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Inspecting (detail) : photo by Marnie Crawford Samuelson

Inspecting (detail) : photo by Marnie Crawford Samuelson, in The wild braid  by Stanley Kunitz

 

All my life, the garden has been a great teacher in everything I cherish. [...] The garden was a world that depended on care and nourishment. And it was an interplay of forces; as much as I responded to the garden, the garden, in turn, responded to my touch, my presence.

I think of gardening as an extension of oneís own being, something as deeply personal and intimate as writing a poem. The difference is that the garden is alive and is created to endure just the way a human being comes into the world and lives, enjoys, and is mortal. The lifespan of a flowering plant can be so short, so abbreviated by the changing of the seasons, it seems to be a compressed parable of the human experience.

Part of the fascination of gardening is that it is, on one hand, a practical exercise of the human body and, on the other, a direct participation in the ritual of birth and life and death.

The compost pile is a site of transformation, taking what has been cast off and returning it to the garden. Itís not just garbage, after all.

The distillation of any philosophy of composting has some connection with the positive concept of waste and death. The contribution that mortality makes to civilization is the equivalent of what composting contributes to a garden.

We are all candidates for composting. So we cannot approach the compost heap without a feeling of connection.

Stanley Kunitz, with Genine Lentine: The wild braid, A poet reflections on a century in the garden, Norton & Co., New York, 2005.

 
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