As we slide from spring to summer in this scary season of uncertainty, I find myself thinking a lot about Horticultural Time. As a society, we are very used to living by Clock Time: the agreed upon measurements that break up our days, our weeks, our months.
We know this is our third month of social isolation, we know we have to be at that Zoom meeting at 3pm, that on Monday it will be June, and that if we stay up past a certain hour it’ll make tomorrow morning tough. These are all important things to know. These are facts based on Clock Time.
There are equally important facts based on Horticultural Time: The sun will come up and set. The moon will wax and wane. The trees leaf out. The garden you planted will bloom – when exactly? It’s hard to say, but it will happen.
Babies are a beautiful example of this concept (and where I first learned of it). Pregnant people are given a due date based in calendar time, but the baby will come when it’s ready. And then the baby will smile, and roll over, and sit and crawl and babble and develop in all the ways babies do – on an uncertain timeline, in Horticultural Time. As the parent of a seven month old, I compare notes with other parents, against my older child, and I look up averages. But almost all babies go through these steps, and I trust mine will too.
Our current timeline is uncertain and we crave dates and data. We find ourselves talking about “when this is over” as if it will have a definitive ending, like May becomes June. Perhaps we could think of it like spring becoming summer or night becoming day: a gradual transition that we can count upon happening, even if we cannot possibly pinpoint it. We long to “get back to normal” as if that means something more concrete than just what we’re used to. Last summer my tomato plants didn’t do very well, perhaps this year they’ll do better.
Please consider this an invitation: when you’re feeling anxious about the WHEN questions, when the smooshy quality of this uncertainty is getting to you, intentionally take a step into Horticultural Time. Trust that we are moving forward and through this. If you need a guide, look to the sun and the moon and the plants and the babies – they carry on and so can you.