Using Susan Sontag to consider the American devotion to lawn culture.
Enjoy Nature! I am glad to say that I have entirely lost that faculty … My own experience is that the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature’s lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition.
—Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying
This year’s growing season was longer than expected, and gave my family tomatoes, copious greens, pale peonies, and Russian sage that grew with a fury, reaching over the beds, shaking a flush of tiny purple blossoms onto the paths. I was too busy to tend these plants and edibles in spring, so they bloomed into something wild and tangled, potentially man-eating. Only when there were novel edits to make or difficult phone conversations to endure did I go to the garden to weed on my knees, bare-handed, desperate for the distraction of physical labor.
Working with one’s hands feels meditative and purposeful when the mind is overheated. It is therefore not unusual to find a connection between writer and gardener; we have more need than most to find balance between what Hannah Arendt called the vita activa and the vita contemplativa. Emily Dickinson claimed she was “reared in the garden.” Virginia Woolf warned friends that her expansive garden at her country home, Monk’s House, was “the pride of our hearts.” In a 1911 letter, Edith Wharton claimed she was “a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.” Read More