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The Gentle Art of Sitting

No doubt you have heard the old story of an old sage who used to sit with his friends outside the village pub and one day a reporter came to town and thought he would be an interesting subject for an interview. “What do you do, just sitting here outside the pub for hours on end?” he asked the old man. “Well zir,” the old rustic began, “sometimes I sits and thinks.” There was a long pause and then he added, “and sometimes I just sits.”


Pausing the other evening, as the sky grew darker in the early evening as I concluded it was time to stop just sitting there, I found myself thinking about this and the wisdom behind the old boy’s words. I reflected back over this year of the Pandemic, of the beautiful weather early in the year and the way we had used the garden as a survival tool during the first lock-down that started at the end of March and how that had continued on through the year to be taken hold of afresh since we moved into a second lock-down.

Yes, we’ve done more gardening, more growing stuff this year than ever before, but we’ve also used the garden more than ever before for just sitting in. Reflecting on the year I would have to say, “Well, zir, sometimes we sat and read, sometimes we’ve sat and looked and sometimes we’ve just sat.” In the early part of the year in particular, I set myself a goal to catch up on some reading and so soaked up some of the late spring sunshine as the chapters rolled away.

But there were other times, and they grew in number, when I let the therapy of early morning quiet waft over me before the sun got too hot and just ‘sat’. Sitting in the silence in the midst of a garden coming to life in spring is very therapeutic but soon the garden itself stops you ‘just sitting’. It starts out like that but after a while my eyes were caught by the blossom and the buds on the trees giving the promise of a leafy shelter in a few months.  Then there is the awareness of the spring bulbs pushing up. It is difficult not to ‘think’ in such surroundings and initially it is the intrusion into your thoughts of all that is happening around you. Us gardeners know you cannot rush things so the changes are very slow, but changes there are and they are wonderful to observe. We could repeat these reflections as the year develops as different flowers emerge, different colours add delight to the garden and the garden takes on a different shape.

But it’s not only appreciation of the plant growth that goes on, there is the wildlife all around you. At one point I was sitting near the lavender that was covered with a number of different sorts of bees. The same thing has happened recently as we move into Autumn, sitting next to the late flowering michaelmas daisies or asters, and again observed the varieties of bee searching for nectar on them. For a time butterflies abounded. And of course birds capture your attention as they flit around you. I recounted in an earlier article how, a couple of years ago, a robin actually came and perched on my knee as I was sitting there, resting up from turning the ground over and giving him a feast of worms and bugs. You can’t beat that you know!

But it’s not merely appreciating the life around you that is part of the ‘just sitting there’ it is also the awareness of things that need doing. At one point earlier in the year I was just sitting there in the sun and thought, “That wire cage is past its sell-by date. It’s time it came down.” That became the next project. Or sitting there are being aware of the sun being lower in the sky as Autumn approached and thinking, those broad beans I’ve just put it would appreciate a little warmth in the soil. If I look nine inches off the top of those bushes, it would give the soil a few more weeks of autumn-sun warmth. The next job to be done.

And so it goes on. As you just sit there you find ideas for changing the layout or design of the garden. Some months ago, just sitting there, I thought a small brick raised bed at the other end of the pond, to match the one that has the lavender in, would look good. It does, and the new lavender of a different type, in the new raised bed, is still flowering in early Autumn while the other lavender stopped flowering and was trimmed back a couple of months back. It all came about while just sitting there relaxing and appreciating what was there. They do say creativity flourishes when you are relaxing.

So there it is. It’s very simple: stop filling your mind with activity - lock-down is good to help you do that; take time out to just put a chair somewhere in the garden and just sit, and then sit and think as the thoughts turn up from who knows where. And afterwards, when you retreat back in doors, you will be refreshed, not from doing nothing, but from just sitting and then sitting and thinking. Enjoy.

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