If gardeners don't have time to read in January - and I'm not talking about gardening catalogs, which we somehow always find time for - when might we ever actually finish a book?
On these wet, dark days when I'm stuck indoors much more than I'd prefer, I'm finding solace by reading two authors that bring me closer to the natural world, remind me of its wonders and resilience. At this time of year I'm less interested in specific plants than I am in the green, growing world out there...
John Hanson Mitchell is a lovely, thoughtful writer, and his book "The Wildest Place on Earth: Italian Gardens and the Invention of Wilderness" is all about our enduring and vital connection to the natural world around us. In a quest to find the essence of wilderness, Mitchell ends up exploring and celebrating Italy's ancient gardens. In these enchanted gardens' statuary, venerable cypress, and especially hedge mazes, Mitchell discovers a wilderness surprisingly close to his heart and his roots. It's no wonder that a minister friend recommended this book to me, for Mithcell's writing emanates spirituality, profound ideas, and a questing nature.
No one has a more adventurous and questing nature than the ultimate pilgrim Satish Kumar, and I'm savoring his memoir "Path Without Destination: The Long Walk of a Gentle Hero" more than anything I've read in ages. Peace activist Kumar, a former Jain monk who has edited the journal "Resurgence" for the last 30 years, left his home and family in India as a young man, determined to protest the arms race by walking to the nuclear capitals of the world (Moscow, London, Paris, Washington D.C.) After covering more than 8,000 miles on foot, he found that each country blamed the others for nuclear proliferation - sound familiar? Many years later, when Kumar was living in England, he honored the Indian tradition of marking a 50th birthday with a pilgrimage. He set out walking through the British Isles, taking no money with him and depending on freely given hospitality to make his way. This is the part of the book I love most, as Kumar rediscovers his passion for footpaths, mountains, water, trees and nature as he slowly and appreciatively walks across England, Scotland and Wales. Inventor of the term "reverential ecology", Kumar never hurries...he quotes his illiterate Indian mother who often said, "Remember, when God made time, he made plenty of it."