Today Erica and I celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary (and yes, that is the tin anniversary…romantic, isn’t it?). So while this is theoretically a gardening blog, I want to share a bit about how our 1/3 acre homestead contributes to this relationship.
We excel when we do things together. Erica often says “honey, I love doing projects with you” as we stand, rubbing sore muscles from having herk’d a ton of juniper timbers across the yard or shaking dried mud from our pants after de-bogging some of the low ground. Sure, sometimes projects involve lots of emphatic arm waving “no, it should go HERE” or degenerate into petulant “fine, then I’ll just do it that way.” But they also lead to plenty of “I couldn’t have done that without you” and “wow that looks great” and “genius, honey, that looks fantastic!”
One day while we were shoveling and wheelbarrowing, Erica told me about the book she’d just finished, Better Off. This story of an urbanite among the Amish is full of homilies about leading a simple life, but one really stuck with us. The author had wondered, “how do you make daily hours of mundane, tedious, physical labor pass?”
The answer? Talking, discussion, storytelling, and teaching, just like the conversation we were having in our garden. These days, when we aren’t collapsing into bed and falling asleep the moment our heads hit the pillow, we are working late on the blog, cooking ahead, or just enjoying some quiet time. So garden time is talking time, a chance to discuss future garden plans, the latest stories from work, world events, the dramas of friends, the pitfalls of our daughter’s school. Time, in short, to keep in touch.
For most of the year, my weekdays begin before dawn. I’m up and on the road the better part of two hours before the rest of the family stirs and get home, sometimes, well past 10pm. I know that the bowl of chili or steak salad waiting in the refrigerator didn’t appear by magic – just as Erica knows that the biweekly paychecks aren’t earned playing Angry Birds and drinking Starbuck’s. But this knowledge of the forebrain lacks the visceral of seeing your your partner’s effort.
There is something entirely different about seeing your partner working – actually toiling, herking, schlepping, digging, building, planting, harvesting. The visible, shared labor reminds us of all the hidden labors – catching busses, sitting on conference calls, folding laundry, teaching classes, paying bills. That we can labor together is a sweet bonus. Blisters, cuts, and dirty fingernails remind us of our efforts, the efforts of our partner, and our efforts together.
The modern world, with cubicles, Facebook and Twitter, TV and console games, has a way of creating an environment where we are “together” but yet “apart” – engaged in the same activity but not engaged with each other. Our garden, and our time together in it, has been a big part of keeping us truly engaged with each other.