The old woman showed up in my garden, coming up behind me as I knelt on the ground pulling weeds. I was startled momentarily, not recognizing her at first. Then I realized she was the old woman at the door who had come to visit me in early April.
She looked a bit different than before, trading her green sweatshirt for a light green t-shirt and wearing loose green canvas pants that looked as though they’d been worn in the garden for years. But she wore the same hat and garden clogs that I remembered from before.
“Did I startle you?” she asked.
“A little bit, I just didn’t hear you come through the gate.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. The gate was open, so I came on through to your garden since no one answered my knock at the door.”
“It’s okay.” I was beginning to wonder as I looked at the old woman why she had returned. Once again, she just showed up.
“Carol, I came back to talk to you about time, if that’s okay.”
“Sure,” I responded, wondering if she meant time as in days, hours, and seconds or thyme as in the little herb. Soon enough, I realized she wanted to talk about time as in days, hours, and seconds.
“If it’s okay with you, can we sit in those chairs over there to talk?”
I got up then, realizing I was still kneeling and looking up at the old woman. We walked over to the chairs and sat down.
She turned toward me and put her hand on my arm as she began to tell me about time.
“Carol, time is an interesting subject both in and out of a garden. It’s true what they say, you rarely find time, you have to make time. Once you make time, you have to spend it right away because it can’t really be saved. Oh, sure, people talk about saving time, but what they are really doing is figuring out how to use less time on one activity so they can spend it on another activity. It’s not really saved for another day.
You know you can also lose track of time. That can be a good thing if you are using the time wisely and making something of it. But if you lose track of time just frittering it away on nothing in particular, then that’s no good.”
She paused momentarily while I reflected on what she had just said and then continued on.
“It’s nice to have something to show for the time we spend. Like in a garden if we spend an hour, we’d like to see that we spent it weeding or planting or watering. But sometimes it’s good to have nothing to show for the time we spend. Like in a garden, if we spend an hour just relaxing in a chair, like we are doing now, that’s okay, too.”
I began to wonder where the old woman was going with all this time talk when she continued on.
“Carol, the most important thing to remember is that time really does not stand still in a garden. Once you understand that, I think you’ll make better decisions about how to spend your time both in and out of the garden.”
I sat and thought about what the old woman had just said. As I was about to respond, she got up and announced that it was time for her to go. There was no convincing her to stay longer. As she left, she took a quick stroll through the garden, admiring one flower and then another, before leaving through the gate and disappearing around the corner.
I chose not to follow her, realizing that she was likely to return soon enough and no doubt would have something interesting to tell me. I closed my eyes for a few minutes, then got up, dusted off the seat of my green canvas pants, straightened out my light green t-shirt and adjusted my garden hat. I looked around the garden, happy to see that at least some of the time I had spent in it was clearly productive. Then I set off with pruners in hand to spend the rest of my day in the garden deadheading flowers, pulling weeds, and wondering if I should plant some thyme somewhere in the garden to remind me of my latest conversation with the old woman at the door.