“Il faut cultiver votre propre jardin” roughly translated “You must tend to your own garden” is a maxim I learned from Voltaire during my French degree – and one which has prodded me from the other side of my mental fence throughout my life.
I take it to mean Mind your own business, Look after your own, Find and maintain your own places of rest, retreat and beauty, or Take personal responsibility for your own growth.
But as spring creeps uncharacteristically upon us, rather than doing its usual bursting into life thing, my mind is taking a more literal meaning.
Because it really is time to clear and weed and tend and nurture the garden outside my door.
The therapeutic effects of gardening are well known. The joy that comes from a bright border or a sumptuous setting of healthy plants is hard to beat.
So why have I resisted creating this in my own garden for so long?
If my real garden were a metaphor for my life it would convey a pretty chaotic and neglected picture: weeds, unkempt off-shoots, plants popping up where they weren’t intended, including a tree that literally walked, snook under the fence, from next door.
Sometimes I imagine the neighbours sniffing at the evidence of my non-existent garden routine. I can hear them muttering about how my garden besmirches the fineness of the surrounding suburban gardens, shimmering in smugness.
It’s tempting to beat myself up.
Yet in my kinder moments I persuade myself that manicured control can be less bountiful than untended wildness. I imagine that my garden has become a gentle harbour in the storm of gardening competitiveness; where happy primroses erupt in the lawn, where hedgehogs and bumble bees hibernate under discarded pots and where trees trek for shelter. Despite its messy outward appearance, there is great opportunity here for unexpected life, joy, and sustenance.
I suppose part of tending to your own garden includes a sense that you have to tend it in your own way and your own time. And allowing this means the whole undertaking can become more joyful. Now rather than closing the door on the jungle outside I’m finding ways to join the crazy party!
How’s your garden a metaphor for your experience?