Human beings crave control. We want to be the masters of our own fate or to believe that there is a master of our fates who can be entreated or persuaded, propitiated or cajoled into helping us to gain control of our lives or the lives of others. We want to change the weather so that the rain falls when the soil needs rain, wetting the seeds we’ve sown, and so that the warmth comes when our plants need warmth. We want the sea to be calm and the fog to lift when we are ready to set sail. We want fine, sunny days when we visit the beach to swim or head out for a picnic. We want just enough snow so that school’s canceled, but not so much that our power goes out. We pray. We dance. We chant. We invent little private rituals and participate in community rituals.
We want to control our health. It does not seem to be an unreasonable aim. We want to control our relationships–just enough to keep ourselves happy. We want control over our careers and our income–not so much to ask. We want to be able to make our own decisions. We want choices so that we feel we have control over our lives.
My gardens are my analogy today. I’m still endeavoring to exert some control over my vegetable garden, but I kept my purposes modest this year; I planted fewer beans, fewer tomatoes, fewer peppers, fewer potatoes, no onions, no peas, no edamame, no radishes…the walk-through rows are wider so it is easier to weed. Beginning with the dry warm winter and some assemblies of challenges that do not pertain to the garden, the season looked “iffy.” Then came lashings of showers in May. A challenging season, but not insurmountable. I have been gardening a long time, and I have methods of adapting to things I cannot control. It comes with the territory.
The ornamental beds have presented the most difficult struggle with my need to control the space I (somewhat ridiculously) consider my own. When the beds get overgrown–as they are now–I know that I can accept their exuberant rioting with the successful weeds. I can say, “This is what nature intends. There is beauty here.”
I do know that. But the controlling mind–the monkey mind–says, “Too much penstemon; it’s gotten aggressive. Deadhead the peonies. Pull up the plantian, the wild asters, fleabane, wild garlic, crabgrass, bermuda grass, creeping charlie, five-leaf vine. Get the seedlings out of there (mulberry, redbud, oak). Mulch. Keep the rabbits off the hostas. Move the marybells. Get the weeds out of the alchemilla…”
My head clouds with fog. The seas get rough and I despair, because I cannot control things. Not even a small garden.
Instead, I could be meditating on green. On the amazing variety of leaf-shapes, on dappledness (like G. M. Hopkins):
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
Here is one aspect of my ornamental garden. Overgrown, yes. Lush, diverse, lovely in its unrefined way. Until I have the wherewithal to tear through and divide and move and mulch, this is not a bad view, the definition of … lack of restraint, ornamentals gone wild. Freedom, I suppose.
As we grow, we learn to let go. So I am told. Garden, you have a chance to go wild!
And I guess I have the opportunity to learn to live with that.
I totally get that!! I have always struggled with issues around control and tended to let others control me hugely. This was reflected in my garden, which was a mess. Not even a nice over-growness! I had this idea for years that interfering with what wanted to grow was not my right. Who was I to say that this plant was alright but that this one wasn’t?
But as I began to have better personal boundaries and exert a healthy control over my life I began to take back some control of my garden. I became rather ruthless but I still liked it a little wild. I didn’t want it to be so controlled as to lose its naturalness. So now it is a combination of both. Now if I can achieve the same thing here in Luxor I will be extremely happy!!! Control issues abound in this male-dominated society!!!
“Control issues abound in this male-dominated society!!!”
I can just imagine…
“…I have methods of adapting to things I cannot control. It comes with the territory”–lovely words to live by, especially in dealing with “monkey mind.” I rather like the idea of you going wild along with your garden, after you settle in with its wildness of course.
Really enjoyed this post, Ann.