I often get asked about my life in horticulture, and in many cases I am asked why I decided to give it up and become a writer. It surprises people when I tell them, I have not given it up, I just chose to leave the path of commercial plant life, and walk a more solitary one.
I really could not imagine a time in my life, where the life of plants did not hold a fascination and interest for me, as they have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. For me, the green world is so much more than just the sprouting of the green things that surround us in our daily routine, it is a world that is diverse and complex and offers as much variety and wonder, as the world of people we all know, where everything living takes on a life of its own, and gives you as much joy to behold, as any long time friend or interesting stranger you could meet.
I guess that within the world surrounded by plants that has been my every day for over thirty years, I have learned so much from my careful studies, and have come to the conclusion that a life spent interacting with plants, has in many ways taught me the true value of who I am, and also how to be around other people.
The Japanese have a wonderfully unique approach to growing plants, and whether it is the training of a Bonsai tree, or the growing of prized rhododendron, they apply great thought and study to every aspect of the plant they are working on. It is a process that helps to focus the mind and makes you think not just about the plant in front of you, but you contemplate its place in the world and its relation to everything else. In doing so, you contemplate your own life, the process of growing and training therefore becomes a partnership of your will in how you feel the plant should develop, and the will of the plant, which naturally wants to grow to its own scheme of things. The result of perfection, is usually a perfect balance of both wills, and the creation of something completely unique created through the compromise of both parties.
It does not really matter whether you are training a Bonsai, of just trying to keep your flower beds looking neat and orderly, the fact is that during the process you slip into some form of contemplation, which relaxes the mind and creates an effect of inner peace and calmness. There is an old saying, “the most stress free people on the earth, are those on their knees working in it.” And that is something I do truly understand and believe having spent a huge slice of my life lost in deep thought as I tend the plants I have grown for pleasure, or profit.
Gardening and plant work is very therapeutic, but I also find writing serves a very similar process. When I write and drift into thought, I am obviously using a lot of that time to contemplate the story, the characters, and their relationship to everything surrounding them. So as with the plants, I reach that point where parts of me blend with the story, and what comes out is a unique balance created via the process, which has much of what I had intended to write, but also quite a lot of unintentional spur of the moment creativity.
I have gained great understanding of myself over the years, and like the trees and flowers I love so dearly, I am indeed very complex, I too understand my strengths and weakness, and how to live and grow around other weeds and plants of greater strength and beauty than myself. I have found my place in the flower bed beside my fragrant flower, and through my writing of the characters in my stories, I have searched inside and identified what has become important to me, and what my dreams for happiness truly contain.
I find it no coincidence that plants are grouped into families or a species of similar types, for like all living things, they thrive at their best around others that are likened to themselves, and grow to their finest when surrounded by young and old of many varieties. I think my stories emphasize the importance I place on true friends or loved ones and the family that supports us, and in my time I have come to understand the life of the natural world better. It has taught me much about myself and the life I need to live, and it has shown me who is important and which weeds need to be removed for the sake of all the others in the flower bed.
My greatest inspiration are trees, especially the Oak, it stands firm and upright and faces the world head on no matter what is thrown at it. In moments of great stress it bends where it needs to in order to weather the storm, and then returns to normal and continues its growth throughout its long life. I love the fact that it never saves up its acorns to barter with the squirrel for gain or kudos; they truly are free in the world, a lesson I hope the human race one day learns.
The natural wilds of our world are considered to be truly free, and places where we too can release our pressures and be at one, and although I do completely agree and would encourage everyone to seek out the natural wonder of the wilds and roam free within them, I also think that like the flower in the border surrounded by those that enhance its growth and beauty, we too should understand that true freedom comes from within, and has little to do with where we are, for it is in the recognition of our close surroundings, that we find what is most important, and it is having the wisdom to recognise it and grow closer to it that brings the fulfilment of our spirit and life.
I love writing, it gives me great joy, and hopefully I will be able to continue for a long time to come, but I will never give up horticulture, for over the years I have learned so much about life, and somehow I think I have many more years of deep thoughtful lessons to come. Maybe even then I will not have learned it all, so go out into the world and breathe the air, take a good look round, and spare a moment to look at and appreciate what your world is being shared with, for we are not alone, and although that big green leafy thing may appear to do very little, just watch it for a while, and with a little patience, you may just be surprised at what you see and learn.