Guest Column: Adding years to life and life to years with gardening
If a Chinese proverb is to be believed, “Life begins the day you start a garden”. Interestingly, whenever anyone talks about gardens, or I read about them, the thought of my neighbours’ magnificent garden comes to mind.
There are many of us living around this stunning work of art which, considering its size of roughly half a football field, is more of a park.
Visitors to my home too are taken in by this green space that can be a great choice for magazine covers and, I am sure, can effortlessly win gardening contests.
I also consider myself fortunate to have bedrooms facing the garden, as are some people in my locality. Even while cooking we can look out and get a glimpse of the wonderful trees and shrubs.
Mornings too are special as we spot the green expanse immediately after getting up from bed in the morning and drawing the curtains.
The first sight brings me joy, and like a ritual, makes me smile my first smile.
A lot of activities happen in the garden. As I look on, I admire the riot of colours and course the birds – some exotic – which keep flying in.
An active person, the gardener is kept busy as members of the house to which the garden is attached keep walking up to him and sometimes help him with his work.
An elderly aunt takes her rounds of the garden in the morning and evening, inspecting each plant closely. The vegetable patch seems to be her favourite as fresh produce is picked up every day from there and distributed among neighbours.
She also has long chats with the gardener, scolding him one moment and appreciating his work in the next.
Whenever I happen to meet her and as usual, praise the garden, she echoes her favourite refrain: “If I am alive it’s because of this garden, where every plant is my child. It takes away all my worries and is the heart of the house …” It’s no wonder then that English philosopher Francis Bacon felt gardening was the ‘purest of human pleasures’, and why it is also aptly said that ‘gardening adds years to life, and life to years.’
However, I also want to know why we forget to create green spaces at home – even if it has to be a small corner, in the concrete jungles we live in.
Green spaces can be magical. According to a National Geographic article, researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School in England analysed data from 10,000 city dwellers and found that those living near green spaces reported less mental distress. The same article also points out that Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases – including depression, anxiety and migraines – in people who lived within about a half mile (800 meters) of green space.
Not long ago, Richard Mitchell, an epidemiologist and geographer at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, found fewer deaths and less disease in people who lived near green areas, even if they didn’t use them.
Ever since I read these facts, my love for my garden loving neighbours has grown.
What they have created provides us abundant joys without them seeking anything in return.
And certainly, adding life to years certainly lies in our own hands too as John Muir, a Scottish American author and naturalist has said: “Nature in her green, tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions.”
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