My thirteen year old son might say it’s because I’m such an old man. Other’s might say it’s a way of having a creative output. Some just don’t get it.
I have a few friends, just a handful, who I know are as passionate about their garden and gardening. My parents loved tending the garden. I have an aunt who I speak to regularly and we often end up on on the subject of what’s growing (or not) in each others garden.
We all do it partly for the same reason, but all also have reasons of our own.
The creative outlet is definitely a part of it. There is something about being able to look at the garden in the way you would any other creative project. Having a vision and bringing it life is incredibly exciting, assuming the end product matches what you had in your mind.
Just watching something you have planted young, or grown from seed or a cutting, grow and bloom is thrilling and remarkably satisfying.
Initially, I think that’s exactly what it was. It was about having something a nice end product, something to be proud of. It’s good to have a sense of achievement in life, no matter how small it might be.
However, as time has gone on and the more gardening I’ve done, the more it’s become about something else. Something a lot more personal.
It’s my form of meditation. I can remove myself from the world completely when I’m out in the garden. Not only from the world, but more importantly, from my own thoughts.
When you’re brain lets you down you have no choice but to fight the negative thoughts and it gets tiring. When you’re alone with those thoughts for too long there is only so much fighting you can do, and when you’ve reached a point of being so drained it gets harder and harder to silence them.
Photography has always been something I’ve used to distract myself, but there is only so much you can do and it takes a long time sometimes to the setting up.
With gardening I just have to step out of the back door and I’m away. For the 30 minutes, 1hr, 4hrs, full day, however long I’m out there, I am focussing on nothing but what I’m doing at the moment and thinking about what it is I’m trying to achieve.
There is no time for any thoughts to come in to my head telling me how ugly I am, or how disgusting my body is. I am free of the thoughts for a sustained period of time and am lost in the world of nature at it’s most beautiful.
Gardening has become a therapy. A way of relaxing and way of escaping.
There are very few things I’ve experienced in my life that have had the same effect. Now I’m not saying it’s a miracle cure for mental illness, or even that it would have the same effect on anyone else in the way it has me. I am however incredibly grateful to have found something I love, something I am passionate about that really helps me.
When I think about the last year since we moved in to our new home, the hardest time mentally for me was the winter. I had assumed that was down to lack of sunshine, leaving the house in the dark and getting home in the dark can be quite miserable and the weekends are someting you begin to cherish as it’s the only time you get to see your home and garden in the light. And whilst I’m sure that does have something to do with my change of mood over the winter, I also believe that not being able to be out in the garden and having that distraction is also a big part of it.
I really struggled mentally through the winter months, and when I look back, I was better mentally when I was gardening throughout the summer and in to the Autumn, and then again since Spring when I could be outside and working in the garden. My brain has been a lot quieter generally because I’m thinking constantly about what to do next and planning the weekend activities.
I’m not saying the thoughts have completely gone – during the week when I wake up or when I’m commuting, or just sitting on the sofa, or in a meeting – they always find a way to get to me. They are though, definitely reduced in volume and quantity at the moment.
I’ll just have to figure something out for this winter to try and keep them at bay – I like it when they’re more muted. Life can be enjoyed a bit more.