I read an essay titled “Talking About Bicycles” in a book of essays, Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays, by C. S. Lewis, and my thoughts turned to gardening. As they do.
“I think there are these four ages about nearly everything. Let’s give them names. They are the Unenchanted Age, the Enchanted Age, the Disenchanted Age, and the Re-enchanted Age. “
We enchanted gardeners find it hard to believe, but there are people who are unenchanted with gardening. They can take it or leave it. They don’t see or notice plants other than as a vegetable they eat or a lawn they walk across. Maybe stretching it a bit further, they might notice a tree simply because it provides them with shade. But as to how those vegetables, lawns, and trees came to be, they have no clue and no care about such things. They are Unenchanted with gardening.
Fortunately, many people will eventually take notice of plants, become interested in growing them, and then take delight in tending a garden. Some will do this beginning at a young age, perhaps tempted out to the garden by their grandparents. Others will become enchanted when they buy their first house, which includes space for a garden. However it happens or whenever it happens, they enter their Enchanted Age of gardening. Oh how lucky they are to have all the joys of first discovering the fun of gardening ahead of them.
I do love to see someone who has gone from their Unenchanted Age to their Enchanted Age, even if it means answering a million questions as they discover all there is to discover about gardening. Many people will stay in their Enchanted Age of gardening for a long, long time.
But there is that Disenchanted Age lurking out there. Perhaps the enchanted gardener has discovered that in spite of their best efforts and careful attention, a plant doesn’t grow, rain won’t fall from the sky at the desired time, or frost may happen later than anyone ever imagined. Any combination of events such as these may cause a gardener to move from the Enchanted Age to the Disenchanted Age.
Happily, there is the joy of the Re-Enchanted Age waiting for them. It might arrive in a gentle rain that revives the garden or in an unexpected bloom that shows up just as the snow melts. Or maybe an Enchanted gardener shows up and the Disenchanted gardener can’t help becoming Re-Enchanted by the sheer enthusiasm of the Enchanted.
I hope this post finds you Enchanted or Re-Enchanted with gardening. If you are Unenchanted, hang out with a gardener or two, and you’ll soon become Enchanted.
If you are Disenchanted, I recommend you step outside and find a good garden to visit. If you were once Enchanted—and you would have to have been to be Disenchanted—it won’t take long for you to come back around and become Re-Enchanted.
I won’t claim to understand even one-tenth of C. S. Lewis’s essays in Present Concerns, but I will note that many of the concerns and themes he wrote about still exist today. The next essay in the book after this one is “On Living in an Atomic Age” which has been circulating around the internet for several months as food for thought during the pandemic. You can find it with a quick online search, and at least the first part is easily read and understood. It gets a bit dense after that.
Overall, it reminds us that we (civilization) have endured through difficult times in the past, and we will continue to do so.
“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a games of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
I will add, let them find us out in our gardens, Enchanted or Re-enchanted, sowing a row of peas, planting up some violas, and gazing around to find the best spot for a chair and side table where we might spend long afternoons enjoying a good book and a cool drink.