Among the most enchanting gardens in this country is the Chalice Well garden in Glastonbury, overseen by head gardener Ark Redwood and, I’m certain, by many other beings. This summer I had arranged to spend a week’s holiday working there, that was until a rather bizarre accident whilst starting a lawn mower put that plan on hold. What I have had plenty of time to do is to read and enjoy Ark’s book ‘The Art of Mindful Gardening’ from which I’m borrowing the phrase ‘there is no separation between the garden and the gardener.’ If I had to pick one sentence that epitomised the book it would be that one.
And if I had to explain the direction that my involvement in horticulture has taken, I’d do it with this sentence too. The garden and the gardener are not separate. Man, woman and the soil are not separate. We have never become disconnected with the earth because that would be impossible; rather we have allowed ourselves, collectively, to get a little distracted from this connection. No separation has ever occurred and never will.
I wonder whether we really can save the planet. Not because we are unable to bring about a reversal of the seemingly dire ecological problems we face; but rather because what is called for is for us to change ourselves, to let ourselves become aware of the connection of man and earth that was never not there. ‘Saving the planet’ implies a separation and separation is fallacy.
Furthermore seeing it as our role to save the planet whilst seeing ourselves and nature as separate might cause the problems that the earth’s ecology faces to deepen. Simply because those who seek to save the planet and those who seek to exploit it seem to get more and more entrenched in their polarities; we are in a situation that calls for more not less understanding. I long for the day that glyphosate is unavailable, but I don’t wish its makers, Monsanto, financial harm. Rather I would like to see it thrive and become the world’s biggest maker of home composting equipment and biodynamic preparations.
Far-fetched? They are in business to make money, they will go with what their customers demand. If gardeners up and down the country truly understand the indivisibility of themselves and their gardens they would no sooner use Round-up on their precious soil than they would use bleach as a breath freshener.
Far-fetched? All it takes is a critical mass to be achieved and the whole situation can turn on a penny. The notion that gardeners hold the key to an ecological revolution when they are reminded of their inseparability with their gardens is not far-fetched, it just needs to reach a critical mass. Bayer and Monsanto will change their tack as soon as their sales figures tell them to. And organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society will cease to advise using toxic products when less gardeners heed this advice.
Another phrase that I’ve come to realize the truth of lately is that ‘we are wounded in just the right places’. Our earth, our soil, is wounded but it is the wound of separation which we hold within ourselves when we imagine ourselves and nature to be two that causes our earth to appear to be breaking. When enough of, a critical mass of, us gardeners truly know that our gardens are not separate from ourselves then we may well see that the planet’s wounds were in just the right place; they caused us to remind ourselves of our indivisibility with nature and ecological problems were easily resolved. I believe it can happen as radically and simply as that.