Many natural occurrences are ephemeral, and our busy lives make it hard
to keep a promise to “enjoy that later.”

What strikes me as the most common thread among all the diverse gardeners I have met or read is that so many don’t unwind much in their own gardens. Of course, we all have that (perhaps infinite) list of things we want to do to improve our gardens. What a shame, though, if that list gets in the way of enjoying the garden as it is here and now, of really sensing what is going on there, not just doing stuff.

My TO DO lists — in the garden and out — have been known to run on for several pages. They nag me at times, making it harder to enjoy the present moment. Yet if I don’t write down what I want to do, I worry that I will forget, or worse, my own brain reminds me incessantly to keep me from forgetting.


For those who quietly observe…


treasures emerge.

Recently I was brooding over a lengthy TO DO list and had a brainstorm. It’s not the number of items on the list, or even the individual items, that cause the burden. It’s the unspoken “should” in that title. There is a duty, even an urgency to it, a sense that if I haven’t already done all of this, I have failed to meet my obligations.

So to get rid of that nagging feeling, I’ve relabeled the list. Instead of writing TO DO at the top, I now write WANT TO DO. The items on the list are, after all, choices. I have come up with most of them myself, based on my priorities and desires. They are not life-and-death matters like “run from giant dinosaur”; they are mundane and optional chores like “plant lilies beside the shed” and “prune the trumpetvine” and “edge the paths.”

Even the chores on my non-garden list, like “pay bills” and “laundry” (which I have to do), feel different when they are written under the title WANT TO DO. Why yes, I want to pay my bills. I want to clean my clothes. Accomplishing these small tasks will bring me satisfaction.

Considering my list now feels much different than the old TO DO list, which prompted sullen thoughts like “how can I ever finish all this?” and “why did I agree to that?” and “I need a nap.”

So I share this trick with you, my gardening friends, in hopes that you will feel freer to take more breaks and appreciate all that you have already done. Happy summer!


Has your garden bench become a shelf?