The most serious gardening I do would seem very strange to an onlooker, for it involves hours of walking round in circles, apparently doing nothing. —Helen Dillon
Mostly what I am doing when I wander — which I do most days from May through September and a few times a week otherwise — is looking for. Looking for what? I’m not quite sure, but I suppose I’m looking for what I wouldn’t see if I weren’t looking for it, if that makes any sense.
In spring and summer, I have some expectation that I will see insects, snails, caterpillars, arachnids, moths and butterflies, as well as small plant buds and plants emerging above ground in spring, leaf fungus, slug trails, volunteer shoots, new weeds I’ve never seen before, but for all that expectation, I also feel open to what comes, ready to be surprised by what suddenly comes into focus.
Occasionally I shriek.
While I look, I listen, not for the sound of my own shrieking but mainly for bird song and calls, insects, anything else that floats in. I’ve heard of a Native American practice of stopping during the day to notice 7 sounds, and sometimes on my walks through the yard, I do this. Focusing on sound amplifies sound.
As a gardener, I also take note of problems that I could address with garden tools, bare spots in need of more planting, and depending on the season, plants under attack from aphids or grasshoppers or deer, tomatoes too shaded by their own leaves, vole and chipmunk holes, damage to tree and shrub trunks from rodents, winter kill, wind shear, animal tracks and scat, and so on, all useful information for future decisions.
To my neighbours, though, I must seem a tourist in my own back yard, as I snap photos, take a closer look here and there, marvel at this or that wonder, muse over perplexing clues, and often, just stand in one spot, looking around, doing nothing in particular.