Still work, but good work

My mentor Benjamin Vogt linked to an article in the Wall Street Journal today. In that article was a quote by another of my mentors, Kelly Norris:

Kelly Norris, U.S.-based author of the book “New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden,” helps clients move into the aesthetic by first redefining what it means to tend a garden. “Maintenance implies stasis,” he said. “This is exactly how we’re trained to care for gardens. But gardens more in tune with natural processes are dynamic.” It’s not more work, he added, just a different way of gardening.

A Historic Formal Garden in London Gets a Little bit Wild, by Marianne Willburn, Wall Street Journal

There’s the danger of thinking that native plants means zero maintenance. While there’s no mowing a lawn, there’s still management. But, if you believe in this type of gardening, it’s good work. I replied to the post and said this:

This is something I am learning as I get stuck in this year. It’s work, but it’s good work. Instead of putting in the hours behind the mower, it’s work actually tending the garden, being sensitive, working in harmony with the plants you want and the plants you don’t want.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours weeding, adding a few plants and, most importantly, looking closely. I realized yesterday it’s the deep engagement where the action is and where the pleasure is.

Someone stopped by yesterday and said: It seems that once you get done weeding, you have to start again. I replied, somewhat defensively, saying, yes, but after a couple of years, it will be all filled in and I won’t have to anymore.

But it’s not about the “have to”, it’s about the pleasure of “getting to.” On a deeper sense, it’s about being a part of nature, playing the role perhaps humans should be playing – a nurturing hand as a keystone species.