Sunday, January 18, 2009


Today I saw my shadow for the first time in weeks. Maybe even a month. He stood (lied?) before me tangled with shadows of tree branches on the lawn, as if I were up in that tree pruning. I decided to play with my shadow. Not in the way a child plays making funny shapes, but with my mind, the word, the concept of shadow.
We all have a shadow side. According to Jungian psychology, “It is everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped and denied. These are dark rejected aspects of our being as well as light, so there is positive undeveloped potential in the Shadow that we don’t know about because anything that is unconscious, we don’t know about.”
I wondered about the shadow of a garden, not the shade but the dark underbelly. What we hide, like the compost bins bowel-like digesting, or the shelf of chemicals in the shed that we can neither use nor throw out.
I wondered about the shadow of the gardener and how that manifested in his garden.
Later in the day I went to a lecture by the Seattle based landscape architect Barbara Swift, of Swift Company. She titled her lecture “Beginning to Get It”.
She was adamant in her use of long lasting materials, and simple in her design.
She also chided us about our “retail therapy” gardens. How we clutter our spaces, getting in the way of our experience of the space. She acknowledges that consumption is an antidote to the disconnectedness of modern culture, but a fleeting one, like chips. How many times have I bought the “ coolest new plant” only to toss it out at the end of the season, or the end of the month, in disgust. She encouraged us to pare down our appetites for new things for the garden, and to sharpen our appetites to the experiences of the garden.
For me it is not so much all the clutter as it is all the activity. How much do we really need to do to the garden? And how much is some craving for busy-ness? Why do I fear my lazy shadow? Why do I fear the part of me that takes pleasure even in the dandelions in the lawn? Why do I garden?
Why do we garden?
I am not asking you , dear readers, to go into analysis to figure out why you garden. I wouldn’t even ask that of myself. What I am asking myself is to look at the motivation behind my purchases, my activities. Am I just “control-freaking” nature, or “expressing myself”? Do I really need to?
I have begun watching my motivations as a gardener, like I watch the slow progress of the twiglet witchhazel I ordered from Forest Farm grow inches at a time.
I want to stay put and let the garden work, not work it.
Maybe like Barbara Swift I’m “beginning to get it”.
Maybe there’s still time for me to learn how to garden.