Last weekend, finally, I began this summer's work in the garden. Winter has been long this year in Alberta—it began the third week in October and the most recent heavy snowfall of 20 cm or so was only two weeks ago.
I raked the lawn out, fertilized it, cleared the remnant leaves from the flower beds, put up new netting for my beloved vines, fixed the fence next to the roses and made arrangements with the arborist to clean up the ash tree. One of the fences has to be replaced this summer and I need to speak with the neighbour about that. Before I head off to Montreal next weekend, I hope to mow the lawn. So it begins.
There is something incredibly relentless and yet soothing about working in my garden. Members of my family may have concluded that my relationship with the lawn is in the obsessive/compulsive category, but I don't think that's it. Sure, I rarely rest for long in the hammock the family bought me seven years ago on Father's Day. And, yes, it's because every time I sit or lay down in it and gaze out at the garden, I see something that needs to be fixed or a little spot of lawn that I missed and didn't get quite right and decide then and there that I must do something about it. But it is the nature of the work that has seduced me.
Most of us have careers and do work that does not conclude at the end of the day. We have Blackberries and iPhones and other mobile devices that allow us to be constantly in touch with the world but, alas, also put the world constantly in touch with us. Our jobs are rarely completely within our control. Collaboration and compromise are constants. Victories are rare and while we can control the value of our work, often it is the (small p) politics that surround our work that dictate whether it is rewarded, diminished, or disregarded. Most often, whatever was begun one day is simply part of an ongoing largely sedentary and at times stressful process.
But in the garden, on every one of those long glorious evenings we enjoy this far north I can inspect the fruits of my labour. Here a well-trimmed, rich, green lawn; there a collection of roses in bloom; or a robust, well-watered vegetable patch or freshly painted fence. On and on it goes—visible, rewarding evidence of the results of mobile, physical labour. Perhaps this is why I once enjoyed the newspaper business—every single morning I could hold in my hands the result of the previous day's work.
But a newsroom is not a soothing place like the garden, where a man can wash his mind clear of his anxieties and concerns and concentrate blissfully on the uncomplicated, the menial, the beautiful and find peace.
The light is back now—it is already not dark until well after 9 pm. Life will be better in the garden where, when I rest at the end of the day, I can look upon my labour and know that it is good.