I often use the analogies of gardens and gardening in my writing. It’s only fitting that I talk about gardeners. This was inspired by something that my friend Alex Komoroske said once – though now he tells me that he can’t remember saying that. Oh well.
When we talk about gardening, we picture a flourishing environment, where everything is neat and lovely and blossoming in the serene calm. We tend to imagine gardens the opposite of the hustle and bustle, dog-eat-dog kinds of environments.
However, to become these environments, gardens need gardeners. The key property of a garden is not the fertile soil, or a picturesque location, or even the choice of seedlings. The key property of a garden is the gardener — someone who is able and willing to exercise significant power to ensure that the garden is protected from the rest of the environment.
Gardeners skillfully wield all kinds of violent, cutting instruments to ensure that the garden is growing well. They get on their knees and ruthlessly pull out anything that is not supposed to be there. They engage in prolonged battles with pests, who keep finding new and clever ways to get into the garden. Gardeners fight for the garden.
The reason why gardens exist is because they have gardeners: individuals who are willing to put their sweat and tears into them.
When the gardener leaves, the garden dies. It doesn’t die quickly. For a little while, it may even look like the garden is going to be fine. Like all the work that the gardener has put into it has finally paid off and the garden can live on its own. But that is not to be. Eventually, the rabbits dig out the roots. The mites take over the leaves. And the garden withers. Over time, the surrounding environment swallows it, making it part of itself.
Sometimes, a garden gets lucky and gets another gardener. But the new gardeners see the inefficiencies of how the flowerbeds were drawn, and how the soil is too heavy on clay. How the water supply could be moved to a more central location. They have different ideas about the kinds of plants they want and where. With the same gusto as the previous gardener, they mold the garden to their liking. Gardens are shaped like their gardeners, and if they aren’t, they will be.
Here’s to gardeners. Those who are willing to expend their effort and their capital on building a patch of something that’s perhaps quirkier and weirder, but undeniably more intentional than the rest of the environment. I salute you.