“My depth of connection to gardening, my elemental drive to be one with it, to meld with other living things who do not yell or put forth unrealistic expectations… being truly at attention, at one with the task: That sense of perfect was what I had not found anywhere else…”
–Margaret Roach from her book AND I SHALL HAVE SOME PEACE THERE: Trading the fast lane for my own dirt road
Margaret Roach, former New York Times editor, fashion and garden editor at Newsday, first garden editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine and the editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia left “thirty-two years of corporate servitude” for a life of meditation, gardening and bird watching from a house she had purchased 20 years previously on some acreage in upstate New York.
Upon starting her life in the country full-time, Roach immediately sets up a garden blog named for a book she wrote years before, A Way to Garden. “As in just one way, my way, not the way, necessarily.” But it is not all smooth sailing. Roach has her share of doubts expressed in the following aside: (Note to self: need to write a companion volume called A Way to Live, and urgently, and then please buy yourself copy.)
It was 2008. Roach had the credentials and the connections. She sent out her book proposal. AND I SHALL HAVE SOME PEACE THERE was published in February 2011. It doesn’t get much faster than that in traditional publishing. In her mid-fifties, unmarried, childless and without a pet until she was adopted by a two-year-old neutered black cat, Roach writes with wry humor and sage advice, her own and that of Zen masters.
“I admit it: I garden because I cannot help myself,” she writes and I understand, completely. “It is no wonder so much gardening is done on one’s knees; this practice of horticulture is a wildly humbling way to pass one’s days on Earth. Even the root of the word humility comes from the soil: from the Latin humus, for earth or ground, and a good soil is rich in partially plant and animal material called humus.”
Actually I have sat on a short swivel stool and a plastic ice chest on wheels to do weeding until I got my new kitchen floor and in the process discovered knee pads which my tile guy wore. I bought myself a pair at Lowe’s and now wear them for both in-house floor work and outdoor gardening—a wonderful invention these gel-lined, Velcro attaching knee protectors. Roach has a knack for inventing words. She made one observation that is posted on the clipboard of my mind. “I prefer to think I’m an about-to-be in spite of my own un-spring-chickeness.”
Roach’s house was built in the 1880s as was mine. And I am just now becoming a professional gardener, in that I am bartering some of my produce with the organic produce broker who sets up shop at the White Barn every Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Last week I bartered seven pounds of zucchini and eight pounds of apples for a baggie of green beans, three Spanish onions, one bunch of green onions, four peaches, a small round seedless watermelon, a red pepper and a green one, and a box of a blackberry/raspberry hybrid berries that were amazingly delicious. And I still have two dollars on account. I also left fifteen pounds of butternut squash on consignment.
I only barter what I cannot absolutely use myself (I am currently pretty sick of apples and zucchini. In fact I tore out two of my three zucchini plants while they were still producing). And now the tomatoes are rapidly ripening on my sixteen plants, faster than I can use them but still not in quantities generally suggested for preserving. Maybe dried?
Roach admitted to moments of doubt (while inventing more new words): “The giddiness of my new life, it seems, is wearing off, and frankly I (jobless, scheduleless, and incomeless though I may be—seemingly without encumbrances or restrictions) am feeling increasingly free but also completely trapped.”
But it’s about transitions. A friend sends her a postcard offering up a new slogan, “Survival is the new success.” Works for me. If you think life in the backcountry would suit you, I recommend And I Shall Have Some Peace There. Especially for single women. Enjoy.