moments are countered by unplanned surprises and successes.  Gardening teaches us to take the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth – knowing it will all work out okay in the end, the way it was meant to be. 

The surprise of a near dead vine thriving the following year

The disappointment of a hosta eaten by deer

Gardening teaches us to be persistent, dedicated and hopeful. A poignant example of this is the picture Jensen paints of a gardener standing in his garden on a cold, dreary day, surrounded by the decay of the fall garden.  He is joyful because he is holding a paper bag of cherished crocus bulbs in one hand and a bag of daffodils in the other.  I can assure you that will be me this autumn as I merrily plant the hundreds of snowdrops, crocus and daffodils I recently ordered.  A joyful gardener I will be. 

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