Save Me

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Nina Simone belts, “Save me, somebody save me” through my headphones and even though I know she is singing about a love gone wrong, not gardening, for just a moment I think she is singing about me. This could be my current theme song.

You see, I might be drowning. In plants. And gardening. And plants that must be planted. And gardens that must be gardened. And a spring that is more like a dry, hot summer, and tomatoes that are making fruit faster than I can get them in the ground.

In a word, this gardening season is manic. SOS.

I’m not sleeping well these days and I seem to be grinding my teeth at night. And yet I am enjoying myself. The ship feels like it is sinking but I am going down smiling. I don’t really want to be saved, although some time off from work, life, cooking, cleaning, and basic daily hygiene would provide the extra time I require to really get caught up.

The other day a friend emailed about all of the plants she just acquired, lamenting where she was gonna put them all. I nodded in agreement but didn’t return her email. Who has time for email when there are trays of seedlings waiting in cue that need to get in the soil?

I’ve come to the conclusion that we gardeners (some of us anyways) enjoy the chaos, just a little bit. We love the frenzied, manic pace of the spring planting. We love that it gives us something to bitch about. “The chaos“, we moan, “I shall never be freed from this chaos!” And we aren’t, until the winter when the gardens are finally put to bed (or as good as) and we find ourselves twiddling our thumbs and lamenting the boredom and suffering of the off season. “It’s too cold,” we cry, “When will this persecution end?

Yet somehow, all of this begins with a desire to create a calm, tranquil green space — a mania that leads to a serenity of sorts. Not that I ever stop and sit still in my garden spaces long enough to reach that kind of inner calm. There is always something to do; I enjoy the doing. Like photography, gardening is meditation in motion for me. And it achieves what sitting still meditation, tai chi (which actually made me very angry), and yoga have never been able to achieve.

There is a logic in here that I can’t quite get to. Perhaps it will come to me later today while I’m potting up the tray of new herbs I brought home yesterday or planting the bean seeds that are over-soaking as I write this. Do not forget the beans!


p.s. The photo (above) is of a bunch of pots I have sitting in the partial shade side of my roof garden. That space against the wall is reserved for plants that can’t stand the punishing heat of full sun portions of the roof, or that are being hardened off. I’ve posted a larger photo with notes over here.

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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15 thoughts on “Save Me

  1. The bitching is definitely part of the overall manic spring gardening experience. And part of the anticipatory winter non-gardening experience. And in summer, I’ll bitch about the heat and drought, and how I just want to sit in the air conditioning. But I don’t know what I’d do with myself otherwise. Ah, the life of a gardener :-)

  2. This year amid 1 million other projects I scaled back heavily on gardening. There’s no chaos & minimal weeding, and it’s nice. But I miss the chaos- I miss the sweat and toil of manic trying-to-keep gardening somewhere deep within. It feels a little like heartbreak; like a lingering break up or a dearly missed friend.

    Maybe I’ll go insane and plant a dozen seeds tonight!

    I love how you wrote about “meditation in motion”- I’ve tried to sitting still and calm “clear your mind” stuff and it just fills my mind with flaming chaos. Frantically gardening, cleaning, writing, and making art is when my mind if “clear” and I feel something close to “Zen”.

  3. I hear ya, sister. My patio is full with projects waiting to go in the ground, I’ve got a new hoe to try out, more seeds to figure out where to put, weeds to pull, and I love it! Showers can wait. Kids can’t though, so I can only get bits at a time done.
    Now if it would only stop raining for the day…

  4. Gayla – you’re so right. Just the other day I was reading twitter and noticing how we were all complaining about not having enough time in the day. Or heat. God help us, the heat! But just a few short months ago we were dying for the slightest hint of spring so we could get outdoors to get started on the “chaos”. You’re right. It may not seem like it from all our complaining, but we love it!

  5. Absolutely, I keep getting plants then going – where am I going to plant these? and when?

    What are the multicolored flowers there? I have a weakness for many colors in 1 flower…

  6. cHaOsSs ! I’m secretly glad it’s raining now because I can’t do anything … as well I didn’t soak those scarlet runner beans for very long before I put them into wet soil … it’s all spun outta control … I bought more plants instead of planting what I had when I went to get more compost

  7. Thanks, I think I’ll see if a local nursery has something like that ( I’m in California).

  8. An interesting idea – find someone who is looking to learn a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience about growing in return for an “assistant” – I know if I lived near you I would jump at the opportunity to spend some time along-side you in the garden and would pretty well do any odd jobs to extract the knowledge you hold in your green thumbs!

  9. Goodness, this is like reading a note from an alternate version of myself. Why do we do this? And yet, how can we help it? Why did all my planning and organization during the long, cold, awful, terrible winter months not result in more leisurely schedules? I am not sure how this happened (again).

  10. I read this blog because Gayla is such a good writer. No, I read this blog because it’s about the quietly manic experience of gardening. Cant decide which.

  11. Yes, I love the chaos and the drama- case in point: I can’t believe the spring you are having- we’re having a different kind of spring in Seattle- cold, cold cold and rainy. It has been getting into the forties at night throughout May. My poor basil bit it and the tomatoes look traumatized and now I’m just waiting for a day that makes me actually WANT to be outside for multiple hours (ie a day that I don’t get soaked & really chilled) to get some good gardening on! On the plus side- no watering necessary for the seeds I planted quickly last weekend…

  12. I completely understand. I get home, eat and then garden until it gets dark. With the summer solstice coming up soon, it doesn’t get dark until almost 10 pm! I don’t even notice the time until I realize I can hardly see anymore. Re. dry spring – we in Wpg are practically underwater.

  13. OHHH! You are reading my MAIL sister!!! I feel a lot better that I am not the only one who sort of thrives on this mania that is the spring planting a putting in of the gardens.

  14. I know how you feel, the frenzy and dreams of what you want to do with the plants can be overwhelming. Remember to enjoy what you do and live in the present. And remember to drink water/have a snack. I always forget to eat while gardening!

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