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Being a gardener means being surrounded by love.

Gardens just fail without love. When misused or neglected, a garden becomes a yard, a field, or a weed plot. Now, a good field or weed plot may be a wonderful thing for wildlife, and I fully support gardeners with sufficient land allowing a meadow to grow up and become wild. When I talk about gardens, I’m talking about the places we humans inhabit, the land around our back doors. Not the forest an acre away, but the space we live in on a daily basis. The environment we clothe our domestic lives in.

The word “garden” has its historical origins in nouns referring to enclosures and homesteads. A garden is not a natural, untouched piece of land. It is not wild. It is a created space, an installation like a gallery exhibit. It has a message, with consciousness and intention behind the visual surface. By contrast it is also prosaic, requiring almost daily maintenance to be productive and healthy. This created enclosure generates a feedback loop with its creator, or so it seems to me. The more love I put into the garden, the more love I get back.

Love in this context is certainly not romantic love or nurturing love. It’s more like the opposite of hate, the opposite of destruction. It’s quiet love, without craving or grasping. If you think about how plants make love, it is silent, subtle, and indirect; they make beautiful flowers and wait for the right wind currents or insects to happen by. They spread pollen indiscriminately. They choose no partners and haplessly share any genetic material they can produce. I’m telling you, it’s an orgy out there, a languid, continual orgy without sweating or grunting (unless perhaps you are the gardener, doing some especially hard work).

Love in the garden is impersonal, nonviolent, and expansive. There’s plenty to go around. Plants communicate mostly through chemical signals, and very little of their language is apprehended directly if you’re not a bee or butterfly. But that’s okay. While we may be illiterate in the garden, we can trust our senses and intuition. Our bodies respond to chemical signals our minds don’t know how to label.

There’s less crime in neighborhoods with more gardens. Medical patients heal faster when gardens are integrated with their treatment. Food grown and harvested locally provides more nutrition than produce shipped across the country. Sunlight eradicates the vitamin D deficiency most people are diagnosed with these days.

Being in the garden means being surrounded by love.