|Right up front I'll tell you this book is not a 'how-to' gardening book. It is, however, a book that might very well mirror every thought and fear that most of us gardeners have faced at one time or another. Let's take a look at a surprisingly fun, totally inspiring, and very personal glimpse into the soul of a New York businesswoman turned full-time gardener.|
When I read a book, I usually speed read, form an opinion, then stash it away on a shelf and move on. Not this book. 'And I shall have some peace there' is a book that consumed me. I must have read it at least three times; I didn't want to miss a word.
Before I tell you a little about it, I'll share with you some quotes from the author, Margaret Roach. I found these quotes as I was reading, and if you look closely they'll give you a glimpse into the true nature of the book and the true heart of the author. They might also describe you:
Running from the 9/11 disasters she’d just witnessed, home to a cat she did not own: “I am, you see, not a cat person. I am a bird person.”
“I garden because I cannot help myself.”
“It’s no wonder that much of gardening is done on one’s knees; this practice of horticulture is a wildly humbling way to pass one’s days on Earth.”
“Gardener was the label imprinted on me when the souls were handed out and so be it.”
“I know only one thing for certain about gardening now, thirty years in: things will die.”
As gardeners, we see ourselves in what she writes.
Sometimes it’s a choice between reality and fantasy that we have to make. The problem is not the choice itself; the problem is deciding what’s reality and what’s fantasy. That’s the decision Margaret Roach faces as she moves from a hugely successful career in fast paced downtown New York City to being a full time self-sufficient gardener in the hills of upstate New York. Her choice. She left a top executive position with Martha Stewart and moved permanently to her weekend cottage to garden. The book takes us with her as she faces changes, tackles them and masters most of them; changes not unlike the underwater tadpole who wakes one morning and finds himself a full time air breathing frog. Or perhaps it’s more likened to those of us who suddenly realize there is no Santa anymore and we find ourselves responsible for our own happiness, our own food and every single hour that fills our days. Did I mention without a regular paycheck? She wanted to garden, she needed to garden, but had her weekends in her garden become her fantasy, blinding her to the reality of actually surviving every day alone there? Could she do it without the AmEx card and fashions from Saks and the many leather jackets she was so fond of wearing?
The book is written from the inside out as Ms. Roach questions, then begins to face her new reality and adjust to the path she has chosen; a path that is no longer a fantasy.
The book is certainly not for those who are compelled to color within the lines or those who must have their color coded impatiens planted in perfect concentric circles at the base of every tree. And there are those who might be unable to follow the stream of conscious thought that pours from her keyboard; but if one has a true gardener's soul, then her writing style is very easy to follow and totally enjoyable to read. Who but a gardener while chasing beetles in her attic glances out the window and notices wilted herbs or the fox who steals her apples or the snake shedding its skin, can at the same time thank her ownerless cat, Jack, for the gift of a headless mouse? And who but a gardener jumps from one to the other, tending equally to all? Her writing style echoes her lifestyle; the book is an ongoing stream of Margaret's thoughts with all the jumps and bumps and wide open chasms of inspiration that come with them.
In addition to throes and hurdles found in life changing decisions, we are also introduced to the first book she wrote, "A Way to Garden" (which is a gardening 'how-to', by the way), and to her wildly popular gardening blog of the same name.
It is a spiritual journey, 'and I shall have some peace there" is; it is a personal look into her soul and what we find there is funny, humble, inspiring, and often utterly surprising. What matters is that in searching, she finds herself. Many of us will find ourselves right along with her.
I might as well be upfront about this, I expected a gardening book; it isn't. There's not a how-to sentence in its entirety. There are many botanical names, there are lots of flowery poetic and literary references, there are tons of vivid flora and fauna descriptions, there are obvious spiritual connections with nature and there is emphasis on organic gardening. Even so, it tells us little about gardening except for the all consuming pull it has over us. Consider that a warning if gardening details are what you are looking for. You won't find them. At times the author's choice of expletives could be described as base. That didn't bother me a bit but you can consider that a warning, too.
On the other hand, if you are a well seasoned gardener who oftens finds yourself cooing to your wilted begonia, if you prefer grime to high fashioned polish on your fingernails, if you've traded your leather jackets for hoodies, or if you are considering a complete life change in favor of gardening, you'll love this book.
It is a transition, the story of the seasons of a soul as she moves slowly, with dignity and grace, away from yesterday, through today and on into her tomorrows with her myriad of plants, her ownerless cat, Jack, her boundless birds and her wide open mind.
Totally unstructured, and that's the truth. I love this book! It is truly worth all the hours I spent wrapped in it.
The book was sent to me by the author for the purpose of reviewing. Thank you, Margaret Roach!
Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY.