Don’t Push the River…it Flows by Itself

These instructive words were inscribed on the front door of a tiny apartment I once rented.  Puget Sound was a mere 10 yards or so beyond.  At that point in our lives it was a fairly simple dictum to follow.  Day after day we spent long hours staring at the water, accompanied day and night by the sound of the tides.

It seems long while ago from the perspective of 20-some years, a family, a house, a garden and a couple small businesses later.  However, when life threatens to pull me under with deadlines, paperwork, scheduling nightmares and general chaos, I can sometimes be heard muttering that phrase penned in indelible marker by some pre-New Age hippie.  And I would do well to take it with me into the garden each year about this time.

To garden, is by its very nature to interfere with Nature.  Clearly we manipulate planting compositions and push climate constraints – and we’ve all suffered the consequences when Mother Nature reasserts the upper hand. Every autumn we can see only all too clearly what became of grand plans laid during the heady optimism of spring planting.

In the meantime wind and weather edit; pests cull.  Even our bodies impose their limitations.  All combine to underscore only too clearly, that for all our scheming, hope and gentle fostering, we gardeners, at best, are really just along for the ride.

But what a ride it is.

Summer in full riot is a picture of blowsy perennial beds, tomatoes heavy in fruit and cut flowers for every day of the week.  Garden tasks revolve primarily around watering – and yes, I complain at the incessant need for it.  But once I have wrestled the hose in place and I am out and among the plants, I find myself relaxing and noticing subtle daily changes which I would surely miss if I were not constantly at the end of a hose.  It is a demanding leisure unique to summer.

Spring and fall find me in a frenzy of planting, digging, composing, and generally thinking too hard.  In winter I hunker down with the latest seed catalog or garden magazine to plot the coming year – a less active yet still governing role.

I say this every year, but really, REALLY this year I will try to not push so hard, but instead follow my garden’s flow.  I will take each day of the calendar and respect and relish all it has to offer.  I will be the mediator rather than the master.