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.

Just Posted

Shoebox Project reaches out to women in crisis

Boxes are distributed to transition homes

Pearkes book sale will have 15,000 titles

Some seek volume of books while others hunt early editions in annual Saanich sale

Colwood mayor pitches ferry as commuter alternative

Mayor Rob Martin says different modes of transportation need to be considered

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unmanageable’

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

US official: US intel says prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters that ‘the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.’

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Road rescue near Sayward points to volunteer need

Fire department recruits can be tough for small, remote communities

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

Port Alberni convenience store robbed

Police still searching for suspect

Most Read