Saturday, April 24, 2010

Garden Gaze

What a joy it is, this time of year, to wander through the yard. Change is ever-present. All is flux. There's no stasis. Turn your head; there's a new bud. Turn your head; it's gone, its site marked by a Rubenesque blossom. Turn your head; the bloom's been displaced by a knob of someday fruit! No standing still this time of year.

It's important, now, to take garden observation seriously. Garden gazing is an art, one that can and should be honed finely. The forays must be done several times a day, on a set circuit, at an established pace, and, quite essentially, in a certain posture.

I remember my Slovenian grandfather making such treks around his small, but incredible yard. He had important duties to perform each day and was quite humorless about them. The lettuce beds, the nectarine grafts, the horse radish arena, the iris spears: they all required his rapt attention. Giggling granddaughters could come along, but only if they understood the solemnity of the trek and acted appropriately.

I would do my best to trail along, trying not to get sidetracked by the tempting shady porch or secretive club house or mysterious chicken farm out back. I would do my best to follow my austere grandfather and feign interest in his horticultural observations. I would do my best to emulate him.

And now, by gosh, I find I am a walking, talking, pausing, staring, bending, scowling, grinning, mimic of that garden trekker. I have become, in these vegetative expeditions, my grandfather. How do I know? Easy. It's the posture. It's the pace.

I walk slowly, with small, even steps. I bend down to chart a seedling's push through to the light. And, like my grandpa, I swing my arms behind me, allowing one hand to hold its mate. I walk along, hands clasped behind me in a slight stoop. The pose is so comfortable, so ideal for garden gazing. Putting hands in pockets would be way too nonchalant, totally inappropriate for this task. Putting hands akimbo would be absolutely brash and uncalled for. Letting arms swing loosely would be inconsistent with the measured tasks ahead, too casual, too unstructured. Carrying tools or other items would not be right, as the hands must be free to take care of any garden emergency. (If one were checking the lettuce bed, it would be acceptable to carry the large metal watering can in one hand, but the other hand must not make a fuss.) The best mode for garden perusal is, then, hands clasped behind, walking slowly with a slight stoop.

I find this posture absolutely perfect for tours through my yard. I like walking around looking like a little old woman keeping tabs on her small farm, because that's exactly what I am. I have seen the octogenarian down the street stooping through the expanse of her yard in the same way and I know that she has made connection with the great garden gazers of the world. We all understand that we must walk slowly, with our arms clasped behind us, rounding our backs, so we can fully explore the non-stop surprises of these exuberant spring days!


  1. Lovely post, Susan. You made me remember my grandfather who grafted multiple kinds of apples onto his one tree, just to see if he could do it and if they'd produce fruit. (they did) And how he made the rounds of the garden every morning, hunched and intent.

  2. This is a wondrful post. Both my grandfathers died before I was born so I can only imagine them doing the same things. But, I do remember my grandmother tending her peonies and lilacs and her small vegetable garden in much the same way. She made her first garden rounds very early in morning and then again later in day after a full day of work at the post office.