It is the dawn of a new year, and traditions stretching back hundreds of years dictate that I must now discuss resolutions for the year ahead.
It almost seems redundant somehow, because as a gardener, resolution is a constant state in which I find myself. As I pot up common geraniums in the spring, I am resolving to order the seeds of trailing cultivars next winter. As I watch Phlox paniculata bend and wilt with the heat of the summer, I am resolving to install a drip irrigation line next fall. As I plant bulbs in the fall, I am resolving to order them earlier next spring – or to order more. And as I look after winter refugees right now, I am resolving to install an insulated cold frame to receive their shriveled bodies – or at the very least, to ignore their cries for help next November.
A gardener is an optimist, even at his most pessimistic. Consequently, we feel no embarrassment in firmly believing, year after year (and with past evidence to the contrary), that next year will be a better year. An enviable state of mind you must agree. Even as I leave the tattered remnants of my previous resolutions lying scattered around the soles of my muddy boots, I make more and better resolutions, resolutions that will solve the problem of past failed resolutions. And on and on, ad infinitum.
But it is not because I am foolish. When I make a resolution for my garden (such as rejuvenating the perennial border or growing enough tomatoes to can) I know that there are seasonal variables beyond my control that may work for me, or may work against me. It’s all up in the air, not completely up to me, and therefore it is easy to be optimistic.
Conversely, if I instead (and more traditionally) resolve to stop drinking dark black coffee every morning in favor of green tea, it is highly probable that my physical addiction to caffeine and the habit I have solidly and joyously built over the past twenty years will guarantee horrible crushing failure by mid-January. Call me a coward, but I’m happier just sipping my coffee and watching the tomatoes die of blight through no fault of my own.
Although I am being intentionally flippant, a life of resolutions in the garden is not an unhappy or unfulfilled one. There are plenty of resolutions that make it to completion; enough in fact to fill one with anticipation and to enjoy each new undertaking, even if it doesn’t always make it quite through to the finish line. The garden is filled with completed resolutions – a new perennial terrace, an heirloom vegetable variety, a bed filled with free compost. And some successes were never resolutions to begin with, they just evolved in the wonderful organic way that projects do.
All this said, and flippancy quite firmly put to bed for a moment, I do have one or two resolutions for this year’s garden, but they have more to do with me than with the garden itself.
I resolve to make littler goals for my garden this year, and not to instantly replace them with other, grander goals when they are completed – which always leads to dissatisfaction with the present moment.
I resolve to accept the weather for what it is – not what it could be or should be, but for what it is at that particular moment.
I resolve to look for, and be satisfied by, beauty on the micro level – not just the macro.
And lastly, and probably most importantly, I resolve to sit on my deck more and enjoy this garden for all its faults, foibles and fantastic moments; instantly smothering thoughts of “I’ve got to…” and “I need to…” as soon as they appear to spoil my reverie.
I’m aiming high, I know – perhaps it would be easier just to give up coffee again. But in the garden there is always the promise of hope even in the face of the worst set-backs. I’m putting my faith there.
Happy New Year everyone.