DENVER, Colorado—Gracious living is hard work. A meal has to be an experience, a room an environment and a garden the sum total of the world’s horticultural knowledge.
That’s the way I feel sometimes. I blame magazines (including The Herb Companion) and books (including mine). They open our eyes to the beauty and possibilities around us, but it is difficult sometimes to achieve the standard they set.
I want my life to be full and productive, surrounded by fragrant flowers, beautiful objects, good books and the time to enjoy them. Ay, there’s the rub. I want somebody else to do my dirty work: transplant the basil this month, prune back the straggly scented geraniums, deadhead the bulbs and get after the rampaging sweet woodruff. I want someone to do the spring housecleaning, sort out the mess in the garage, clean and oil the tools, and keep up with the laundry. It would also help if someone constructed a small greenhouse.
For my part, I will dally in the garden, contemplating the wonders of nature when I occasionally look up from the book of poetry on my lap while sipping a soothing chamomile tea. Then, I’ll arrange a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers for the dinner table as I whip up a quick gourmet meal, and after supper I’ll create May baskets of candied violets, fresh scones and beribboned jars of homemade chutney for 200 of my closest friends. In short, I want to be Martha Stewart.
OK, maybe not. I think I’d miss the aching muscles that come from weeks of spring transplanting. I’d miss the satisfaction of watching the potted herbs turn back into prize patio specimens. I’d miss cutting slugs in half with my trowel (well, I might be willing to give up this pleasure). And I’d miss the victorious moment when the sweet woodruff is finally eradicated from the primroses.
I’ll stop long enough to wolf down a peanut butter sandwich and frozen orange juice, throw in another load of clothes and listen to the phone messages informing me that my column/ article/drawing/text is late. I’ll try to plan it out in my head while I finish planting the last of the hanging baskets.
When darkness comes, I’ll throw the tools in my disaster of a garage and close the door. I’ll pass by the stacks of books on the porch that I’ve been meaning to read; I’ll try to clean my nails, then apply some balm to my callused hands. I’ll sink into the sofa and wonder how much longer I can go without vacuuming (August?). I’ll think it’s been a pretty good day; the garden’s looking good and I’ll get that typing done tonight, and I forgot to water in those seedlings so I’d better grab the flashlight. Ah, gracious living—I’ll get to it tomorrow.
Rob Proctor is a delightful blend of artist, photographer, writer and gardener who lives and plies his trades in Denver, Colorado.