Yesterday marked two months since my friend DeAnna left this earth for a more peaceful existence. The picture above is from November. It had been almost 5 years since we were together, yet we were as close as we had ever been. DeAnna was a true soul sister to me. We could talk for hours. And how we laughed! Deep, fully body, belly laughs. I will miss our talks for the rest of my life.
DeAnna was one of the most beautiful spirits I have been blessed to know. In one of our last talks she told me about one of Voltaire’s writings and how he said we should all tend our own gardens. I love that so much.
Yesterday I deleted my Facebook account. Back in November I posted the following about Voltaire - I wouldn’t have found it without DeAnna:
“Il faut cultiver notre jardin: ‘we must cultivate our garden’ or as it has variously been translated, ‘we must grow our vegetables’, ‘we must tend to our lands’ or ‘we need to work our fields’.
What did Voltaire mean with his gardening advice? That we must keep a good distance between ourselves and the world, because taking too close an interest in politics or public opinion is a fast route to aggravation and danger. We should know well enough at this point that humans are troublesome and will never achieve – at a state level – anything like the degree of logic and goodness we would wish for. We should never tie our personal moods to the condition of a whole nation or people in general; or we would need to weep continuously. We need to live in our own small plots, not the heads of strangers. At the same time, because our minds are haunted and prey to anxiety and despair, we need to keep ourselves busy. We need a project. It shouldn’t be too large or dependent on many. The project should send us to sleep every night weary but satisfied. It could be bringing up a child, writing a book, looking after a house, running a small shop or managing a little business. Or, of course, tending to a few acres. Note Voltaire’s geographical modesty. We should give up on trying to cultivate the whole of humanity, we should give up on things at a national or international scale. Take just a few acres and make those your focus. Take a small orchard and grow lemons and apricots. Take some beds and grow asparagus and carrots. Stop worrying yourself with humanity if you ever want peace of mind again. Who cares what’s happening in Constantinople or what’s up with the grand Mufti. Live quietly like the old turk, enjoying the sunshine in the orange bower next to your house. This is Voltaire’s stirring, ever relevant form of horticultural quietism. We have been warned – and guided.”
I am finally ready to really embrace this philosophy... or at least move towards it. Facebook is a whole lot of ego - even when our intentions are pure and good. We want to change the world which means changing other people. We get angry and aggravated by people - strangers - who don’t understand us. We let them live in our heads and take up too much space in our lives.
Today I am much calmer than I have been in a long time. I have my little plot to tend. It’s cloudy right now but I know it won’t be long before the sun shines again. I have 3 beautiful children who have been entrusted to me. I literally don’t have enough minutes in the day to do everything I want. My family is my garden. I choose to invest my time, energy, thoughts and life in them. I am so tired tonight after a full day of cultivating - it feels wonderful. I will always be grateful to DeAnna for all of the lessons I learned from her and especially this parting gift she gave to me.
What is your garden? How can you choose to cultivate it today?
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.