I came across a Buddhist quote this morning: “Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
Normally I would agree that this is a good philosophy (one, moreover, that worked well for me while I was dealing with grief), especially since all we have is the present moment, an eternal now. Though come to think of it, I’m not sure that’s true. By the time you’ve said or thought “now,” that particular now — that moment — is already in the past. I suppose the secret is to forget “now.” To just be. Though I wouldn’t know either the truth of that or how to do it now that I’m identifying as a gardener. Or landscaper. Or whatever.
For example, this morning when I was out digging up Bermuda grass and other weedy vegetation, I also tried to figure out what else I need to do now to prepare for the garden I hope to have next spring. Prepare the ground, of course, to extend a grassy area into the garden area so I can more easily get to the back of the garden to take care of those distant plants. Decide what to plant in areas denuded by the removal of dead annuals, or perhaps decide not to plant and simply wait until next spring and see if any of those annuals reseed themselves. Also decide where to move plants that need to be divided, such as the New England aster, which are growing rapidly this year. (I started out with one stalk three years ago. It grew to seven stalks last year, so I divided them and thought I was set for another couple of years, but now each of those seven stalks has spawned at least an additional seven stalks.) Since the asters won’t divide and replant themselves, I have to decide where to put them.
Admittedly, this transplanting won’t need to happen for another month or so, but meantime, I need to get an idea of where to put them and to prepare the ground if they are to be planted in what are now uncultivated areas.
All of this takes planning because all of this takes a lot of work, and I have to pace myself to make sure I can do the work despite an aging body and diminishing reserves.
So, is planning part of the present moment? Obviously, one can only think in the present moment because you can’t think today’s thoughts yesterday or yesterday’s thoughts tomorrow, but all that planning is for the future.
And a garden is, almost by definition, a dream of the future.
Dwelling on the past is also something that is necessary when it comes to a garden. You have to pay attention to what thrived and what didn’t, what you did that you might not want to do again, what you didn’t do that you should have done. (I’m still trying to figure out what I could have done differently to keep swaths of my newly sodded lawn from dying, because until I can figure that out, any reseeded grass would surely end up with the same fate.)
There are, of course, those times in the garden that one does what one does — planting, weeding, watering — without thinking of . . . well, without thinking of anything. Much of gardening is mindless work where nothing exists beyond the work itself. So that part might live up to the Buddhist ideal, but the rest of it? Not so much.
It’s a good thing, then, that I’m not Buddhist.
***Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.