There are those who do, and those who dream.

It has taken much of my life to realize that there are very few things I’d rather do than read about doing. That number keeps shrinking. You might think eating would be a definite Do, but as I am at present on a fairly restricted diet, there are a lot of foods I enjoy only vicariously, by reading about other people’s enjoyment of them. Easy country walks fall into both categories; travel to countries other than those in Europe and North America, however, is strictly Read/Dream. I also love reading about detectives solving murder mysteries, and about Bren Cameron translating for aliens, but I have zero desire to do either, myself.

Currently I have tabs open for four gardening blogs, whose archives I am reading with considerable pleasure. And then I look at my own garden, and wonder how much work it needs to make it possible to offload it, along with this house, onto someone else, and how much of that work I’m willing to pay someone else to do. Despite all my efforts, the garden is still afflicted with creeping bellflower and bishop’s weed; various ornamental grasses and flowers that dry to ornamental interest need to be cut back now that it’s spring; the lawn is patchy; the flowerbeds are covered in last year’s leaf mulch, though some bulbs are popping bravely through.

The gardening blogs I’m dipping into are almost entirely those of people living in the U.K., with a far kinder climate than U.S. zone whatever I’m in (five? six?). Their “winter garden” pictures are of greenery artistically rimed with frost, at times when my garden is usually under a foot or two of snow. At the end of February, their gardens are farther along than mine is in April, and their idea of a baking summer afternoon is what the thermometer here hits by 10:00 a.m. on a July morning before soaring into temperatures that demand drawn curtains and air conditioning.

Possibly in other circumstances, I would be a gardener, as in other circumstances, I might be a number of other things that, either by decision or happenstance, I am not: a mother, an interpreter, an accountant, a superstar scholar, a third-grade teacher. But I think I should pay more attention to what I like to do, and not assume that the things that interest me in print are things I want to do IRL. Gardening is hard on back, hands, fingernails and complexion. I am fair-skinned and not particularly sturdy, in fact in some ways rather fragile. I can see that there must be great creative satisfaction in producing a glorious garden, but it is clear to me that what I like most is reading. I’m just as happy to spend my outdoor time going for walks on which I admire other people’s gardens. I do want some small private place where I can sit outdoors to read on a nice day without being spare-changed or otherwise harassed, as too often happens in parks, but a balcony, patio or front stoop would suit me fine.

5 thoughts on “Doing and dreaming

  1. My suggestions, as a fair-skinned easily sunburnt older gardener (but have been a serious one for 45 years):
    – Try container gardening! Pots are much easier to handle and cultivate, and you can move them around when they’re thriving or hide them when the flowers fade. Potting soil is much easier to handle than ground cultivation.
    – Garden in small increments, only short jobs when you feel energetic.
    – Wear a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors.
    – Try a pair of the newer style garden gloves, like West County, which are designed more like cycling gloves and allow maximum dexterity.
    – Invest in a small garden bench so you can sit, relax, and admire your handiwork.

    1. Container gardening in a small space is about my speed. I used to enjoy that very much, which is what made me (and other people) think I’d enjoy a larger garden. But I cannot cope with the garden I now have, and don’t want to keep trying. It was an attempt to make a dream a reality, and a major factor in my starting to think about the dreams that should just stay dreams.

  2. Dreaming of gardens sounds lovely, even if we don’t have an English climate. I remember reading Piers Plowman lo these many years ago and seeing a reference to planting something in February and thinking “wha?” Not in any place I’ve ever lived.

    1. When I lived in Paradise, that would have been fine. But not in places I’ve lived since I started grad school, where planting isn’t safe till May (well, maybe April, now, thanks to climate change).

  3. I have to admit that a garden is daunting. Having had several dogs who appear to take my gardening as a challenge, I’m looking to revamp our front yard into a low-maintenance state and our backyard can be given over to turf and trees with a generous sprinkling of wildflowers. That’ll be good enough for me now.

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