Finding the Garden Path

There is a poem by David Wagoner that is based on a story that a Northwest Native American might tell a young girl or boy who asked the question, "What do I do when I am lost in he forest?" :


Stand still. The trees ahead
and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here.
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers.
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it you may come back again.
Saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you.
You art surely lost. Stand still.
The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

The final lines of the poem have always resonated with me. To many, the last lines refer to the creative process. If you wait and listen carefully, the muse will come to you. I hear something different. Life is the forest, something that is vast and frightening. Something that, despite all my controlling instincts, I can not control. But, in those rare moments when I listen quietly, life finds me and in those moments the path seems a little clearer.

Gardening is one of those ways to listen. Granted, there are the endless hours of toil and sweat when the only thing that seems to speak to me is the ache in my back. But buried within the repetition of the labor, buried within the beauty of a single flower that I helped to grow, is the spirit of life. That is why, I would like to think, I garden.