Camille Pissaro, c 1890
Once upon a time, there was a gardener who went from door to door, looking for work and a place to do what he loved to to do most of all: to turn ordinary places into beautiful places, full of vibrant colors, living plants and glorious flowers - a place where people, animals and insects could relax, refresh and rejuvenate in a shared space, each adding to and taking what they needed.
He loved his somewhat itinerant life style, because along the way he met wonderful people who were interesting, different and kind. Everywhere he went he learned something new, because no two gardens were ever alike, each differing in what could be achieved because of the soil, the light, the rain and the wishes of the garden's owner. These differences he welcomed. These challenges kept him busy and open to new ideas.
Berthe Morisot, c 1884
After a long, winter season when he had struggled to find any real work, he wandered into a village one day and knocked on the door of a fine looking house with a large garden that looked like it was too much to care for. The owner answered the door. She asked for his name. "Juan," he told her. She asked him where else he had worked. He gave her the names of some other people he had worked for in a neighboring town. She recognized one of the families. They knew people in common and she felt more comfortable.
He asked her for work. "Let me show you what I can do. Let me learn something new. Let me help you to grow a beautiful garden."
Claude Monet, c 1880
She paused, she looked at him and quietly said: "A beautiful garden needs love and you will need to put your heart into it. Let's see if you have the heart."
They talked some more and brainstormed ideas, each sharing their dreams for the garden. It was a fine space in a good location and his mind was racing with the ideas of everything he could do - unlocking all the possibilities inherent in the soil, and the garden's position, its shape and its size. In the end, she said he could do the work, but that she didn't have much money to pay him. He didn't care! With such a wonderful opportunity and her support he could create a garden that would guarantee him his reputation in looking for other work. He would work for next to nothing, only with somewhere to sleep and food to eat.
They had reached a deal, and the gardener settled in for the night before starting work the following day.
What luck! What joy! He had never worked in a garden this large. This was the perfect situation and the following morning he started with all the enthusiasm of a young puppy who chews her master's slipper when she is out of the house. Which was just as well, because his employer left to go out of town the very next day. He started right in and began to bring to life the dream design they had created.
On Day 2 of his work, he met his employer's husband, and discovered he had some other ideas for the garden - a putting green to practice his golf. They had never discussed this, but he worked to include the man's wishes for the garden.
On Day 3, the children came home from boarding school and wanted to play right where he was working. They wanted a tree house but they seemed to have little interest in what he was doing. He carried on regardless, firm in his desire to realize his and his owner´s dream design.
By Adrienne J. Kralick
On Day 4, his employer returned to the house, with just enough time to glance at his progress from her bedroom window while she packed for her trip to leave that night for the family beach house. She waved from the window and gave him a "thumbs-up" sign of approval.
On Day 5 of his work, with the family away at the beach house, he was surprised to see the neighbor standing in the driveway of the house. She wasn't happy with the changes he had made to the garden wall that bordered her house. She was going to speak to the owner just as soon as she got back. She might even talk to the town council and see what they had to say about all this.
He rested on Days 6 and 7 and began to wonder if he hadn't taken on a project beyond his capabilities.
When he came back to work on Day 8 he was filled with energy and enthusiasm...at least until the visit of his employer's Mother. He didn't know that this was in fact her house, and not his employer´s. Could he show her the drawings? Where were the plans? What was the budget? Was he keeping all of the receipts and documenting where he was moving her precious plants? She wanted to see a paper trail of every detail.
He was a gardener. His passion was creating life out of soil, creating beauty out of nothing, of unlocking the possibilities. He was not passionate about paper trails!
By Janice Trane Jones
On Day 9 the family returned and there was chaos again with the children all over his lawn, his borders and climbing in his newly planted trees and shrubs. He had no one to turn to for help, because the owner was leaving the very same evening, this time for the city, staying in their other apartment. She had waved briefly to him from the bedroom window as she packed her bag for her trip.
By Day 10, he had built the putting green for his employer's husband, but he showed no interest and hadn't even been out to look at his work. He wondered if he cared.
While working on Day 11, he recalled the conversation he had had with the owner before he started the work. Their dreams for the garden, their ideas, the possibilities. "Do you have the heart to do this?" she had asked him. He had the heart, he had reassured her. But he started to wonder where was the heart in this project. Where was her heart in the project. Did she really care, or was her mind elsewhere, in other projects, her interest split between many houses, too busy to notice or really care. Or was this a showpiece for her neighbors, as long as he didn't upset them!
He worked on Day 12, but with less enthusiasm and more than a little disappointed. The neighbor came by with another complaint. He told her to talk to the owner - he was just following instructions. She left in a huff, scowling at his beautiful work. Which was unfair, because he had made good progress and of that he could be proud. The new shrubs and trees were settling in and looking more happy. The roses had clearly responded well to plant food and regular watering. And the lawn was beginning to look greener than it had ever looked. His expertise was paying off and the garden was responding to his green thumb!
He rested on Day 13 and 14, and when he came back on Day 15 to continue to work, the owner came into the garden for the very first time in two weeks. She needed to talk to him, she said. The neighbor was not happy with the changes to the garden wall and her children were unhappy with the lack of space to play. Her husband, though he appreciated the effort, said the distances were too small on the putting green to be able to play. And her mother was worried that the changes were too drastic and not what she wanted.
By Van Gogh
That night, the gardener decided his work was largely wasted and not appreciated. He was putting his heart into the project, but the home and the family showed no love in return for the garden. Their heart wasn´t in it. They didn't seem to care. Perhaps too busy with other priorities and concerned about other things.
Before the break of dawn the next day he left the house and strode out of the village, looking for other work. The garden continued to grow, but the scent of the roses was not quite as sweet, the grass not quite as green and the trees and shrubs not quite as tall as they might have been. Did they notice? Sadly not. The other houses and other projects distracted them from these small details. But if the plants could have spoken, they would have murmured their sadness, spoken of their loss.
7/27/2013 04:47:39 am
Richard, do you write this story, I have read it four times now and it resonates so much with things in my life currently.
7/27/2013 05:49:03 am
I am pleased that it touched you. Thank you for your comment. I was looking for a way to express a bunch of things I have been feeling recently. And the metaphor of the itinerant Gardner seemed apropos. It was inspired by an old and very poor man who comes weekly to my door looking for work and offers to clean my yard. Richard
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I sold house, car and most of my furniture to move to the small town of Ocotal in Las Segovias on the Honduras/ Nicaragua border.