Cultivated: On stepping out of the rhythm of the year

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and writing instructor at the University of Victoria

It goes like this every fall: rooting cuttings; sowing sweet peas; pre-sprouting corms; harvesting flowers; planting bulbs; raking leaves; covering plants; moving perennials; protecting shrubs. If you didn’t notice all those active verbs, I guarantee your back did.

So what if we let it all slide?

I’m a nature-worshipping urbanite: coffee runneth through my veins (and half of it I don’t make myself). But every day I’m deep in the green: futzing, pottering, and what’s more—thinking about my garden. I feel tied to the rhythm of the seasons, a Wordsworthian thrum in my heart. For many years I longed to be the person I’ve become. But on bad days now the beat runs to a samba and I stumble, overwhelmed. Do this. Do that. Now. And gardening, my love, feels like a chore.

For solace, I have long returned Margaret Atwood’s poem, ‘Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer’. It is about the wilderness and the Canadian mind but it speaks to growers in the thick of it too.

He stood, a point

on a sheet of green paper

proclaiming himself the centre,

with no walls, no borders

anywhere; the sky no height

above him, totally un-

enclosed

and shouted:

Let me out!

This past weekend I got out. I ignored the perennial weeds—the English ivy sprouts who miraculously appear miles from a vine and the creeping Pacific buttercup that sneaks from lawn to bed. I left dahlia tubers undug, chrysanthemums untied and leaves unraked. I got about as far from my garden as I could get for four nights: I went to New York.

And there, I saw flowers. At the Met I marvelled at urns filled with branches of cherry red dogwood, silver eucalyptus and plum hydrangeas ten feet high. I saw a vase filled with old Noisette roses painted by Van Gogh. I inhaled the sharp scent of my Toronto childhood—concrete and grime—and mooched around the floral wholesalers on 28th then travelled blocks underground. I went to a wedding where the bride held more flowers and the men wore boutonnieres of twigs and blooms. I thought about gardening but obtusely, not sharply as I do at home, and all my little horticultural worries fell oddly into place. To have a plot of earth of one’s own is a rarity; to be able to grow what I see on my travels is a gift. Seeking inspiration from abroad is not a step away from the work but a step towards new aesthetic understandings.

Once you see the world in shades of green you can’t do anything but. That is the life of a gardener; so be it.

So go.

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Saanich woman says sexual assault was dismissed by police because of her ‘body language’

Patrol officers investigate sexual assault files, make decisions on what goes to Crown counsel

‘Tarantula moth’ spotted in broad daylight in Victoria

Polyphemus moths are one of the largest insects in B.C.

Sooke RCMP seek video after tires slashed on five vehicles

10 tires damaged in overnight incident in Sooke

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

Langford approves permit for 124-unit mass timber building

Tallwood 1 to be completed by late 2021

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

Playing his tune

Musician Daniel Morel breaks out a tune with his harmonica in front… Continue reading

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Black worker files discrimination complaint against Facebook

Oscar Veneszee, Jr. has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017

Nestle Canada selling bottled water business to local family-owned company

The Pure Life bottled water business is being sold to Ice River Springs

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

Most Read