I was walking Max and Berkley on a country road in Roanoke a few years ago when I came across an abandoned cemetery in which were growing, quite abundantly, clumps of iris. BH was dispatched to dig a few rhizomes out of the concrete-hard soil which he did with some MacGyver-like ingenuity – a shovel not exactly handy at the time. (Really, I don’t know why the man doesn’t just give in and carry one at all times.)
I brought the clump home and planted it with great care in just the right spot. It was late spring which meant I would have to wait another year to see just what I had. Patience is an attribute a gardener will do well to develop.
The clump doubled in size over that summer and autumn. The following spring, the anticipation was almost more than I could bear. What a gorgeous healthy stand of iris it was – what gardeners like to call a pride of iris.
Trouble was it didn’t bloom. Not one wretched flower stalk emerged from the wonderfully vigorous stand of iris. Oh, the agony. The disappointment.
I would have to wait another entire Y-E-A-R.
The truth is I’m as guilty of participating in the frenzied pace of modern life as the next one. I love being able to download a book two seconds after learning of it, but I’m having trouble making the time to read these instantly attainable tomes. I have a world of information at my fingertips and very little time for quiet reflection on the meaning of any of it. Heck, even my yeast is rapid-rise.
Which is why the garden is such a sanctuary to us. It encourages – no, it forces us to slow down to a more human pace, one in step with nature’s timeline. Refuge from life’s hubbub is critical to our peace of mind. How do we sort out life if we are hurdling through our days at such a maniacal pace there’s no time to catch our breath?
Beverley Nichols, my favorite garden writer, reflected on gardening’s therapeutic qualities long before our high-speed, rapid-rise age. One can’t help but wonder what he would think of us now:
One of the many reasons why gardens are increasingly precious to us in this day and age is that they help us to escape from the tyranny of speed. Our skies are streaked with jets, our roads have turned to race-tracks, and in the cities the crowds rush to and fro as though the devil were at their heels. But as soon as we open the garden gate, Time seems almost to stand still, slowing down to the gentle ticking of the Clock of the Universe.
I did wait another year for the Cemetery Iris to bloom. And I was rewarded with this.
These same iris are putting up buds right now. I hope they will still be blooming for somebody else long after my days here have past. That’s the other miracle of the garden. It might move at its own speed, but it generously allows us to leave traces of ourselves behind. Tick. Tock.
Thanks for reading,