Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I always like to get away from the garden in the winter. Usually I escape to books. Sometimes a snow deletes all the chores around the garden, at least for a day or two. Sometimes I just need to get away. Last Winter we went to Mexico, which was great for squeezing every last drop of chill out of my bones. But the lush tropical gardens, even the wild dry jungle of the Yucatan gave my botanist’s and gardener’s eyes a lot to do.
Where do you go?
This past weekend we drove to the Washington Coast. We rented a small cabin in a small Quileute fishing village at the mouth of the Quillayute River. A barren winter beach can really calm a gardener’s mind, even though the ocean is never quiet. The waves are constant and strong at La Push. So we retreated to our cabin and I read until I fell asleep. In the middle of the day!
When I woke I could hear my mother’s distant voice, “ What a waste of time.” Luckily she was only in my mind.
So, I though I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed, I thought at least I could think about work.
But I failed.
I did spend a few minutes trying to imagine a beach garden. Really an oxymoron. Just considering moving the detritus to get started was daunting not to mention the waves. So I thought about our garden back home. How one big slow wave --that’s what a flood is after all-- passed through a few weeks ago. How one big wave 8 feet tall passed across our land depositing tires and stealing soil and plants. We have been so busy cleaning out the basement that I haven’t had time for the garden or the nursery that I wrangled together at the last minute with bird netting and posts. I did pick up a few lavenders of the north lawn that had been de-potted by the current and shoved a 100 yards down stream. I was actually amazed to find the potted pinks that I keep on an old metal shelf to keep them dry ended up 4 feet under water and still look alive, and well.
So, there I was at the beach wasting time thinking about the garden when I could have been counting waves until I was mesmerized. But I started thinking about beach gardens , and waves, and our garden, and floods. Remember the fun-filled and frustrating hours building sandcastles? What a waste of time. But what a pleasure, too. Sunny hours building, cultivating delusions of permanence.. And then a wave came....
Even though the flood was only one big wave it knocked down a sandcastle I was building in my mind. Was I wasting time?
I began to think about other gardens I made. That rose up, not unlike a wave, and crashed when I moved on. All our gardens are prone to the waves; months, years, decades, a lifetime. They crest and crash. And yet we are perfectly happy to build our castles in the sand. Snubbing out noses at impermanence.
Wasting our time?

Is surfing a waste of time. I’m not talking about internet surfing, but wave surfing. There were surfers at the beach, wet-suited young men gutsy enough, or is it ballsy enough, on January 24th to enter the cold North Pacific to catch a wave. I admire their bravado, or is it “madness” as my companion called it. All for the thrill of catching a wave for a moment or two.
Our gardens are momentary, too.
Declining and reviving constantly, moment by moment.
Dissolving when we leave-- a garden is the gardener -- wave-like into a larger reality.
So what if we made our gardens in that larger reality? Would that be less of a waste of time?
Or should we just keep surfing, through the seasons, the years,the floods, and the chores?
And stop wasting time.

Life in the surf holds tight.