This weekend, I lost myself in two favorite pastimes: woodworking and gardening. Both activities are a balm, lifting me out of whatever mental morass I’m stuck in and setting me in a flow, bordering on fixation. Time flies equally when I’m playing with a 20 V Max Lithium Ion cordless impact driver or a shovel.
But that’s about all the two activities have in common. Woodworking is rigid and finite, a task with discreet and definite results. Cut a piece of wood, and it’s not gonna grow back. Not gonna heal. Tape measures are essential in woodworking. As are plans. Perpendicularity is the Queen of carpentry. Such regulated order soothes me.
On the other hand, I love gardening for all the opposite reasons. Gardening — particularly with perennials — is an enterprise fueled by forward thinking. To the height, width and depth of carpentry, gardening adds a fourth axis: time. How will these irises spread across a sunny patch year to year? Will the wood poppy bloom alongside the crocosmia, or will their respective yellow and red flowers pass like ships in the night?
While carpentry requires precision, gardening requires optimism. Relocating plants, even with the gentle care of a transplant surgeon, traumatizes them, so you have to hope they will acclimate, that next spring they will trace the gentle curve along a garden path. Landscape gardening is like painting with a brush dipped in faith.
I’ve been tending the same tiny perennial border for 18 springs now, toiling in the soil with an obsessive optimism that this will be the year the hardy orchid thrives, this will be the year the coneflowers mound into lush magnets for birds and bees.
And yet at the end of a day, the garden often looks worse than when I started. When the earth is scarred by my shovel and bald in spots where I robbed Peter’s hostas to pay Paul’s shade across the yard, all that’s left is to water and wait, to see if a year’s growth and healing will smooth the ragged edges.
That’s when it’s time to retreat to the workshop, to seek immediate satisfaction in the clean cuts of a circular saw, the solid fastening of an impact driver.
And on some perfect weekends, like this one, there is time for both. This weekend, I finished construction on a Little Free Library long in the making, then, when the rain let up, I weeded and seeded, rounding out the edges of the perennial border with patient brushstrokes of cheerful expectation.
My labors of love brought joy this weekend. I can’t wait to see what they bring next spring.