Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gardens and therapy, psychology, fiction...

At May Dreams, Carol recently wrote about the overlapping ways in which gardening is therapeutic, and sometimes also the reason we gardeners need therapy.

I tried to explain the other day to my non-gardening husband why I feel the urge to dig in the dirt, to plant and weed and trim and water. And why I want a big rainwater storage tank that will be horrifically ugly until I cover it with vines or screen it with bamboo or lattice, and why I want to bother with growing food in the first place, when it's so much easier (and often cheaper) to just buy it, and why I have a lot of trouble preventing myself from buying random assortments of plants and putting them where I think they might grow well, rather that with any particular aesthetic goal or restraint. Alas, I'm not sure there's any way to have these things make sense to a non-gardener... but fortunately, he demonstrates great patience and forbearance nonetheless!

With Sparkling Squirrel, I pondered why it is that gardening is rarely a central theme of novels - maybe because it's so rich with opportunities for metaphor that it seems too easy?

Reading about the Square Foot style of vegetable gardening, I realized that the most important thing that's "different" about it is not a different shape of plot, but that it takes some of the quirks of human nature into account, in addition to having plenty to say about Mother Nature. Specifically, the benefits of placing limits on the size of the garden, and the number of seeds planted at any one time: people love to till up a big plot of earth in the spring, but keeping it weeded and watered gets to be an overwhelming task. People sprinkle a whole packet of seeds along a row, with every intention to thin the seedlings - but it goes against the grain to yank up those adorable little sprouts, so we tell ourselves we'll do it later. Acknowledging these tendencies and planning around them instead of trying to ignore or dismiss them is very wise, I think.

Almost all my reading (and thinking) lately has centered around gardening, can you tell?

1 comment:

Sparkling Squirrel said...

I can hook you up with professional horticultural therapists (and, actually, the people who train horticultural therapists) if you are so inclined. Interesting, we learned of two literary archetypes conerning gardens: the fall and attempts to return to the garden and "The Human Year" in my super-cool (in retrospect) 8th grade mythology English class. As a result, I could point out lots of ways that gardens are metaphors in literature.
But gardeners? Much scarcer.
Actually, I should have mentioned the four books my SiL gave me loosely about women in their gardens (I think I wrote reviews of all of them, I think they link to each other on my blog, but I can't think of a name of any at the moment).