Culture | Garden and Home | Philosophy

Gardens and Purpose

One of the neighbors won the town’s garden of the month award for June. He does have a lovely garden in the front yard. I imagine it was especially satisfying because the guy next door to him, someone he’s been in something of a rivalry with for twenty years, won this particular award years ago. As a neutral party, I’ve heard both sides of this particular story, and am well-practiced in steering the conversation on to other things.

My own garden has never won the town’s garden of the month award. I believe this is in part a result of my distinct focus on the backyard garden, which I view as an oasis, and maybe also a distinct lack of focus on winning this particular award. But the whole thing got me thinking, maybe it’s time to double down on the front garden? Maybe it’s time to show some gardening spunk?

I look around knowing the work I put into the garden, knowing the battles with the weeds and the trees. And I wonder, what is the purpose of all of this anyway? I’m not chasing awards. I’m not growing a meaningful amount of food for my family. So why do it at all?

Simply put, the garden is a place for me to meditate for a while. A place to pay my penance and focus on something besides myself. A handy escape destination during a pandemic or after a particularly long commute. And an expression of hope for the future and optimism for my place in it.

I suppose that’s enough. Still, I am competitive. And that award looks awfully nice sitting in the neighbor’s front lawn…

Which brings me to purpose. What are we invested in? What prompts you out of bed in the morning? What’s your why? Those two neighbors up the street are retired now, and things like gardening awards drive them. I’m driven by experience, and the garden is a vehicle to get to the experiences I want out of my time on this plot of land.

For all the frustrations of a garden – like getting a catbird out from the inside of the elaborate netting I’d put around my blueberries, installing fencing to keep the rabbits out, and the battles with the other assorted pests that test my patience, there’s an underlying message in the work. It all ends up being the purpose. About having a go at something and making it work against the odds. Anyone can do easy – there are plenty of pristine lawns across America. A garden says something else entirely about you. It says that we want something more and we’re willing to work for it.

Maybe that deserves an award after all.

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