Wordlessness in the garden

Posted: 24th Oct 2018


Gardening is mainly experienced without words.  Perhaps a grunt when heaving a load, or a cry of delight at the sight of a bird is as is much as a stint outdoors creates.  A newly-arrived Eyptian gardener stopped in his tracks to take in a pepper plant, fruit and all.  He smiled, lingered, and scanned it up and down with pleasure.  Nothing was said.  Yet so much was happening, knowing something of his story.  A challenge for the practitioner is judging how to respond to a gardener when so little is verbalised, without breaking the spoken ‘silence’, for gardens are often quite noisy places.

The silence has a contributing quality of its own to the session.  In that wordlessness, foreground and background noises take over.  In London, birdsong, rustling leaves, outdoor machinery, the background hum of traffic is a common soundscape. But when we use our voice in the garden to speak, it feels as if a contract with the direct, felt experience is ruptured. There is a time and place to speak.

Another of the challenges of communicating how gardening has an impact is interpreting the wordless to a word-hungry enquiring audience.

The direct felt, sensed experience of gardening is like a pre-verbal state, something primal and early in our lives.  To return to how that might feel, for words cannot be produced here, is akin to a return to our early years.  And when done well, it is freeing, richly felt, and connects deeply within us.  My hunch is it can support early experiences that weren’t right for us with a profound nature connection that is rightful. A welcome antidote, too, to the chatter modern life is filled with.