“Je sais aussi, dit Candide, qu’il faut cultiver notre jardin.”
– Voltaire, Candide
Cultivating My Own Garden
Last week, I wrote about the power of getting to those pesky tasks that can bog us down fast, when we think of them, to get them out of the way.
This week, because I am a contrarian (and continue to learn that the process of chasing and taming wild ideas is inherently contrarian in many ways!), I didn’t follow my own advice. I didn’t get the post done for this week’s email on Tuesday, my self-imposed ‘day of sending.’ An effort, of course, about discipline, about moving my thought forward as I working on this crazy idea book, and delivery of a promised offering to (fairly) willing recipients.
Instead, I joined forces with Candide and Dr. Pangloss, and cultivated my own garden.
We had a little bit of sun, after days and days of rain, and the garden called, irresistibly. I am reclaiming a battered rose garden at Spillian. It is overrun with wild parsnip and other unwanted plants, with old rugosas that have patiently weathered neglect for decades. (I resist calling plants weeds. Like ideas, their attractiveness is often more about whether we want them to show up at a given time rather than their inherent worth. Though, like some thoughts, wild parsnip is toxic, burning your skin with the addition of sunlight if you get its juice on your skin. Sometimes thoughts can behave the same way…)
Dreaming in the Mud
So I gardened instead of being responsible about emails and newsletters. I resisted the Gottado (you will meet this creature in person soon, I promise), and instead played in the dirt. And, eventually, in the rain, because apparently to be outside in the Catskills this spring is to be in the rain.
The garden reminded me of the power of replacing the Gottado with the want-to-do. Even though it is real work. As gardens tend to do!
As I tugged out deep taproots of volunteer raspberries and wild parsnip, I found blooming trout lilies, and shared them with the first native bee I’ve seen this year. A hermit thrush and a pileated woodpecker granted a soundtrack to the afternoon. The first offers the most liquid song of joy I know, the second an evocatively tropical sound in a decidedly un-tropical forest.
And I dreamt of roses as I got muddier. I’ve spent the last few weeks stealing moments of rosarian lust online, looking at hundreds of rose varietals to add to this garden. It’s an intricate dance of hedonism and pragmatism. What rose can’t I live without? That can withstand our un-tropical Catskills winters, moist feet, a North-facing slope, deer, and all of the other indignities plants suffer in these mountains? I gravitate towards those described as ‘vigorous to the point of taking over.’ Darwin drives my plant choices. I go for beautiful thugs.
And I thought about how much that connects with the wild ideas we’re working, and are working us. To survive, they need to be beautiful thugs. Strong, compelling, and beautiful. With enough tenacity to out last and out wit all of the indignities they’ll suffer as they scramble to life.
I found my dream rose beautiful thug. And because I have small quantities of self control, I ordered three of them. The Lark Ascending rose, from David Austin Roses. (That’s its portrait above.) It hit all of the survival-of-the-fittest checkboxes. It’s a glorious color. And it’s named after what is perhaps my favorite piece of music in the world.
I listen to Ralph Vaughn Williams‘ The Lark Ascending every year on my birthday. It makes me sob by the end. Every single time. It is spring, and my childhood, and my utterly fabulous mother, and a deep piece of the essence of my wildest ideas all rolled into one.
Find a quiet fifteen minutes of your day today, close your eyes, and listen.
Can you blame me for not getting a newsletter out on time when that was my alternative?
You’ll spend a lot of time grappling with all of the tough stuff as you go after your wild idea. It is hugely important to find those moments of grappling (whether its with bureaucracies, your own fear, time management, technology, or the thorny branches of rose bushes that desperately need a hair cut) that bring the essence of your wild idea to life in that moment. It’s how we can continue on. And how they find life.
How has the essence of your wild idea emerged for you this week? Would love to hear your thoughts!