Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I ache all over. But what a wonderful ache, from nearly a week of working with my and Beloved's little patches of earth.

I suppose the impulse to garden could be read metaphorically, spiritually, in so many ways. Are those who garden trying to return to an original garden, to find Eden again? Beloved resists metaphors and poetry. "I like to play in the dirt," she says. But there is a smile in her eyes when she says it, so I think she is teasing me. (She does that a lot.) The original mandate of Ha-Adam (the Earth Creature) was to till the garden, and that was transformed after the first disobedience into the mandate to till and keep the ground from which the earth creatures were taken. But that was a later development; archaeologists tell us that humans first hunted and gathered their food, they didn't grow it for a long, long time.

But there is this impulse-- this "back to the garden" impulse. Last fall Beloved and I enjoyed the sensual delight that is Portrait of a Marriage, a film based on the memoir of Nigel Nicholson, son of Vita Sackville-West. This extraordinary woman, a fine writer who was, unfortunately, overshadowed by her contemporary (and sometime lover ) Virginia Woolf, was, among other things, a master gardener who brought out of the earth amazing and stunning beauty in the midst of war, and who saw the need to create beauty as a mandate for wartime. In her book Garden, she writes (in blank verse),

Small pleasures must correct great tragedies,
Therefore of gardens in the midst of war,
I boldly tell...

Sackville-West sees gardening as a sensual enterprise, writing of "ungloved fingers with their certain touch."

(Delicate are the tools of a gardener's craft,
Like a fine woman next a ploughboy set,
But none more delicate than gloveless hand,
That roaming lover of the potting shed,
That lover soft and tentative, that lover
Desired and seldom found, green-fingered lover
Who scorned to take a woman to his bed.)

I will admit that puts "playing in the dirt" in a whole new light.

Here is the song that has been running through my head this morning, also on the theme of getting back to the garden, also on the theme of the garden as a response to war.

I came upon a child of god
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
Im going on down to yasgurs farm
Im going to join in a rock n roll band
Im going to camp out on the land
Im going to try an get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
I dont know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devils bargain
And weve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Thanks, Joni Mitchell. Peace, everyone. Peace and happy gardening.


Share Cropper said...

Yea for gardening and The Garden and Joni Mitchell.

don't eat alone said...


I spent the afternoon rounding up vegetable plants to give them a home in our garden tomorrow.

"Small pleasures must correct great tragedies."

On the way home from the nursery, I got word that the Inn did not schedule me this week. I think they are trying to fire me without facing me. Perhaps not a great tragedy, but I am thankful for the car load of plants that will greet me in the morning.


Cecilia said...

Milton. I am so sorry. I hope there is a good outcome for you-- some resolution you can live with. Damn. Thank you for sharing.

ShareCropper, I agree, Yea!

Pax, C.

Iris said...

I love this post! last weekend I spent several blissful hours planting flowers and bushes in my yard. I've just discovered the joys of "digging in the dirt."

Nelle said...

I found your journal through Cynthia's (A Crazy Quilt Life). I am in Jersey gardening up a storm and loving it. Adding you to my favorite journals list!