The New, New Luxury

A worldly friend gravely informs me luxury is dead. Now that Gucci purses and Hermes scarves are being snatched up by a larger public, he explains, they’ve lost their cachet. Luxury has gotten too democratic. It’s like the line about the restaurant: “Nobody goes there any more: it’s too crowded.”

The new luxury, he tells me is about being pampered, being taken care of. A higher level of service and convenience. Life at the push of a button. Love For Sale.

This, to me, sounds even more repellent than the old luxury. As Sam Goldwyn would say, “Include me out.”

The darkest moment in my life came recently after a relative gave me a 4-day weekend at a renowned spa. Friends told me I’d love it, “Be good to yourself,” they told me.

So I went. I had massages: shiatsu, hot rocks, cranial-sacral; I practiced yoga, meditated, my chakras were balanced, went through the motions of Tai-chi, did breathing exercises; I took exercise classes, strapped myself into Pilates machines; I had a facial, a pedicure, a manicure. I sweated in a sauna; I steeped in a swirling Jacuzzi. I dined on vegetarian cuisine presented like works of art; I sipped green tea. I thought I was dying.

“This Evening at 8:00 P.M.—Bloodletting In The Berkshire Room.”

Whenever I took a break from the sybaritic regime to lounge on the terrace, a velvet-voiced attendant would promptly appear to ask if there were anything I required. With envy I observed the landscaping crew raking and weeding in the blazing afternoon sun. My manicured hands were itching for a trowel.

After 48 hours of pampering, I could take no more. I was reminded of the “Twilight Zone” episode in which a man who has died arrives in the afterlife. He finds himself in a paradise where he can have whatever he wants. There are no obstacles to his pleasures. Finally, he tells a person in authority, he has had enough. He pleads to go to the “other place”. “This is the other place,” he is informed.

In desperation, I called an old friend who happened to live nearby. He was surprised to hear from me; it had been some years. And, he noted, it was 3 AM. “Rescue me,” I implored. He gently asked if I could survive the night. Heroically, if reluctantly, I agreed to wait until morning. Dawn really dawdled that day. What was the sun doing?

True to his word, my friend met me in the spa’s airy lobby at 9 on the dot. My bag was packed and at my side. He took in the scene. The clients lounging like pashas in their terrycloth robes. The whispering, hypervigilant staff. The steaming raku cups of green tea. The modish furniture’s soothing tones of celadon. The orchids serene in their vases.

He pointed to a tasteful taupe silk hanging with Chinese calligraphy. “You know what that says?” No, I did not. “It says, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here’ ”.

Paul Gauguin, the painter, noted in his journal, “Work is leisure.” I agree with Paul. And for me, the converse is also true, “Leisure is work.”

Everyone who gardens or cooks knows the feeling. At work in the garden or kitchen, my spirit is set free. What is discordant becomes harmonious. The out of kilter is balanced. Time? What is time?

Engaged in the task at hand, I feel not as if I am working, but being played like an instrument by a divine virtuoso. My senses are engaged by color, scent and flavor. I am in the blissful junction of recreation and re-creation. This is what it means to reap the fruits of one’s labors. Devotion is the New New Luxury.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 1st, 2009 at 9:15 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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83 Responses to “The New, New Luxury”

  1. Martha said:

    Perfect post as just before I read it I was comparing my daily work habits to a friend who just returned from a month long vacation.

    I wondered if I should be less dedicated to gardening, writing, teaching, baking, etc. You know, maybe take a month off.


  2. ana pashma kouri said:

    the Divine within me Honors the Divine within you: our Gardens, our Hearts are one. with gratitude….
    May All Beings Be Free
    May All Beings Be Happy
    May All Beings Be Peaceful
    May All Beings Be Safe
    May All Beings Awaken to
    the Light of Their True Being


  3. Ben said:

    There is only one thing that I enjoy more than work/leisure and that is listening to another person’s story on what they have learned through work/leisure.

  4. Cami Peloza said:

    I can identify! Thank you for sharing. What a fun read.

  5. Dolores said:

    I love your passion and joy in gardening and writing about it! A life well lived, indeed!

  6. Claudette said:

    When I first read this, I thought a gardener could not have written this. Only an artist could have written this. Not a dirty, sweaty, too tanned, possibly too wrinkled because of the Sun, maybe bent over, rough hands, etc., working with beauiful flowers, greenery, paths, and then I realized an artist did write this. Thank you.

  7. Norma said:

    And oh, tis true, tis true!! Thanks for so elegantly expressing my joy!!

  8. Doris Martin said:

    Years ago my daughter and her husband and the children invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them at a famous hotel. It was very beautiful and well managed. Lovely music emanated from well placed speakers. Beautiful flower arrangements were placed around the public areas. Entertainment was provided…..I hated it. The guests seemed more interested in the impressions they made with their clothes and jewelery than in anything else. In the dining room I witnessed guests, some of whom I’m sure were there because their fathers or husbands had gotten rich by rape or pillage of the environment, being rude and overbearing to the wait staff. I’ve never been back. It’s more fun to get together with friends or family and cook together and laugh and be thankful for all we have.

  9. Frances Passik said:

    I save all of Mr. Ball’s blogs because they are so well written, always with a touch of humor. My daughter, an Art Director for an advertizing firm, also finds off days at home with her husband and two young sons exhausting, and flees to work to regain her senses! I eagerly await my current plant purchase!

  10. Herlene said:

    Now I get it! There is no place I’d rather be than working furiously for long hours in my garden and be disappointed when the day ends. If I worked this hard for a living to receive some monetary reward, I would quit! Aching bones, I don’t care…dirty knees….I don’t care…hunger?…naw, I can wait. There are only so many hours in a day and I haven’t found out yet how to streach them. This is my new luxury. Love your writings! Herlene

  11. ewart-touzot said:

    I’m WITH YOU THIS SOUNDS LIKE HELL ..and the people there enjoying all this….

  12. Dan Langone said:

    After reading this I decided to stop digging the dirt out from under my fingernails with my jack knife and just enjoy the fact it was there.

  13. luise h. said:

    I was smiling reading your account of a few days at the Spa.I would feel the same way.Tending plants,working the soil,I believe that is truly what we were meant to do.No wonder we are completely at ease and calm when we are working in >our< patch of the world.

  14. Faith said:

    I love this! We gardeners are so blessed to be able to “see” and “feel” what is really life!

    I am a budding photgrapher and I take nearly all of my photos in my garden(s). I am constantly amazed at what I did not see that the camera does and this reminds me that we do not yet “see” all that we could. It is an amazing quest – to “see.”

  15. Cathy said:

    What a refreshing article. I could not agree more that more satisfying in a spa is the time we spend in our Garden. just a few Mother’s Days ago, while my daughter and I spent the whole day working in her garden, she said: “Mom, this is the greatest therapy”. It also is one of the happiest memories of one of the Mother’s Day I have spent with her. Totally exhausted, we had a shower, and off to a very small quiet French Cafe for dinner. It was the perfect ending to a perfect Day.. Thank you for your thoughts.

  16. Cynthia Smith said:

    Thanks, that was superb. I just got inside from mixing and hauling soil into huge planters, breaking up small clods of the clay part with my fingers, readying it all for seedlings. More fun than a mud facial.

  17. Erica said:


  18. Mary said:


  19. Mary Jane said:

    What a great article! I often hear of these people “enjoying” a spa or the like and think that they don’t have a real life. Life is getting your hands dirty and enjoying every minute of it. Thanks.

  20. Jehanne said:

    It was perfect timing: I received your thoughtful recount after coming in from mowing my 3 acres of pasture. I had, of course, nodded hello to all the oaks, chestnuts and various pines that ring the open swaths; noted the glorious progress of the roses rambling round….yes, the work is joyful prayer: We’re so fortunate that have this luxury! Thanks for the sharing…

  21. Shirley said:

    Luxury is the Spa after a good day in the garden to prepare you for the next day in the garden…..

  22. ditty said:

    I’m in my cabin doing what I do best. Working at something. I
    happened to look at my e-mails for a break, found yours and
    I happened to chuckle to myself. Why? I was tending to two
    of our grandchildren and working with them in the yard. The
    little 3 1/2 year old went over to grandpa and asked. ” How
    come grandma always is working? “Grandpa replied,”I don’t
    know. You need to ask grandma. The question was asked to
    me and I replied “Liam, grandma loves to work”It makes me happy.

  23. Ceci said:

    I have not read these emails much but this one caught my eye. Actually I thought it would be telling me about the newly unveiled “must have” plant. But after the first paragraph I kept going and I will tell you, it rang true. Nothing centers me, grounds me, or brings me more peace and reward than my garden (or that of working in others as I do it for a “living”). Really, you hit it on the head with that piece and I believe I will print it to save so if anyone ever hounds me about working to hard or investing to much in my garden they can read that and see what happiness and peace it brings me. Then maybe they will shhut up and find some joy in their own hobby. Landscaping/ gardening is incredibly meditative. I find myself walking through every morning ( and then through again) and evening to take in the beauty, take note of problem areas, see what flows and what does not, dream about my next big project, but also and most importantly to see what is new today. To see those blooms that may only last one day, reminding me to stay present and appreciate what is going on right now. The poppies for instance that I have so many varieties of. Or my Peonies that can be destroyed instantly in our northwest rain. I love to bend down and smell them knowing what a gift it is and how magnificent they are. Our gardens are a wonderful give and take. And I know I would never be happy being deprived the joy I recieve from working in my own. Time off around here usually includes some form of landscape project and that’s the way we like it!

  24. bfish said:

    George, you’ve outdone yourself with this post. It manages to be simultaneously informative, humorous, and thought-provoking — no small feat.

    Like you, my thought is being subjected to an interminable series of spa treatments is akin to torture. Some of us like to relax by doing things, rather than having others do things to entertain/pamper/wait on us. After a satisfying day in the garden, I do enjoy having a few brews, chatting with my husband as we contemplate the fruits of our labors while planning exciting new projects for the next day. We usually can’t stay seated for long as the prospect of the exciting improvements beckons us to explore the garden.

    And you’re so right about cooking as well — that’s my cold weather feel-good fix. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Kitty Crouch said:

    Wonderful writing and sentiments which resonate–thank you for this delightful post.

  26. Jenny W said:

    Hysterical. Couldn’t agree more. Gardening and cooking. Sublime.

  27. Becky said:

    Well said; glad you got out in time! 🙂

  28. Sandy said:

    While I found my work with college students exciting, even exhilerating when some “great problem” was solved and I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking, I found time with my husband and children wonderful, comforting, and most cherishable. Perhaps sadly, only in my retirement am I learning to enjoy gardening.

  29. sherry said:

    I loved this article!!! 🙂

  30. Judy H, said:

    Wonderful. I loved that you, too, would not delight in a SPA.

    I find far more happiness working in my garden. I look forward to last year’s perrennials appearing like a return visit from an old friend.

    I have eyes to see it all, hands to work the soil,
    and the health to get all the gardening done.

    And at the end of the day to sit on our deck with my husband, a glass of wine, a beautiful sunset, and looking over the gardens…Life just does not get better than this. And sharing it with friends.

    I feel truly blessed to be able to enjoy this quiet life.

  31. Nancy said:

    I’m with you, one day of that would probably be enough then I would be ready to get out too. There is something very satisfying about putting your garden to rights and mucking in the dirt for a while that can’t be captured by artificial means.

  32. marg said:

    Yikes, now I know why my lower back aches, shoulders hurt and my head is killing me! My out-of-gardening shape, 65 year old body wasn’t ready for the luxury of digging the furrows for planting all those seed potatoes yesterday! Gardening in Wyoming is a hurry up and get ready before summer is over. The garden is nearly ready to plant, the peas are soaking and crab apples are trying to bloom. At least it is raining today so I can recover with a pot of green tea and Heronswood Voice and the website!

    Love your blog!

  33. Seamus O'Kelly said:

    Sounds like a truly repellent environment.I’v never been to such a place,or for that matter gone on a cruise,assuming I’d loathe such indolence.
    I don’t necessarily agree that when one works in the garden that I am being directed and played by a divine virtuoso.!!Rather I am engagaged in one of man’s most ancient and fundamental activities,tending a piece of ground,whether it be for floral pleasure or food production.The work soothes my mind and connects me to the soil of my forbears,from which many are alienated in city living.There is a magic to it,especially when that shrub blooms its head off or that tomato is perfect.Working in the garden is often hard backbreaking, dirty,insect ridden work,but is a labor of love and release for those who have found the way.

  34. Stanley Huston said:

    What a great tale of whoa, it sounds like a 7 day cruise I went on. Nothing to do but lay around and be waited on hand and foot. I would have given anything to be home in the garden cleaning out the Koi pond or weeding and watering the “Jungle”. It gives me a true sense of being!

  35. Jean Whitt said:

    God put us in a garden in the beginning. It was his gift of pleasure for mankind. I have always said that “God put us in a garden and we are still returning to our roots.”

  36. jo said:

    scary…good thing you had the courage and the fortitude to run away…those places are for the silly yuppie folks…

    maybe a orphanage would look better there…

  37. Dianne Foster said:

    I retired from the workforce in 2005. I am busier than ever with my garden, 8 parrots, 4 dogs and attending graduate history classes at a local university.

    Everyone told me I would miss working, but I have not. One of my friends who retired when I did said, when asked, that he was going to do nothing. For a while, I thought I would do nothing just like him. I do not need, nor do I want to work at a 8-5 job ever again, but I work harder now there than I ever did in my airconditioned office cublicle and I love it.

  38. GERI said:

    THIS IS PRICELESS! Lovely language & right-on with the
    trowel/weeding urge.

    I would’v bolted after 1 day.

  39. M. Florini said:

    I enjoy reading these emails by George! I was like Ceci — waiting to hear about a wonderful plant — and smiled as I read on. After working all week and any spare time in the gardens at home, my husband and I rushed up to a lake house where we worked every bit of the weekend on the gardens and landscaping there. On the way home I asked him if he had a fun weekend and he said, “Of course! It’s about being next to you in the garden!”
    I thought, “Great answer!”

  40. Lindy Matthews said:

    Yes and yes. Bring on gardening! Thank you…

  41. Susan Lunn said:

    Right on, George. The chosen will know us by the dirt under our fingernails!

  42. Joyce Bentley said:

    Thank you for writing my feelings so perfectly. I have forwarded this to all my friends to ‘explain’ myself. This was a hoot to read.

  43. Jamie Shafer said:

    Right on!
    Time passes, mosquitoes bite, it’s too dark to see, but here I am – I hate to quit!

  44. Mary said:

    Really enjoyed the posting today. It is so very true.

  45. Bonnye said:

    Too true. How much pampering can a person take!?!?! Tell me you won’t sleep the most remarkable, restful sleep after digging, pulling, transplanting, weeding, watering, feeding, mulching, and composting! There is no better – or more fulfilling – rest! I enjoy your comments. B

  46. Frayne Dyke-Walker said:

    “Never a truer word spoken in jest . . .”

  47. Rosemarie Smith said:

    I thoroughly agree! Time stops in the garden. Just for awhile the world goes away and it’s just you. Doesn’t matter if it rains, it’s hot, cold or windy…it’s like heaven to just stop thinking and be.

  48. Cindy said:

    I just came in from weedeating one of the properties. Only three more to go. Its time to prepare dinner, and I have some lambchops in the ‘fridge, and made mint jelly from scratch two nights ago. I’m making chops with mint pesto tonight at my house. The mint just out the back door needs to be harvested now.

    I went to a farewell party for the horticulture department of the local JC last Saturday. Best professor I ever had. But, as I sat and watched the crowd, it was evident to me, that someone who does landscape maintenance, who graduated with that degree, didn’t count for much. And that was how it felt, it was past and didn’t count for much now. What counted for much was the fact that I stuck with the hard work and put my boy through college and took care of myself. I took care of myself by working whenever I got the chance,and still do. I love what I do. I love watching the differences in the gardens each time I visit throughout the year. I love walking into a mess and leaving at the end of the timeframe seeing how nice it looks again. I get to see the flowers bloom, and die, and be pruned. I get to see the bugs come through the days. Even the soils change throughout the year.

    You said, “My senses are engaged by color, scent, and flavor.” When I’d had enough of people, I went outdoors. Life makes sense there. When I’m tired, I come home to make my dinner, mostly from the garden around my house. That is what I am satisfied with.

    Your article made me laugh. I have done the same thing. None of it counts for anything now, and at the time it was touted as “The Lifestyle”. Nope. Thanks.

  49. L.N.Jaudes said:

    Yours was an excellent article and I have printed it to pass along to others who are not yet into computers. It was common sense at its finest and I agree wholehardily!

  50. Joy said:


  51. Dianedigsplants said:

    Ahh, the mental pictures you paint, George. This one’s a keeper!

  52. ELLEN said:

    As Sam Goldwyn said “Include me out” saved by my garden.

  53. Marybeth Ciandella said:

    This is the first blog I feel compelled to comment on! I am still laughing at your story! You are not alone…I am a passionate gardener and am in my own paradise when all that is on a days agenda is the garden. Of course I want to look younger and healthy too. I allow myself 3-4 facials a year and at the end they put crap on your face and leave you to REST for 15 long minutes…The girl knows by now NOT to do this. All I can think of when lying there for a WASTED 15 min. is “god, I have so much to do at home”. Never had a massage, by the way. Maybe someday-when on a vacation. Lord knows my gardening back needs it!!!! Thanks for the entertainment. Marybeth

  54. Mano said:

    Right on George, You’ll never find me in one of those spas. Even after Cancer and the major surgery to get rid of it, the best therapy for me is working in the garden. I’ve had to make adjustments of course, but I think I’ll be gardening when I leave this phase of life. (Death is the opposite of birth, not life.) I know there will be a garden for us then. See you there! Mano

  55. TC said:

    What do you feel when one of your spring flowering shrubs is skeletonized in only three days? Leaving you nothing but a naked remnant?

  56. Thresa said:


  57. Maryl Buck said:

    After reading your article, I just happened to think of this that would be a perfect caption on a gardeners tee shirt or sweatshirt:


  58. Pierre Kaufke said:

    That’s what garden work does to you. pk

  59. Betsy said:

    Today, while ‘working’ in my garden, feeling stress-less, I kept thinking,…how could anyone call this…work.
    Thanks for the article…”The New, New Luxury”…it was great!

  60. Anrean said:

    As I sit here after a day of getting 2 truckloads of compost and starting to spread it, I whole heartedly agree. There is nothing more satisfying than working the dirt and compost into a beautiful bed of color or veggies. NOTHING. Okay, maybe that isn’t true – it is also very satisfying to wander into the garden and pluck the occasional weed, stand back and see what God has provided.

    In the winter, when getting into the garden is impossible, there is nothing more satisfying than exploring and dreaming and planning for the new season.

    Spas and such aren’t luxury, they are a way to pretend that you’ve “made it” without actually making anything useful.

  61. Nancy said:

    Escapism? Simply not necessary when one lives what one loves, loves what one lives.

  62. Donna said:

    Thanks for the reality check~

  63. Sharon Williamson said:

    My family and I live on 12 acres of land. Every year I manage to come up with a new garden.Some of my friends ask why I make so much work for myself. I feel it is a privilege and ablessing to be able to WORK? so much. We also raise and sell rose bushes. To see how much joy they give to other people is another bonus.

  64. Susan said:

    Thanks for being the lone voice of reason in a sea of ‘I WANT!’
    Working with plants has always set my mind at ease.

  65. Jonella said:

    Nice piece – well said – good thoughts. I pretty much agree, though I actually hate doing the hard part of that work but I love the results! So, I’m driven to do it.
    (Why not ask commentaters to include their town and state? – I’d be interested to see where people are from.)
    Boondox of Sullivan County, upstate New York – 80 miles from NYC.

  66. Kim said:

    I have a neighbor that once asked why I work so much in my yard. I asked what he meant, and he repeated himself. I said this isn’t “work” for me. This is how I choose to spend my free time, and I enjoy it. I told him I thought he “worked” a lot since he was ALWAYS working on cars even late into the night in his garage with the light on–to me, that’s work. So I guess, his work is my joy and vice versa.

  67. Brenda Wiley said:

    A kindred spirit indeed, well done.

  68. Rebecca said:

    I live in a place with long days but a short growing season — we had frost two days ago and may get it again. Anything not hardy at USDA Zone 3 is questionable. I wait all winter, working under basement grow lights from December on as blizzards howl outside, for the meadowlarks to return and spring to begin. Then I rush through my work to get outside and move compost, transplant annuals and perennials, dig and plant and weed. And I receive the gifts of bird song (the wrens are sure it is THEIR yard), blossoms (our Thunderchild flowering crabapple is spectacular right now), and peace. AFter pushing pixels around on a computer all day, it is so rewarding to do work that shows a change when I am finished. And to those of us who wade through snow to pick up our seed catalogs and even our plant orders, the green season is indeed a time of rebirth and renewal. My gift trip to the spa left me feeling as though I had wasted time and money — something working in my yard and garden has never done. Thanks, George.

  69. Judi Fiest said:

    Ah, loved it – one of your best gaggle of thoughts!

  70. Katherine said:

    Oh your words are so true for those who get no better relaxation, then our gardens. come rain or shine, we are pleased in more ways than one. Remember, this is not a dress rehersal- get out in the garden and treasure life!

  71. Jan Andrews said:

    I always enjoy reading your blog. But today – after spending the last 4 days working non-stop in my garden, I just laughed out loud when I read about your ‘pampering experience’. I could use one RIGHT NOW!!! But I wouldn’t trade anything for working in my garden with my granddaughter at my side (even though I her!). At 17 she thought she knew everything and is finding out Nana is not so dumb after all – especially in the garden. Well, I guess my pampering will only be a hot shower after standing in a rainstorm and a huge cup of tea with my furbabies to keep me warm. Still can’t believe you left the spa early!!

  72. page hartley said:

    How well that fits many of us. I live in a retirement home, Foulkeways, near you, and many others wonder why I “work” so hard in my 5 gardens. They do appreciate the results however. Being idle and indoors is just no fun.

  73. Nan said:

    I do what is called “gorilla” sp? gardening. Keeping the woods out, the weeds out,the deer out and all that. But, it’s still gardening which gives me neverending material for my watercolors. I am first a painter and second a gardener and cooking comes in third.Strange how they all work together and balance my life. I could not do any of them without the others. Thank you for the afermation of my sometimes strange behavior. I, too, was born to work (You should see my nails!) Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.It made my day.

  74. Sharon said:


  75. Suzanne Lackman said:

    AMEN! Well said. I have always found that the natural life when pursued with industry is the most fascinating and fulfilling as well as healthy. I am also glad to meet another who forgets the clock when fully absorbed in the creative processes of gardening and cooking.

  76. Rebecca Sink-Burris said:

    Too funny, you and my husband are a pair, he doesn’t even enjoy a massage, but then neither do I unless it is done to the level of physical therapy and for the express purpose of allowing me to go out and dig in the dirt some more!

  77. Rose from Chester County, PA said:

    Bravo! My sentiments exactly.

  78. Lois Titherington said:

    While I agree with most of your comments,a hug and some pampering are appreciated and necessary once in a while. Sharing your garden and inviting others to give their knowledge and sharing yours. My opinion only of course. Isn’t a pity that some like Tasha Tudor took their secrets to the grave while others like Thallasa and Mr.Crockett of the t.v. series shared theirs. Lois Titherington

  79. Brownie said:

    One hilarious essay & oh so true!

  80. Janet Mills said:

    Re: “Everyone who gardens or cooks knows the feeling. At work in the garden or kitchen, my spirit is set free. What is discordant becomes harmonious. The out of kilter is balanced. Time? What is time?

    Engaged in the task at hand, I feel not as if I am working, but being played like an instrument by a divine virtuoso. My senses are engaged by color, scent and flavor. I am in the blissful junction of recreation and re-creation. This is what it means to reap the fruits of one’s labors. Devotion is the New New Luxury.”

    I, like another commenter, also cook, paint, and play piano. Gardening and all of these activities entail a lot of WORK. When I sit on my piano bench and muddle through a Mozart concerto (or Gershwin, for that matter), that is work, too. But all these kinds of work feed my soul. When I am engaged in any one of them, I am “in the moment”, which is truly the only moment that matters. I have no conception of time as it passes, except in reference to where the sun happens to be.

    My pet peeve is the perennial question: “When will dinner be ready?” Finally, after cooking dinner for 35 years, I found the self-awareness and self-respect to reply, “It will be ready when it’s ready.”

    My art, my skill at the piano, and my garden will never be finished. They are not meant to be. They are about the journey, not the destination.

    But it is especially when working in the garden, weeding, digging in the soil, caring for plants, planting new ones – whatever the task at hand – ALL my sense are engaged. In 1892, William James referred to this soul-soothing activity as involuntary attention. We breathe the scents of the turned soil, the grass clippings, the new blossoms, we hear the birds nearby; the squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks, furtively scampering up and down trees, across the garden beds or lawn; we feel the textures of the grasses, leaves, petals; we feel the warmth of the sun, the breezes, the rain beginning to fall.

    I can go out of my house in the morning on a fine day and stay occupied until it’s too dark to see (and I’ve been known to continue trimming a hedge with a flashlight), and not be really aware that the day has passed. Only that I have felt interconnected with every natural thing in my tiny corner of the world. Even better, I feel interpermeated with my surroundings. As if I am one, small part of something greater than myself.

    I have even noticed that I do not care if my clothes, shoes, hands – whatever , have smears of sweaty soil all over them. I do not have an image of myself at times like this, nor does it matter to me. If I see myself at all, it is through the reflection of my garden.

    I am not a master gardener; I am a rank amateur who has learned by trial and error for the past 20 years. Watching my garden develop and mature over the course of those years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

    Most importantly, my time in the garden is when I hear my “still, small voice”. Not the voice of my ego, and not the voice of the God of my Fathers. I believe it is the still, small voice of the divine spark that lies within each one of us and within every part — animal, vegetable, and mineral — of our world. When joined together, these still, small voices form a quietly divine chorus of gratitude and praise.

    And I am at peace. And free to take a nice, long bath.

  81. Merita Patton said:

    You made me smile deeply with this essay. I thank you for sharing it.

  82. Kay Wisniewski said:

    That was hilarious.

    But why just cooking and gardening? Why not other creative stuff, like writing? Less sensual physically but not imaginatively.

    Imaginatively it is alot like gardening. Creation and recreation; placement, rythem, design. And like in gardening, where the garden cultivates you as you presume you are cultivating it, writing can also change, refine, and redefine its originator.

    Devotion as real luxury. Makes sense.

  83. Kim said:

    Here, Here,
    I couldn’t agree more. Leave me in my garden for the day, all day and I am more restored, renewed, and refreshed than a week at a spa.

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