Gardening helps me slow down

There are things that I forget over and over.

When I moved to the country, I hung up a bird feeder in a tree behind the house. After about a week a little flock of juncos showed up, with their dark gray hoods, and hopped around eating the black oil sunflower seeds they knocked to the ground. And then chickadees, titmice, finches and cardinals joined them.

Each time after I trudged back and forth through the snow to the tree to refill the feeder, I’d stand and watch for a while. Try to understand what was going on. Take some time to be outside and really see things. But it was a year before it dawned on me that the birds noticed me too. That they knew me. That this wasn’t a one-way experience.

daylily and shadow on barn wall

It takes time to notice things and connect with them. But I forget this. I try to rush to complete chores, tidy up messes, to create things I’ve imagined, and take care of the house and the garden and the people I love, always feeling behind, like there’s never enough time. But when I rush I miss the point.

From a distance a garden bed can look fine but up close, paying attention, I can see that some plants are wilted from thirst, and there are weeds in between the flowers, the mulch is patchy and is leaving the surface of the earth exposed.


I have to take the time to look, and to be with what’s around me, to see what I can do to help. I can’t rush to cross the task off my list. I can’t assume that what looks ok from a distance really is.

Gardening helps me to slow down and it helps me connect. It shows me what state my mind is in, exposing whether or not I’m present. It shows me what I’ve missed. And then it forgives me. Gives me space to recover, to start over, to try again. I can't tackle the great big whole at once, I have to focus on one small thing at a time, pull one small weed at a time.

Estyn Hulbert weeding in garden

Over the last months a combination of greedy groundhogs, agressive weeds and other demands on my time has left me with a monstrously overgrown yard — but I’m remembering that I can start over. This year is for recovery. Little by little I’m slowly clearing out the tall weeds and taking care of the soil so that next year I can plant again.





  • thanks for these reminders! i too forget these things repeatedly. i’ve been seemingly too busy to give my garden the tending it needs as well, but now that i’m away for a month it’s all i can think about…

    i love that photo of you from above!

    cal on

  • I love the poem and feel like I live Some of it deffinetly the celery part. Love the firefly photo. The stinky New York Times would not let me open the free man story do they not realize how many potential readers they piss off. Love the fringe sketches,livin on the fringe. Now that I am old and slower I find the slower life sweet. Having given up the struggle I feel somewhat released but slowing does not come easy when you have been taught by the whole world that you must do more and more. At first I felt like a failure, now i feel like i know one of lifes great secretes.

    Chris Linder on

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