The Zen of Gardening (and Life)

Flower gardening is one of my favorite engagements.  For me, it is relaxing, and ultimately fulfilling to see the work come to fruition in blooms, color, and symmetry around our home.  I like to just look at the progress and the results (just ask my wife how many times I stop at the end of the driveway in our car when coming home to look at my plants).  Flower gardening is not a passion, in that deep sense of the word, but it provides for me a connection with the outdoors, fresh air, and watching things come to maturity.

A recent Facebook post got me thinking about the zen of flower gardening because of the humorous responses I received from a number of people.  I posted that I spent time one morning using graph paper to lay out designs and flower beds for the coming season.  I also placed on the graph what I have accomplished in the previous two years of garden work.  My intent in the mapping was to provide what was just right for our house.  You might know what I mean, not the overwhelming gardens where the plants overtake the house and all its windows, and not the kind where there are Spartan attempts to make a house look presentable.  It is the kind of gardening that is simple, yet accentuating.  Purposefully placed, with no haphazard dots of greenery to fill in space. 

For me it is a study, a reflection, a purposeful reading of magazines on perenniels and annuals; the height a flower will get at maturity, what will grow best in our climate, which plants are hearty and will last year after year.  There is thus a zen in my use of graph paper as I drink my cup of coffee pondering placement, design, and interconnectedness of plants.

We think of Zen as something mystical.  But that is because we don’t understand the word’s history or basic meaning.  While it has come into vogue as an Eastern word, its origin is Sanskrit; an Indo-European word meaning “to see or look at.”  It is in the looking and seeing in my mind’s eye that I am able to map out what is there before me; to be intentional about what needs to take place in the early weeks of spring, so that the later days of summer and fall display beauty, fragrance, and art.

My zen of flower gardening maybe is translated from my own life and focus on mission development, planning, and goal setting for the ultimate purpose seeing my life come to fruition; to matter both now and maybe be translated into the lives of others.  Maybe some beauty of my life will add fragrance to another’s.  That is my hope, that is my own zen of life, too; to see and look at what needs to be considered and done so that I might live well now, not in some future moment.

The graph paper layout of my gardening is just like my day planner; a way of seeing life, looking at it, and figuring out how to design and plant early, so that in the summer and fall of life I might deliver on what I have planned.  I want both my plants and my life to develop, mature, and ultimately be beautiful–not too much, not too Spartan, but just right.

Blessings for this day, dear reader. Grace and peace to you.

David Neidert