The subject of tools is a tricky one.  There is a tendency to want a tool for every purpose, almost to the point where the tools use the gardener instead of the other way around.  It helps to remember that with technology of any kind, the best solution is usually the least solution, and often the most pleasant. There is, it seems, a law of interaction which decrees that the level of equipment determines the level of work.  The larger the machine, the larger quantity of work it can do, but with lower quality—in the sense that there is a quality of work, just as there is a quality of life.

To put it in more concrete terms, consider the difference between walking, riding a bicycle, and driving through a new countryside.  If you walk you don’t see as much of the country on a given day, but what you do see, you truly experience—the sounds of birds, the rustling of leaves in the wind, the sounds of voices from houses set back from the roadway; the scents of farmyards, wildflowers, even the small streams you pass over.  In addition your mind is free to contemplate each of these.  If you ride a bicycle you still see and hear many of these things, except that the wind in your ears may obscure the more delicate sounds, the scents will pass more quickly, and you must keep your mind focused on the bike and the road.  You become very aware of the sounds of the bike and your own breathing as you labor up the hills; there is no forgetting the hills and dales you traverse, but your experience of them is quite different.

In a car, you are aware of what?  The speed limit, the yellow line, the sound of the air conditioner if you have one, or the rush of air past the windows if they are open.  You smell upholstery and gasoline fumes; the countryside—of which you do see more than if riding or walking—is so fleeting and flat it might as well be on a television screen.  I don’t call that traveling, and I don’t want that same shallow hurry to reduce my experience of the garden I’ve managed to finesse from the land I call home and the time I call mine.


Comments 1

  1. dave ellsworth

    great page ,shepherd! my new step-daughter is a committed gardener (she’s 13) so i hope to score some points with her by sharing!

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