This was a big summer for me. A huge summer. I had a blow out garden dinner party with a bunch of illustrious horticultural guests scheduled for the end of August. Panic inducing enough already, right? But I also had numerous big, ugly, yard projects to finish. Yet, all through May, June, July, and August, I had many commitments at work and with family, and several other things that required a considerable amount of time away.

Consequently, what gardening I could squeeze in was never, ever when I wanted to work in the garden. Nope. It was only when I could work in the garden. And in what turned out to be the most brutally hot summer on record, it all had to be done fast.

Turned out, I got most of what I needed to do done, and that damned prolonged heat and periodic droughts gave me a plausible excuse as to why the garden, and I, looked so frayed. And fraught. And failed. Nevertheless, the strain took its toll and after the party my garden and I decided to separate for a little while and give each other some space to see if time apart might give us some perspective. The rule was that I was allowed to go out and look, but couldn’t touch. I’m happy to report that the time away actually worked and today I was back in the garden trying to find places to plant a number of plants that had accrued during the year. I have to say, it was a very, very different experience from the gardening I did throughout the summer and I thought it might be valuable to share with you how much gardening when you want to differs from gardening when you must.

Gardening when you want to: It’s relaxing!

Gardening when you have to: It’s like the protest turned into a riot.   

When you want to:  You hum a tuneful melody.

When you have to: Your cursing makes sailors cry out for their mothers.

When you want to: Tossing a chunk of rubbish into the garbage can is a 30’ swish. And the crowd goes wild!

When you have to: The chunk of garbage hits the rim causing the can to fall over and spill whatever filth and industrial waste all over your driveway.

When you want to: A butterfly lands on your arm and delightfully partakes of some of the salt from your sweat.

When you have to: A yellow jacket flies out of its hole and chases you around the yard before eventually stinging you on the lip.  

When you want to: The holes practically dig themselves.

When you have to: You get arrested for trying to buy plastic explosives online.

When you want to: The plants fit into their holes perfectly.

When you have to: They don’t and when you’ve finally decided you’re going to need a bigger shovel, you accidentally step in the hole and sprain your ankle.

When you want to: You discover a favorite plant that you thought was lost is still living in your garden.

When you have to: You discover that new exotic, invasive insect you saw on a USDA alert.   

When you want to: Your truck, mower, chainsaw, blower, and string trimmer all start.

When you have to: All but one won’t, and the one that does sounds like it’s going to blow up.

When you want to: There is nothing else you’d rather be doing.

When you have to: All your Facebook friends are posting photos of cookouts, parades, parties, festivals, fairs, circuses, ballroom dances, once in a lifetime concerts, and/or fancy cocktails on the beaches of tropical resorts.  

When you want to:  Your political party is leading in the polls.

When you have to: Your political party is embroiled in a scandal.

When you want to: The garden center has everything you need in stock.

When you have to: Everything you need is in a shipping container misplaced somewhere in the port of Los Angeles or aground in the Suez Canal.

When you want to: You stay hydrated.

When you have to: You dehydrate like an MD-11 dumping water on a forest fire.

When you want to: You serendipitously find a long lost tool.

When you have to: You can’t find any tools.  

When you want to: You dig up a beautiful and valuable antique marble.

When you have to: You chink the underground gas line and six of your neighbors are still missing from the ensuing blast.

When you want to: You savor three freshly ripe raspberries.

When you have to: You accidentally swallow a bug and spend all night violently throwing up.

When you want to: There’s nothing worth watching on television.

When you have to: The weatherman is raving like a lunatic about an approaching tornado.

When you want to: People passing by smile and wave hello.

When you have to: People scurry past, shielding their children.

When you want to: A cold beer is delightfully refreshing and provides a gentle boost.

When you have to: Your fifth vodka tonic leads to you throwing your digging knife at a rabbit but it misses and slices through your neighbor’s above ground pool, causing it to burst and spill a million gallons of water and all three of their fat kids into the woods.

When you want to: The birds sing.

When you have to: They poop on the sandwich your spouse just brought you.  

When you want to:  You spot the patch of poison ivy just before accidentally touching it.

When you have to:  You fall out of a tree into the patch of poison ivy.

When you want to: Your floppy hat gives you soothing relief from the sun.

When you have to: Your floppy hat blocked you from seeing the low branch which you then walked into. Staggered from the blow, you proceed to wander into traffic and the cops arrest you yet again for public intoxication.

When you want to: You witness an annoying fly get caught in a spider’s web.

When you have to: You get caught in the spider’s web.

When you want to: Your spouse comes out and lovingly scratches your back.

When you have to: A squirrel falls down the back of your shirt.

I trust that you all saw the difference. Perhaps you have some examples of your own? The important lesson here, I think, is that so much comes down to your frame of mind. If you can avoid putting yourself in situations where you have to do anything, then, my friend, you truly have it going on. And I also probably hate you. Anyway, happy Labor Day people! Another season is almost gone. Do something great with what remains!