What’s in a Word

Nature’s symphony, point and counter point in endless variation. At this moment, I am sitting in my writing chair with the sun shining, under a severe winter storm warning, thinking about gardens. The course of nature never did run sooth, yesterday the rain, today the sun, tonight the ice, tomorrow the snow and in a few days, spring. Could there be a better time to talk gardening.

Da sun is gone, da snow is riz; I wonder where da springtime is. This morning I skied the fields inside a snow globe, beautiful, soft, intimate. As you may have guessed, it is 24 hours later. I threw away everything I wrote yesterday except the opening. That’s the capricious nature of words, good words, real words, not the meaningless jibes that seem to permeate the airwaves. Not that ripping off that most famous of all English poets, Arthur Unknown, is terribly profound but it does provide the much needed segue into words.

For someone who spent all of his adult life teaching drama and English, I do seem reluctant to give much credit to words, forever bemoaning their inadequacy. Yet the answer to the question, “What’s in a word?” is “Everything.” Words can be fun when you catch them playing and bouncing off one another; they can be shy or bold and brassy; but at their mightiest, they can reach into our hearts to remind us of our shared nobility, generous and eternal.

Nature speaks through trees and gardens, rising sun and falling snow. In the early morning the swirling snow laughs at my efforts to be profound. After all, what can I say about life that can match the wisdom of the snow. It came to us this winter when we needed it most. Wells and streams were dry, gardens were baked into dust, even the Great Lakes were shockingly low when the snow arrived. Under snows protective blanket the earth has drunk until it could hold no more. The rest has been rushing downstream to the lakes. Which of us isn’t humbled by such might?

That’s what I love so much about gardens. I don’t have to know anything. I just put seeds into the ground and magic happens, not just to the seeds, but to me. The language of earth is warm and soft and is filled with hope. Seeds become flowers and food; blossoms become fruit; the old becomes young again in a world ever changing, eternally the same.

The more we try to bend the earth to our purposes, the more we miss the point. Nature is never too busy to care for us and renew our hope, never too hurt to forgive us for failing to appreciate what we have, never too distant to create the spectacle of the sunrise or the intimacy of the snow for our pleasure. Cities, roads, governments pale before the earth for earth is the first born, created before time, holding the wisdom of all nature in trust for its children. Nothing that we can ever create can rival the perfection of a single drop of rain or flake of snow.

So, at the end of it all, words, real words exist to celebrate all life and to renew the soul. The earth knows secrets that we can never know because in a universe that is both eternal and infinite, the sum of all our knowing brings us no closer to the truth than we were when as children who found only delight in the world around us. Gardens bring us into partnership with all creation. Through honouring nature we nurture life, through life hope, through hope peace. I guess it is spring after all. See you next time.

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