Mind Gardening

When my wife and I moved into our little house in Bolton, I’d never really done any gardening. To me the winter months were a lovely respite from having to worry about the horsetail, dandelions and overgrown borders taking control out of my window.

Each Saturday morning I’d stare out of the kitchen window and feel nothing but anxiety about the pressure of having to go outside and clear the space. Yardwork was a horror for me, something which stayed in the back of my mind, driving me mad with its necessity. Amongst all of my other obligations with work, this was something that I felt I had to do, and it always felt like something I could just deal with tomorrow. Like so many unwashed dishes, my yard was just another can I could kick down the road for tomorrow to pick up.

Over the next few years it remained the same. I had this outside space which I’d occasionally kick into shape so that we could host a barbecue without it being a shameful experience. Again - I had too many things in my life to think about all at once to worry about gardening for god’s sake. Too many challenges at work, things to learn and problems to solve. Too many long days, too many hours on the train travelling across the country.

The weeds took hold. The borders grassed over. The dandelions turned to clocks and bedded themselves in. The buddleia sprang up and dominated the sky.

And then society stopped. My home became my office, and our world shrunk almost overnight. I had nowhere to go and nowhere to be. When I looked out the window over my morning coffee that first April of lockdown, I saw potential for the first time. I recognised that I’d overlooked something in my life that could be tended and made beautiful. I bought gardening gloves.

Now none of this is new information. Social and horticultural therapy is a well-known approach for treating PTSD and dementia. It actively lowers stress and improves physical and mental well-being. During the lockdowns of 2020/21, my little garden became a refuge for my thoughts. I could look at my yard after an hour or two’s graft and be filled with a sense of accomplishment. Of peace.

But the lockdowns have lifted once more. Society has moved on. Folks are getting back to offices and the world is returning to that same, pre-pandemic pace.

But my garden is no longer thick with weeds. I’ve pulled up all the horsetail, and I won’t let the dandelions turn to clocks again.

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