Gardening as Resistance: Notes on Building Paradise

Red poppy from A Curious Herbal by Elizabeth Blackwell, 1737.
(Available as a print and as a face mask benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

“Can you plant a garden to stop a war? It depends how you think about time. It depends what you think a seed does, if it’s tossed into fertile soil.”

By Maria Popova

“The gardener digs in another time, without past or future, beginning or end… Here is the Amen beyond the prayer,” Derek Jarman wrote as he grieved his dying friends, faced his own death, and contemplated art, mortality, and resistance while planting a garden between an old lighthouse and a new nuclear plant on a barren shingled shore.

Jarman is one of the artists whom Olivia Laing profiles and celebrates in Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency (public library) — her superb collection of meditations on art, activism, and our search for meaning, drawing on the lives of artists whose vision has changed the way we see the world, ourselves, and others.

Laing’s Jarman-fomented essay, titled “Paradise,” begins with the question of whether gardening is a form of art and ends with the question of whether art is a form of resistance — a necessary tool for building the Garden of Eden we imagine a flourishing society to be.

She writes:

Gardening situates you in a different kind of time, the antithesis of the agitating present of social media. Time becomes circular, not chronological; minutes stretch into hours; some actions don’t bear fruit for decades. The gardener is not immune to attrition and loss, but is daily confronted by the ongoing good news of fecundity. A peony returns, alien pink shoots thrusting from bare soil. The fennel self-seeds; there is an abundance of cosmos out of nowhere.

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One thought on “Gardening as Resistance: Notes on Building Paradise”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing Nigel. Only today I was walking by the ring road, noticing the tulips growing in the central reservation, imagining neighbourhood, where all of the temporary things have passed away, and those seeds planted for eternity will remain.

    Liked by 1 person

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