Thank You, Richardson Wright

Richardson  Wright’s “The Gardener’s Bed-book” has become a favorite of mine.  First published in 1929, he wrote a paragraph for each of the 365 days of the year, for the gardener to read at bedtime.  I am compelled to share a few paragraphs with y0u.  Enjoy!

April 30: GARDENS OF IMPERFECTION.  I have often thought that were I starting the garden over again I would undertake its planting in a much more intelligent way; plant only the best varieties in each group — the best Lilacs and Mockoranges, only those Irises and Peonies that have been given a rating of 80 points and over by their respective societies, only such Roses as the intelligentsia of the American Rose Society recommend.  Yes, I would know better — but I would be missing a lot of fun.  For progress in gardening, as in collecting and in businesss and in the most of life, does not advance in some unbroken front; here it progresses, yonder it falls back.  Our failures contribute as much to the evolution of taste and the sharpening of intelligence as do our successes.  There is no such thing as a garden of perfection.  We should love a garden as much for its uncouth wilderness sides and its crass errors as we love our friends for their petty weaknesses.

April 26:  ANCESTRAL PIGS.  I had said they would be pretty little pink pigs, and so they were, as pink as babies with the manners of grown-ups.  They immediatley took a fancy to their Porcine Palace, set about housekeeping and were regular at meals.  Those  who had mocked at my poor carpentry in building the pig house, now came to marvel at their beauty.  We gave them (the pigs I mean) peat to tread upon and fed them succulent things from the table and the garden.  Their coming opened a new chapter in my life.  Here I had lived all these years and never had a pig!  And yet our sympathy and understanding was immediate and mutual.  Perchance my enthusiasm for them was a throw-back from a prior generation; perhaps that Irish grandfather, of whom there was so much boasting, had been closer to the soil and the creatures of his native heath than the family would care to admit. 

June 2:  A GARDEN SHOWER.  Did you ever hear of a Garden Shower?  Palpitating brides, so the custom goes, are subjected to “showers” — kitchen showers, linen showers, and such, when their friends and relatives, conscious of their domestic needs, descend upon them with pots and pans and sheets and towels with which to begin housekeeping.  These “showers” usually happen before the wedding.  After that, life becomes almost uneventful.  Why not start a new custom and give the bride a garden?  Let her get settled in her new home and then descend upon her — friends, neighbors, and relatives, each bearing plants?  Before she knows it, her garden will be started. 

I heard of one such bride recently who had had a Garden Shower, and so abundant was it that she and her husband consumed a whole week setting out the plants.  This exertion reduced her husband fully ten pounds, she alleged, a reduction which golf would never have accomplished.

LONG PIECE: THE NOISES OF TOWN.  (This is a portion of the long piece… to spare me typing all day while the sun is out.)  …Physicians have segregated the diseases of dirt.  In a few more years we will find them classifying the diseases that come from noise — nerves subconsciously frayed out by the constant puslation of traffic, the ripping and tearing of drills and the prodigious panting of steam shovels; ears dimmed to more delicate perceptions by the roaring of elevated trains and the rush of subways.

Some there be who would count this concatenation as music; in fact musicians of the modernist school deliberately try to simulate it in their compositions.  We are supposed, if we lay claims to being modern, to like this kind of noise, to find beauty in it and stimulation.  It is supposed to symbolize progress.

The countryman, on the other hand, knows a different sort of progress and lives through a different category of noises.  Very few of them are unpleasant; very few nerve-wracking.  Most of them are subtle and require a trained ear to appreciate their beauty.  The whole range of bird calls, for example; the rush of water over a dam in the first days of spring and the trickle of water over a stony brook-bed in midsummer; the low of cows, the homely grunt and whine of pigs; the contented cluck of hens; the assertive and pompous boasting of roosters; the awkward cry of the guinea fowl; the gobbling of turkeys; the bleat of sheep.  They know the soft rustle that follows the wind blowing over a grain field and the sweep of it through the tree tops; they know the soughing of the Winter wind through Pines, and the crunch of a tree limb rubbing against a house.  They know the patter of rain on a tin roof, which is like the roll of drums; the creak of a loose shutter at night and the conversations of crickets and peepers and the hoot of the owl.  They know, too, the gee-haws of a man calling to his horses as he plows, the clatter of a reaper, the hum of a thresher…  

Indeed, the progress on which the city world prides itself today is not without just such touches of pathos.  It is inevitable, perhaps, that as the old order changeth, there shall be left in its wake little back-eddies where humanity drifts a bit aimlessly, wondering what it is all about.



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One Comment on “Thank You, Richardson Wright”

  1. Jennifer Richardson Says:

    What gorgeous photos.
    And the writing!
    I love this guy…..Richardson Wright.
    I will search him out.
    Thanks…..awesome share
    (especially like the part about loving
    the garden in it’s imperfections)



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