Kitchen Garden

Gardener’s Bucket List

LAKE MACBRIDE— A gardener cultivates and on most days that is enough. Whatever to-do lists he or she creates are eminently do-able, and require little more than human energy leveraging nature and selected tools on a plot of ground that is hopefully in close proximity to a kitchen.

Recently, there has been talk of bucket lists— a list of things to do before one kicks the bucket. The phrase has become part of the vernacular. “It’s on my bucket list,” said a person making a trip to China to give a lecture. Since we don’t know when we will die, such lists seem an odd endeavor.

As if a consumer, unsatisfied by an urban lifestyle, must escape— to backpack in Patagonia, view a pod of whales in the Pacific Ocean, or walk on a remnant of the Appian Way— only to return and report on the progress to friends and family. Checking things off the bucket list seems key to the enterprise.

Gardeners get along without this. There is always something to do in a garden, a weed to be pulled, a pest to be removed, ripe fruit and vegetables to be picked, a new plot to be spaded and planted. A constant renewal of life in many forms. A gardener turns nature to useful advantage and produces crops over a long season, such work being its own reward. During good seasons, the work absorbs a gardener’s attention and energy completely, producing abundance.

Bucket lists are bothersome. It has to do with cognition and how we define what might go on the list. The world and society become a big shopping mall where we select our items and venture out. Sometimes finding what we want, sometimes finding something different and better, and always, crossing what we find off the list. Compared to gardening, the process lacks imagination.

The gardener must see the potential for life in each tiny seed. She sees the delicate balance of growing seeds to seedlings to mature plants. He must determine what combination of morning dew, rainfall and irrigation will encourage the plants to grow. Answer the question, how shall the garden be protected from deer, raccoons, rodents and insects? It seems more complicated than writing “experience Maris Gras” on a list, then traveling to New Orleans for the event. Gardening also seems more enriching.

The idea of kicking the bucket doesn’t cross my mind while working in the garden. The time is too full of life’s potential, new growth, new hope, and a diversity of nature that I don’t claim to understand, as much as I try. We will all die, but why focus on that? Instead, let’s focus on living this season as best we can, finding awe and wonder in every plant in creation, and take the harvest given. There is no good reason to stop living to work on a bucket list, when gardening can be a better reward.