Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Ideal Life

YANG CHU said: "Yuan Hsie lived in mean circumstances in Lu, while Tse Kung amassed wealth in Wei.
"Poverty galled the one, and riches caused uneasiness to the other.
"So poverty will not do nor wealth either."
"But what then will do?"
"I answer enjoy life and take one's ease, for those who know how to enjoy life are not poor, and he that lives at ease requires no riches."
Yang Chu's Garden of Pleasure
Chapter VI, The Ideal Life

Enjoy life and take one’s ease. Sounds great. And yet…

I just came in from sowing the last of my seeds. I wasn’t planning on doing that today, but I left the box of seeds out in last night’s unexpected (by me) shower, and they needed to be planted. Why is it that whenever I’m in the yard it’s because I’m working or performing some maintenance task? I can’t seem to sit still and enjoy the garden because it only takes about sixty seconds of trying to meditate before I see something that needs deadheading, or a weed that needs removing, or something that I have to tweak into perfection.

I have finally decided that performing such minor tasks is a way I maintain the “flow” of enjoying being in the garden in a sort of mental neutral gear where I don’t find myself flitting from one thought to another – which is what happens when I try to sit still and watch the bees playing tag around the shallow end of the pond.

For me, enjoying the garden means being active, even if it’s only a little bit. I envision how I want this corner to look in 10 years, or that planter to look in the next few months. I have a tiny loquat given to me in a 2” peat pot by a friend. I put it in the ground, but then put a plant stand and plant overhead to protect it from direct sun while it settled in. It’s been there through one summer, so I’ve now moved the shading pot. Someday, this tiny plant will shade a part of the garden now in 6-8 hours of sun a day, but if you saw it today, you’d see a 4” tall anonymous green stick with a few jaundiced leaves.

I’ve decided this endless tinkering is the closest I will get to the ideal life in my garden: perfectly balanced between all my “amassed wealth” and “mean circumstances” I find the ideal life at ease in my garden.


tina said...

Yes! You are so right-we do enjoy the garden when we work. Such a sense of satisfaction even with all the aching body parts after a hard day in the garden. How much enjoyment would you really have if you had gardeners who took care of your garden? Really? Doing is pretty fun. Our own stamp on our paradise.

walk2write said...

Isn't it funny how we suddenly discover words of wisdom like those after years of believing in fables like the grasshopper and the ant? Once that ant starts colonizing, well, it's too late to think about playing the sluggard. By the way, do you need more than one loquat tree for it to bear fruit?

kate smudges said...

I've begun to think that anything done in the garden makes me feel good and relatively peaceful and it keeps me from standing in the middle of the street screaming when those mad, hormonal surges take over. How I survive the winter months is beyond me.