“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
– Margaret Atwood
There are so many great quotes about springtime and gardening and many of them come from some of my favorite authors, such as the one mentioned above. I absolutely love this time of year – every day a new visual explosion of color and textures, not to mention the overload to the olfactory sense. On the days when I’m not digging and weeding and planting and planning, I like to read what other gardeners are saying about their (often near spiritual) experiences in working and planning out their outdoor spaces.
I have a few favorites which I’ve been pulling out during the “too rainy to garden” days of late – The Writer in the Garden edited by Jane Garmey, Thoughtful Gardening by Robin Lane Fox, and the sweet little book that a friend gave me long ago which always brings a smile to my face, Sara Midda’s In and Out of the Garden. One other title I’ll mention is a recent purchase found while trolling through numerous book stores in a college town, titled Pleasures of the Garden; A Literary Anthology selected by Christina Hardyment, which is filled with little essays that immediately transport you from your own yard to some of the greatest and humblest gardens in history. I especially love the selections under the heading “Solace for Body and Soul” as it seems to vindicate for me the time and money I’ve spent hiding out in my own yard –I like to think of Mother Nature as my own personal therapist! The art history major and amateur botanical illustrator in me also loves to just page through this book for the illustrations as varied as the essays themselves.
In reading gardening anthologies such as these, I feel as if I am part of a secret society that goes beyond the historic reaches of other such groups. I’m a kindred spirit with the likes of royalty and sages dating back thousands of years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not deluding myself that my humble little suburban garden in any way reflects the great gardens of Babylon, Versailles, Giverny or Monticello, but those great works and the diligence of my own friends, family and neighbors have inspired me to play and work and smell like dirt at the end a great spring day.
Believe me, I understand that many either don’t share in this love or have the time and space to practice this ancient art of therapy for the body and soul. But if you’re at all thinking about maybe one day getting started, a great place to do that is through the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Not only do we have a spectacular collection of materials at the ready, but many of our branches coordinate a program called “Gardening Thyme,” made possible with support from The Mary Jane Berger Memorial Foundation. It allows the Library to provide some really great programming related to gardening and urban farming; increase our collections about gardening for children, teens and adults, and have gardens at many of the CLP locations. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a wide variety of free programs – everything from seed bombs to learning about bee keeping to finding out the benefits of composting. To find out more about these particular branches and their programs, go to the Gardening Thyme page on the CLP website. You won’t be disappointed and you may just find yourself enjoying the smell of dirt.