For Yule, Landscape Guy gave me Jenks Farmer‘s wonderful book, Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners. I finished reading it on my last business trip. I’d recommend the book just for the pictures and for the stories about the great characters/gardeners from whom Jenks has learned over the years. Muriel Rukeyser was right about stories.
In one chapter, Jenks recommends, whenever possible, watering by hand rather than with an automatic irrigation system or with sprinklers. You know, carrying water to the plant in a watering can and standing there making it rain in just the right spot and by just the right amount. Or taking the hose (and, when we do it here in the South, a glass of iced tea or wine, depending on whether it’s a morning or an evening watering) and standing in the garden, watching it, listening to it, watering by observation. At the end of the Watering-In chapter, Jenks says:
Collect and focus the energy of moving water in the soil and air around a plant. You might call it chi, positive energy, lining-up, or paramagnetic force — whatever you call it, it pulls together your own energy with that of moving water, plants, and life in the soil.
Those simple actions and involuntary connections make life rich. One tiny action can set off a chain of scenes in our minds. Sometimes during a watering conversation, I’ll hear in my own voice an inflection, a tiny change of tone when I’m getting excited. I’ll then recall an afternoon, years ago, on a road trip with a friend, looking over a vast desert, my friend fixated, holding my shoulder, imploring me, saying “Now? Now you must be excited! Say it out loud!” Or when I water with a coffee can, I see the smooth twisting of water becoming a muddy stream of cypress pond water, pouring from the bottom of a tiny tin that my father picked up to nurse along a newly planted ocean tree seedling behind a barn that he dreamt of renovating, of making into our house.
Watering-in does all of that for me. It’s so elemental, something that builds unforgettable connections. When you teach someone to water-in, make sure it’s a fun experience, an important moment; it may be a moment they associate with watering for the rest of their life.
It’s such a sensual thing to do, watering plants. The feel of the water, the sight of the plant, and the soil, and the water being sucked into the soil. The smell of wet dirt. The sight and sound and presence of the birds who show up and want to play in the water. And when it’s hot, of course, I water myself a bit, too.
How do you water? Do you have a memory of learning how to do it?
Picture found here.