Opinion

The perfect pastime for the lockdown gardener

By John Lewis

It feels like the darkest hour before dawn.

While COVID-19 cases decrease across Victoria, in our neck of the woods they are rising.

Stage four restrictions are looming, and we all hope they don't arrive - if only for our retail and catering businesses.

Personally, another few weeks locked at home is not a terrible ordeal, but I am lucky.

The prospect of more time to read, play music, and comb my dog's coat is not an awful one.

But we are not all natural sloths.

There are among us the mountaineers, the marathon runners, the team coaches and the performers who thrive on physical challenges, external energy and an audience.

I feel sorry for these people in lockdown.

Then there are the gardeners.

These people can spend all day pushing their body to the limit so they can eat fresh tomatoes for lunch.

Gardeners make perfect lockdown subjects. Nothing is ever finished. They are in for the long haul and they keep their eyes on the horizon, not the shiny immediate rewards at the supermarket.

Two weeks ago I moved a circular raised vegetable garden bed from one side of the house to the other.

This involved digging a metre into the soil around the corrugated shell to loosen five years of compacted dirt, then jimmying up the round metal bed and rolling it across the verandah to its new home.

Then I ordered a cubic metre of new soil and spent the next day shovelling it into a wheelbarrow to fill up the new/old circular garden bed.

It took 37 barrow loads to fill up. I counted, and cursed them all.

All this was because the new site provided more sunlight.

This is what gardeners do. But I'm not a real gardener because I do it to earn points.

I do all this back-breaking work to earn the right to sit on the couch and read for another day.

Everything in life comes with a price, and one man's reward is another man's pointless exertion.

I have so far avoided spending four hours every week on my hands and knees pulling out oxalis, which to me is like the punishment of Prometheus who was bound to a rock and had his liver eaten by an eagle every day only for it to grow back overnight and be eaten again the next day by the same eagle.

Then last week, my family gave me a tree for my birthday.

It's a sapling ornamental almond tree which apparently will produce beautiful pink flowers when it matures.

I took this as a sign they really wanted me to become a gardener.

It stands in a corner of the garden and doesn't do much.

I look at it occasionally and write poems about it from the couch.

It's the perfect pastime for the lockdown gardener.