Gardening Mad

Because I haven’t done so in a while, be advised that this post contains cursing.

I received an email from a reader recently who was “disappointed” by the current contest prize pack which is comprised of assorted items from Julie Jackson’s Subversive Cross-stitch line. My initial reaction to the letter was, “To each her own.” I have a sensibility and taste that appreciates Julie’s biting sense of humor while others like this particular reader believe it to be, “the most insulting thing [they] have seen in a long time.”

No big deal.

But then I thought about it. And I started to wonder just what it is that people might find so offensive about Julie’s work and the only thing I could think of is that it’s got to be the cursing. I can’t imagine what else it could be because though Julie’s messages might not be work-place appropriate they aren’t hateful or cruel and they certainly aren’t insulting. They are witty, sarcastic, direct, and sometimes angry — healthy and therapeutic responses to things in the world that really do suck; things like cancer, the crap we sometimes put ourselves through during the holidays, the lies told by politicians, working at a job that is spiritually draining: the list goes on.

I love gardening. And beyond that I see gardening as an active pursuit in a world that encourages passivity. For that reason and others that I won’t get into now, gardening has the potential to affect positive change in ourselves and the world around us. Working in the garden brings me joy, excitement, courage, and solitude. Digging my hands in the soil and nurturing a plant fills me with a sense of wonder about the world, and teaches me to embrace failure and learn patience.

I want to share that experience with other people and I want to encourage more people to take it up for themselves.

But I need to say, and have been trying for some time to find a way to say that this experience is not all about sunshine and roses. Like all humans, I am a person with pain who has suffered and struggled. I have come to realize over time just how much gardening is a therapy and a way for me to nurture myself, find solace, and release anger and frustration. I can’t imagine how many of us would have stuck with this “hobby” for any length of time if it were simply about puttering about and making things look pretty. I came to be a passionate gardener because I NEEDED it. Life includes struggle. Sometimes I am grateful for that struggle but sometimes I’m angry and damned if I’m going to accept a world that doesn’t provide space for people like me to punch the air, laugh like a maniac, and say fuck it once in a while!

And because I am a gardener, and these experiences are a part of life, a part of who I am, who I have been, and who I will become, they are not inappropriate or out of context even here, on a website about gardening.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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10 thoughts on “Gardening Mad

  1. hear hear! don’t forget that the majority of us saw the contest prize pack, thought it rocked, and didn’t send you any disappointing email. :)

  2. I think our society is taught to be offended. Instead of being taught to disregard the things we find offensive, we are taught that if there is something we don’t like, we somehow have the right to get rid of it or banish it.

    What we don’t like, we don’t have to pay any attention to, but we have to remember that other people may enjoy the things we find offensive. We must learn to ‘get over ourselves’ and just get on with life. Basically, we need to just say ‘fuck it’.

    Saying that, I also wanted to say I love Subversive Cross-Stitch !!

  3. It’s not about the disappointing email. I’m not sensitive enough at this point to worry about every person who doesn’t like the choices I make for the site. The email was just a catalyst for me to talk about these thoughts that have been milling about in my head for sometime. I used to be a bit more fiery in regards to the things I wrote here back in the day and have been inching towards bringing that back… because it is who I am and it all fits into my experience as a gardener. In fact just yesterday I was angered by something on the way to my community garden and I found that I was throwing the yard waste into the composter very aggressively. It was very obvious in that instance how much the “labor” of gardening can be very therapeutic.

  4. Part of the reason this site is so enjoyable is because your take on gardening is “subversive.” You educate and extend the philosophies of gardening beyond a passive experience to a more engaged experience.

    On that note, Julie Jackson does the same for cross-stitch. The correlation is perfectly understandable.

    It is difficult to stir numb brains, and in both your work and Julie’s, any reaction is much more complimentary than an apathetic non-response.

  5. yeah, if the email was a catalyst to spark up these thoughts then i’m glad it was sent. looking forward to reading more in this vein…

  6. You go girl. We all deserve a ‘vent’ or two. I applaud you…and i love this site and everything on it. And if I didn’t I surely wouldn’t bitch about it. This is a friendly gardening site for crying out loud.

  7. Oh my gosh!! I just went to the Cross stitch web site for the first time…and I AM IN LOVE! What fun!! I learned to cross-stitch from my Great Grandma who had a great sense of humor. These patterns have just rekindled my love and I am going to order them all up!! Well, maybe not all of them.

  8. I have been a fan of your website since I saw an ad for your book launch at the Ideal cafe in Kensington market. It was a shame that I couldn’t attend. I truly believe that anyone who choses to build a blog/website, and be as honest as you have been in yours, recognises a sister is speaking and keeps on reading. Democracy is the freedom to change the channel. Don’t like it, move on.
    I am drawn to your honesty and thrifty creativity, and I can relate to the NEED for dirt under under my finger nails. Living in this smoggy city, I find that my sense of scent often involuntarily shuts down. The blessing of being down on my knees planting something when the waft of earthy goodness hits my nostrils is nothing less than intoxicating. As my landscaping business gets busier and busier I feel so lucky that I chose to “do things” organically, the process is so much slower and as I watch the companies that mow, blow and go. I am so grateful that I made the choice to be organic in this crazy hectic world. Have a great, prosperous and dirty new year.


  9. Wow! I am blown away by your emails, comments, and responses to this piece that I was so nervous about posting.

    Beth: You have hit on what a lot of us feel very eloquantly. Every gardener I meet admits that so much of the process of gardening teaches patience but it is up to us to chose to learn that lesson or be swept up by the desire to make everything perfect NOW. I am still learning. Maybe it’s not so much a lesson with an end goal of becoming a patient person so much as a process and an act that reminds us of the importance of patience and slowing down.

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