The constant gardener

In John le Carre’s powerful story, The Constant Gardener the lead character is a diplomat who is a keen flower-and-shrub man.

A colleague says that he even dreams of weed-free gardens; maybe all gardeners do.

But it is only a dream, because weeds are a given, in one form or another.

Entropy is the natural tendency towards disorder, which is how gardens are. Plants grow where they are not wanted and these are called weeds.

We can remove them for a while, but this is not permanent; they will re-appear, one way or another. They are the natural order.

So, while the gardener may enjoy planting the bright, the beautiful and the new; much of their time is spent clearing the space in which these things will grow.

The constant gardener will attend to the weeds in their garden; and perhaps, even more pressing, to the weeds within their psyche. 

The bright, the beautiful and the new are there in each of us. If allowed, if given space, if the ground is cleared – they just grow, without any instruction.

If the conditions are right, it’s hardly any work at all, this growth business.

But what is work is keeping an eye on the weeds; unhelpful thought patterns and narratives in our personalities that can claim the soil and strangle growth.

No one gets up in the morning and says, ‘Today, I’m going to repeat the mistakes of yesterday.’ No one starts with that intention.

But unless we keep an eye out for the weeds, this is exactly what we do.

If old narratives and thought patterns are left unattended, they can take over completely, and leave us paralysed, mad or anxious, again and again and again.

Where weeds rule, our life is effectively on repeat.

And the constant gardener knows that weeds cleared in April, may well be back in June. They have deep root systems within us. Despite our busy digging, they will come back; only this time, we’ll notice them with a more practiced eye, notice them early and attend to them more promptly.

The constant gardener is a lovely name to bestow on a character. It suggests someone in daily endeavour; in the steady and unheralded work of care.

Sometimes it’s appreciating the beauty; and sometimes it’s noticing the weeds.

The name also suggests someone who loves their garden.

And yours is worth a great deal of love.

Leave a Reply