For gardeners, Zen and the art of watering, watering, watering

July 21, 2002|By Susan Reimer

Every living thing in my yard is crispy. There has not been a long, slow, soaking rain in weeks, and when I inspect my shriveling gardens, the grass crunches beneath my feet like corn flakes.

I am doing the only thing a gardener can do in a drought. I am watering. Endlessly watering.

Of course, I resent it. All gardeners do. We like the creative part of gardening, like planning and planting. We don't even mind the maintaining part of gardening, like trimming and pruning and dead-heading. This is honest work, suitable for gardeners.

Standing around with a hose in your hand is not for gardeners. It is passive and mindless. An idiot can water. It doesn't take a gardener. Besides, I have a long list of things to be done in the garden, and all this watering is keeping me from doing any of them.

I am irritable and agitated and impatient as I stand there with a hose in my hand. Like a lawn ornament. Beset by mosquitoes. Endlessly watering.

Except that I don't feel that way any more. I have made my peace with watering. Eighteen months of semi-drought will do that for you.

I call my new state of mind "the Zen of watering."

You know you have reached this place when the mental list of gardening tasks stops scrolling through your mind, and you stand there for the umpteenth hour with the watering wand in your hand, and you are in the moment. You have stopped resisting.

If you are watering at night, you begin to feel the heat of the day as it settles on you like dust. If you are watering in the morning, you can feel the day heat up like a teakettle. Water long enough and you can feel the day ripen through its phases.

Water long enough, and you stop seeing your garden as a catalog of your failures and mistakes and of things to be done. Slowly, you begin to look at your garden without judgment. Soon, you see it as other people might, as the dog walkers might.

Hey, this is a pretty nice garden. I'd take my dog on this route for a chance to see it. Even if you don't come to admire your own garden, the Zen of watering allows you be satisfied with it.

Water long enough, and you begin can hear the world around you. Not just the birds and the cicadas, but the paperboy as he scuffs by on the sidewalk. You hear the newspaper whack the porch steps.

You can hear your neighbor's car pull in the driveway, you hear the swoosh of the sliding glass door as she steps out on her deck with a glass of wine.

You can also hear your children bang in through the front door, arguing as they go, and you can hear your phone ring from inside the house. But you don't much care because you are in this zone.

Even the irritating sounds are blanketed by the white noise created by the rain shower you hold in your hand. That sound becomes a kind of emotional muffler. That's what the Zen of watering feels like.

It is not that watering washes away your troubles. That is trite, and it is not true. And it is not true that watering restores you the way it restores thirsty plants. That's just as silly.

But when you give into the fact that you have dozens of plants and every one of them needs watering or they will shrivel up and blow away exactly like burning money, you find peace.

You can relax because you have stopped resisting. You can settle in and let go because, in this drought, you are going to be watering for a while.

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