WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
This is one of my all time favourite poems. I often quote it when we are on holiday as I like nothing more than stopping on a walk to take in the beauty of my surroundings. There is something about being on holiday and `at leisure’ that restores my soul. I enjoy stopping and taking in the beauty of nature with all my senses. May be that’s why I like photographing flowers. The process of composing a good image involves slowing down and taking in the intricate details of each petal. Macro Photography is fascinating as you get to appreciate the microscopic detail of each flower. As a hobby it’s good for me as I find the art of photography very absorbing, slowing me down to notice beauty in nature.
Most of you that know me are well aware that I am a busy bee and always have a project on the go! I am never bored and very rarely sit down and do nothing. This week I had the luxury of an extra day off. There were so many jobs I could have done in the garden. I must admit the last month has seen a few gardening disappointments. A lot of my seeds have suffered from damping off, my dahlia tubers have been eaten by mice and the broadbeans have fallen over in the wind. My agapanthus seeds are failing to germinate completely. It’s the time of year where the garden is growing fast and lots of things need doing – mowing the lawn, weeding ,sowing flower and veg seeds, planting new dahlia tubers, earthing up potatoes etc etc. I was beginning to feel that there was too much to do and gardening was beginning to feel like a job not a hobby. It got me thinking `Why do I enjoy gardening?’
There are lots of reasons why I like gardening. When I really mulled it over I concluded that the primary reason I enjoy gardening is` to relax and create a tranquil retreat in the midst of nature, away from the stresses of life’. I cheated a bit as that is two reasons – relaxation and creativity. Back in January I had lofty aspirations of becoming a plantswoman. I do want to learn about horticulture and am sure I will continue to learn from my mistakes. I have already learnt that my seedlings are prone to damping off in a warm greenhouse which needs fresh air. I have probably made things worse by using rather stagnant water from the water butts. However my primary reason for gardening is not to learn, but to enjoy creating something beautiful and to relax. Gardening should be a pleasurable leisure interest to me and not an onerous job. If I learn something along the way then that is an added bonus.
I found it very interesting when I asked friends and family why they did or didn’t like gardening. I got a range of responses. One work colleague likes gardening as she finds it therapeutic getting things in order. I can relate to this. I like weeding and mowing the lawn much more than dusting and hoovering indoors! There is something about being outdoors in the fresh air and taming nature which I like. You can see instant results. Pulling up a stubborn dandelion weed is very satisfying particularly after a hard days work. You can take out your frustrations whilst weeding which is very cathartic and relieves stress.
Another friend likes gardening as she likes the peace and quiet and finds it relaxing. Other people like growing and nurturing vegetables. I agree there is nothing more satisfying than growing and eating your own veg. I can’t wait to harvest my first potatoes! My Uncle has an allotment and for many months of the year lives off the harvest from his allotment. Home grown veg is delicious. I am not sure I would ever find growing my own vegetables cheaper than shop bought, but it is satisfying and the taste is much better freshly picked out of the garden. I am more of a cottage gardener though. I couldn’t imagine a garden without flowers as well as vegetables.
Another colleague mentioned that she enjoys gardening to make her garden the best in the neighbourhood. I don’t have such a competitive spirit. However I am enjoying transforming our front garden into something beautiful. I like being out the front as it means I get to chat to my neighbours as they pass by. I like the fact that by creating something beautiful to look at, I am trying to develop a community spirit where neighbours stop to talk. Our front garden was simply a patch of scraggy grass before I got started on it. Now we have borders of flowers in soft pinks, lilacs, blues and white. The aim is to create a colour scheme that is peaceful and calming.
I am also trying to transform the stones under the bay window into a seaside garden with alpines and pebbles from the beach. I do hope that as people pass by they will, in the words of Auden’s poem, take time to appreciate the beauty in my garden and feel their spirits lifted. Quite a lofty ambition!
This week I had an unexpected afternoon off work. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day. For once I decided to stop my busyness. I am often so busy I don’t stop to enjoy or appreciate all my hard work in the garden. I therefore made a conscious decision to have an afternoon off, sitting in my garden, taking in the delights of nature and relaxing with a good book and a cup of tea. It was pure pleasure and felt like a holiday.
As I sat there I jotted down the sensations and thoughts that were going through my head. I tried to put my `TO DO’ list out of my head, banishing thoughts that started with `I SHOULD’…I simply was keen to take time out, to stop and appreciate nature with all my senses. I have never done a Mindfulness Course, but I understand it is a way of learning to pay attention to the present moment which can help alter our feelings about life in positive ways. I am not known for my poetry, but these are the things I appreciated and noticed and is my take on W.H.Davies’ poem:-
What is this life, if full of care, I have no time to stand and stare?
I have lofty ambitions to be a knowledgeable plantswoman, but today is about finding joy in nature and appreciating simple pleasures:-
Joyful Blackbird Song, early apple blossom and a gentle warm breeze on my skin
The buzz of a bumblebee and the gentle flight of cabbage white butterflies dancing amongst the flowers
A robin dancing for food on the fence, the cronk of a pheasant and the May call of a cuckoo
I have so much to do, but today I am sat under the shade of the parasol enjoying the warmth of the sunshine on my skin, listening and appreciating BUT not being busy
A holiday is good for the soul
Although I have things to do, stopping to look at my multi-coloured sunlit tulips and loving their dazzling beauty does me good
What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare?
My jobs awaited me. However I felt better. I have planted new dahlia tubers and they are starting to emerge.
New sowings of seeds are growing nicely and are yet to suffer from damping off or be frazzled by the sun. I have sprinkled the rest of my seeds with gay abandon all round the garden. I am not sure Monty Don or Sarah Raven would approve, but it was liberating! They may not come up, but there are plenty of other plants that just come up year after year with out my help. It is survival of the fittest and if a few things die off then there are plenty more that are flourishing.
My seed potatoes still need earthing up and the grass is healthy but needs mowing…