Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Monday, August 31, 2009

breathing difficulties

This was new venture for me as I’ve never read a gardening book as a narrative. Nor will I be tempted to do so in the future (forgive me for responding so ungraciously to your gift, Emily) even if it was a book about fruit and veg rather than flowers. What I disliked was:
1) it isn’t a narrative but really just a series of magazine articles placed end to end. Maybe they all are and I am expecting the wrong format? Had I come across any of this in a colour supplement I’d have skim read it and this is what I found myself doing here – deadly, it gives the author no chance and means the experience is always a waste of time for the reader.
2) the assumptions she bases her musings on I don’t usually share but paradoxically perhaps, they all seem to be truisms. Early on she says something like gardening is better than psychotherapy, and idea I have also long held, but surely everyone knows that?
3) coming across confirmation of your views can be supportive and validating, but I just found this irritating. Is this because I’m just in the wrong mood for this or because I don’t think of gardening as a philosophical pursuit that really needs validation?
4) I don’t like her style: “What fermentation or elixir of invisible salubrity lurks in the earth…” (p 6) anyone?

Feeling that perhaps I’d be better off in the last chapter, I turned to that. Although there were more musings I agreed with I found it difficult to tune in to those lost souls in the library, looking for advice on how to cope alone. Would you read this book in those circumstances? Would it help? I’ve given up on this because obviously I’m not the person it is aimed at. Now, having just read Emily’s blog, I think she says it all in writing nothing but a list of random ideas – that is all this book is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A breath from elsewhere

Since our garden has been one of our main projects this year, I've been thinking a lot about them, and am really glad to have bounced ideas to and from this book. I've not ended up with any actual things to plant or do as a result, but it's certainly stimulated me groping towards what I want (her ideas are far too labour-intensive!) and thinking off piste. The bits I especially liked from the book - in no order, and rather random - were:

New gardeners should be "as wayward as they want and to follow their instincts". Sissinghurst: "a strict, formal design with free, informal planting". In another garden: "every single feature you expect to find in a cottage garden has been destroyed. Why do people choose a country setting and then turn it into suburbia?..are they the same people who compulsively wash the door handle before turning the knob?" "Some people instantly give themselves away by solemnly asking me, 'but how do you keep the mirrors clean?' Keep them clean? Good God, I've never thought about it."

Rain, and forecasters: "I don't expect them to be thinking of gardeners, but they might at least be aware of farmers..." "some alpines even generate enough warmth to melt the last traces of snow." Rose of sharon: "These plants always seem to be resorted to as blotting paper to suck up space when the gardener has run out of ideas."

"limitless money thrown at a garden does not guarantee charisma: quite the opposite, it's more likely to turn the place into a well-honed and highly polished possession with a demeanour that is never allowed to become wanton... any element of wonder is done away with". Whereas in satisfying gardens, "the personality of each owner shone through".

"frivolity is a great healer; it's imperatives that are the killers." "yet gardens have a way of coercing you into undertaking things you never intended doing, and when you have, you wonder why you waited so long."

A monk living on a mountain: "on the far side of the courtyard there was a slit in the wall, narrow and diagonal... as a person walked across the court.. for an instant, he could see the ocean... the more open a view is, the more it shouts, 'and the intensity of the beauty will no longer be accessible to the people who live there'".

"Life is one long series of adjustments, and death, with its almost incomprehensible finality, is the major one."