Gardeners who feel misunderstood can take heart that this sensitivity was identified by poets, as far back as the 19th century. In the poem, L’Albatros, Charles Beaudelaire, described the muses among us who soar gracefully with pride when they are being creative but experience humiliation when they return to earth. We gardeners are like that poetic bird. We soar euphorically when we are in the garden but muddle around when we lay down our trowels. That is because there are so few around us who appreciate what we do or understand why we do it.
In spite of the fact that millions of people all over the world garden for pleasure, sustenance or both, gardening is a relatively solitary activity. It does not lend itself to social banter. It is nothing like a quilting bee, a corn husking party or a barn raising. All these activities were undertaken as social gatherings with much verbal interaction among the participants. By comparison, gardening takes place in the minds of gardeners and in their back yards. Up until a few years ago, horticultural accomplishments remained private and unappreciated.
The Internet changed that. With the help of computers, gardeners began interacting with their peers throughout the world, at all hours of the day and night and without ever meeting. In a revolutionary manner, the Internet zapped all of the traditional societal obstacles that prevented some from interacting with others: socio economic levels disappeared, age was no barrier, gender became unimportant, politics and religion stayed in the background, distance and location were irrelevant, ethnicity turned invisible, and both skin color and sexual orientation were wiped away. The support and camaraderie among on line friends became a remarkable phenomenon and turning point in our culture. Some, who never met in the flesh, and who may never get the opportunity to do so, have become good friends.
How did this happen? A cyberspace community was created with the help of the garden blog clearing house, Blotanical. Through that site, passionate gardeners began to share experiences and garden images with their contemporaries around the globe - experiences that their own friends and relatives could rarely understand or appreciate. In time, the banter between the bloggers took on a life of its own. Gardeners left uplifting messages in the comment section of each others blogs, earned deeply felt validation for their efforts in the garden or with a camera, and received precious encouragement when their projects failed.
Sometimes, a writer’s focus would be deflected by more pressing issues and the blog site would become a comfortable venue for sharing a personal burden. One writer posted a eulogy upon the death of a parent; another informed about the tragic death of a child. A grower wrote how the devastations in the nursery industry were impacting personal life. An eloquent plantsman, suffering from cabin fever, posted a rant expressing unbearable emotional turmoil brought on by the hardships of winter. Another erudite blogger, who suspended posting in order to assist caring for a newborn child, was mentioned several times by blogging colleagues who missed him.
The need to reach out to like-minded people and to stay connected with them has been clearly identified with the help of technology. This social networking has become the new reality. Possibly, for some very private or isolated gardeners, this remarkable association may be the only venue where one is able to express one’s feelings and where one is comfortable unburdening oneself. We gardeners have created a veritable on line community, ostensibly because we share a love for our hobby. However, in reality, it satisfies a yearning to be part of a supportive social group that swarms around its members when they need to be comforted, validated or encouraged.
No longer are gardeners like the ungainly albatross; no one need be alone or feel misunderstood, anymore. With the help of technology, an environment has been created where gardeners can soar elegantly and with pride.