I‘m that kind of gardener. The one who opens the windows to inhale the smell of the soil in the morning mist. A day isn’t complete unless I’ve walked the woodland paths, seen the changes however small, what has begun, what has passed its peak of perfection. Which plants are inviting their cohort of pollinators, the array of the birds and the bees? This is the half-acre of land I’ve designed, planted and tended for over 30 years. The soil is rich in abundance, helped by the leaves I shred each year.
The garden constantly evolves with each season and each year as do I. Fall is when I gather the leaves and branches to shred and place back into the garden to keep the beds warm and covered from the winter winds. There is a rhythm to the garden as there is a rhythm to life.
For years I’ve had this chipper, its large, heavy and gunmetal gray. When the machine roars into life in its loud and vicious voice you know it means business. I use this to make my own mulch. Gather my garden debris to enrich the soil and feed it into the maw of this machine. Chip my own branches for the pathways I walk and contemplate.
Once you put the cord to start the engine it drowns out the sounds of life around you. There is an urgency to feed the beast. I have my piles of leaves at hand to be shredded to shorten the duration of this violent machine and return again to the quiet contemplative space I crave. This is the stage to move fast to silence the din.
And then the blades jammed. The engine pushed and growled. The whole machine quivered trying to dislodge the offending object. The squeal of the engine roaring deafened me demanding a quick solution. I felt my heartbeat quicken. A frustration and impatience entered my being. A demand for a quick remedy.
So I removed the chute which served as the feeder to the blades. There I could see the chunk of wood jamming the metal and in my mindless haste I reached in with my hand to unblock the shredder.
The searing pain was beyond description. More than I’d ever experienced in my entire life. Beyond childbirth, beyond car accidents. Beyond anything my mind could process. And I was alone. No one to call out for. No one could hear me. I just let my arm hang limply by my side. And I refused to look down. Not prepared yet to see what I was left with from what I knew was a defining event of my life.
I leaned forward against the railing of my deck, my mind emptied of rational thought. No plan of action arrived. My logical brain inactive, devoid of anything other than the pain. It gripped me. Wrapped me wholly. I was enveloped with pain. Just the thumping, throbbing, pounding of pain.
Then I looked up. The trees were swaying gently with the wind in their long and pensive manner. The leaves, dressed in their fall colors. were wiggling and waving at me beckoning my attention. Beyond was a brilliant blue sky, the most beautiful blue I’d seen in my entire life and I’d seen many. The breeze caressed me. It was a moment of indelible beauty. My world came to a halt. My garden surrounded me with healing calmness. Caressed me with its fragrance, its life. I was bodyless.
Now I understand more of why I garden. It’s not for me to show my friends my great expertise. To flaunt the rare specimens I collect. To boast in my selection of flowers for color balance and seasonal flair that I am able to coax into being. My garden is not an ego trip.
This garden is threaded through with paths, to walk through, to discover, to immerse yourself. The journey around my garden is for enlightenment. The senses heightened by the wisp of nuance seen from the side of one’s eye. It’s in a subtle awareness of the healing that we gather from the earth. The wonder of how interwoven we are with the natural world surrounding us. The fact that we are just another component of an incomprehensible network of living beings. It is humbling.
And if we listen, the garden also teaches us to ponder, to meditate, to slow our heartbeat down to absorb life. It teaches us to travel inside our soul to seek our essence. Gardens are about optimism too. The grand possibilities of our future. What profound truths will reveal themselves? What miracle will the world visit upon us graciously?
Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention, my fingers were not shredded that day.