War is the best word for garden ‘enjoyment’
Posted: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 8:01 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
the songs of the birds for mirth...
One’s nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”
So states a little ornamental plaque in our rock wall border. Me, the nearest I’ve ever been to God was while in a state of emotional disrepair, when He reached down in His grace and lifted me by the hand out of the mire.
Writers have gone on for centuries about the peace and tranquility found in a garden. Such a “peaceable kingdom” as was enjoyed by Adam and Eve before her (OK, their) fall, seems to be attainable to some by simply standing amidst a bunch of lousy rose bushes and snorting up the nectar.
The eminent English garden doyenne Gertrude Jekyll wrote: “I arise at 4 a.m. on a June day, wander up into the wood and say: June is here, June is here; thank God for lovely June.”
I presume she was observing Greenwich Mean Time, which was probably the same as at her beloved estate, Munstead Wood, in Surrey in the south of London. There, 4 a.m. is early daylight near the summer solstice in June.
At any rate, Gertie didn’t have to contend with floating spider webs, chiggers, ticks, mosquitoes, sawbriars or any of the myriad other afflictions we must abide at that time of year in any woodland in our beloved Henry County.
It is a tough assignment to communicate with God while sweating like a mule as you try to excavate a hole in hardpan clay to become home to a new shrub or tree. You’re more likely cursing your luck (bad, of course) in having to live in such a “beloved” place and questioning why you’re stuck (no pun intended) with sticky clay, while little distance to our north there abounds unlimited Illinois loam topsoil 20 feet deep.
Oh, well. If we could answer all the “whys” of this life we might not need a god, or God. We simply have to live, like Abraham, by faith. My advanced degrees are in horticulture, via UHK, the University of Hard Knocks, and I didn’t have a single class in theology. How did you guess?
There’s no peace in my garden. It’s war, pure and simple. Chickweed attacks creeping jenny, root rot smites rhododendrons, spider mites devour azaleas and brown patch slays in infancy any grass that manages to sprout.
War takes a toll, physically and emotionally, on soldiers. Years of combat against the enemies of my allies, the aforementioned plants, leaves a man a shell of his former self. Shell-shocked bodies and minds finally hoist the white flag and leave those azaleas, et al, to fend for themselves, at which they are an abject failure.
Robert E. Lee is reputed to have said, upon observing his loyal and well-ordered troops in a sweeping victory, “It is good that war is so terrible. Otherwise, we would become too fond of it.”
Well, I am not fond, and never have been, of fighting, at least not since Ray Provow beat me up in the fourth grade. And I am not fond of scratching chigger bites and swiping spider webs. But my garden is worth it.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 4.21.09
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path