When I am gardening I experience “flow”: the complete contented absorption in a task or activity, where I lose track of time. There is no distraction by the minutiae of what to cook for dinner or whether I remembered to put the washing on. There is no worry over the things that are going on in my life, no obsessing over the past or anxiety over the future. I am just in the here-and-now, doing what I’m doing, fully in the moment.
There are so many tasks in the garden that lead to “flow”. Digging over a raised bed, carting barrowfuls of manure, weeding, sowing or pricking out seeds, deadheading dahlias, pruning shrubs, harvesting fruit or vegetables, cutting plants to the ground at the end of the growing season. As long as the weather is reasonable, I can’t think of any job in the garden that I don’t enjoy. Even squishing green fly on my dahlia stems has a certain pleasure: I hose them with water as I go, so I don’t even get sticky fingers. The tasks tend to be fairly manageable, following a set order, where repetition brings a sense of competence. I find that one thing leads to another, so I might start by tying in the climbing shoots of a clematis, and in the process of this, notice that there is a dandelion growing in the border. I’ll take the dug-up dandelion to the compost heap, and notice that the pots in the greenhouse need watering. Whilst I’m there I’ll steal a few tomatoes.
You don’t have to devote large chunks of time to the garden. Five minutes here and there can make a huge difference. Just deadheading one plant will stop it setting seed and going over too quickly.
If there’s a job I need to come back to later on in the season, say divide a perennial, then I will add this to my ‘to do’ list. I hate long lists, as these feel like a burden. At any one time, my list is no more than about 4 items. For all other little jobs, I try to do them as soon as possible after noticing. Most garden jobs take a matter of minutes, and if you are alert to the sensory experience of being outdoors, hearing birdsong, the touch of leaves and shoots on your skin, the smell of the earth, then this feels like a privilege and not a chore.