Christine Schoefer: Sitting in the Garden

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In her garden, Christine Schoefer finds truth in the old saying ‘What you see depends on where you sit.’

Before I started gardening, I loved visiting my friends’ floral sanctuaries. Sitting in a lounge chair, I’d let colors and scents wash over me. I saw only the blooms, the blossoms, the delightfully shaped vegetables.

I’m a big city person, raised among brick and concrete, so it took me many years to believe that I, too, could learn to garden. I started with “can’t fail” flowers like daffodils and nasturtium. Gradually, I entered more deeply into nature’s vast repertoire. This summer, I’m tending lilies and sunflowers, roses and poppies, carrots and parsley. And I’ve noticed a strange shift in my way of seeing.

In my own garden, all I see is work: intrusive branches, wilting leaves, weeds, snails. Instead of sitting down to the pleasure of gazing and sniffing, I’m either standing or squatting: pruning, clearing, watering. Snip, snip. Looking around as I rub my achy back, I make a to-do list for the next day. Even on my walks along Berkeley streets, I pluck foxtails and pinch off dead roses.

Fully committed to tending, I no longer visit plants for idle enjoyment. Gardening work pulls me into a different kind of satisfaction. Especially the harvesting: cutting off lettuce leaves, pulling up onions, digging for potatoes.

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It’s always the raspberries that make me happiest: some displaying boldly, others hiding under downy leaves, all of them bursts of sweetness. Whether I pluck the berries in the morning or at dusk or by the light of the full moon, it’s always a labor of love. The line between work and pleasure disappears.

And yet, I’ve decided to get a comfortable chair so I can quietly savor all those hues and designs and perfumes, at least for a little while, every day.

With a Perspective, this is Christine Schoefer.

Christine Schoefer is a writer and educator.