Thursday, April 2, 2009

Delights of the Garden

Sue Dickman from A Life Divided has a lovely essay in the Christian Science Monitor about the gardens and gardening books of Beverly Nichols. I was thinking about garden writing today because of that personal essay in the Times' Homes section about a guy starting his own garden. For some reason, I found that essay boring and insufferable. All it made me want to do was offer up a prayer of thanks to Farm Markets for making any personal attempts at a kitchen garden obsolete. This is especially lucky since I live in New York City and have zero access to soil. There's not even a community garden nearby. But Sue's essay (I hope it's OK if I go by her first name!) is just the kind of gardening piece that makes me dream it would be just wonderful to garden. That I'd love digging my hands into the soil and tending to my wee tomato plants. That figuring out what bush belonged where would inspire a very particular kind of creativity and connection with my home that I wouldn't otherwise have. And that come the end of the season I'd can my full-grown tomatoes and snip fresh herbs and think doing all that was normal, just what you do. At night I'd read the charming books of Beverly Nichols and I'd know my own garden might be a simple and slapdash, if well-loved, affair but still part of a wide and deep web of cultivation.

Meanwhile, I'm never going to have that garden, even when I have a yard. Maybe I'll have an herb box, but not that garden. I know the dailiness of it will make me want to nap. But still, a girl can dream, and it seems like maybe Nichols' books can give shape to those dreams.


roni said...

I imagine someone at the Times generating a list of domestic arts (gardening, knitting, canning) that they assign to a random hipster and ask for a 500 word essay about the hilarity that ensued. I also found the essay insufferable, because this is a guy who can afford to shop at Whole Foods but decided that it would be a gas to grow his own artichokes. Not to be Debbie Downer, but people in, say, Cuba, started their own veggie gardens out of necessity. Not because hilarity would ensue.

Robin Aronson said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. I didn't like the whole "I'm going to avoid sentimentality by counting my pennies" thing. I remember an article last year about people tarting their own gardens - I blogged about it. I liked it! The people in it were making reasonable choices with their time and their money and they weren't smug about it. That's the difference - you can afford Whole Foods -- or be willing to pay a premium for sustainably grown produce at a farm market -- and still want to have the experience, and savings of a kitchen garden -- its the explicit trade off between sentiment and moola, when the guy doesn't have to trade either. I don't know, I'm glad you didn't like it either.

Sue Dickman said...

Thanks for the link, Robin! (And yes, of course you can call me Sue!) I found that NYT piece annoying as well.

I think you should read Beverley Nichols whether or not you have a garden--his books are of the witty articulate gay fellow living in crumbling mansion with eccentric neighbors variety (circa 1945-55) and are really quite charming and funny.

I love my gardens (I have one community garden and one at home), but it's definitely a commitment. This time of year, I start feeling overwhelmed, and I haven't even done anything yet, and then by August/September, I'm cursing my bounty as I make vats of sauce to freeze. There are idyllic moments, certainly, and I particularly enjoy the morning stroll with my tea to see how things are doing, but there's also a lot of ruined fingernails and guilt that you're not doing more. I am envious, sometimes, that Beverley Nichols never had to ruin his fingernails since he had other people planting (and weeding) for him. Ah well. He eventually couldn't afford his own lifestyle either.

Robin Aronson said...

I just wrote a long comment and lost it! Grrrr....But I can the delights of the garden, Sue...and I believe I should start with the books by the guy who had time to write them because he had a gardener! So it goes. Thank You for the essay!