A few days ago I returned home after being abroad and away from my garden for over three months. I left towards the end of May, when all was fresh and green, bursting with bud and life, and full of the promise of the coming summer. In three months all seemed over; the little place looked dried up and miserable, small, ugly, disappointing - in fact, hardly worth possessing at all.
I felt dreadfully depressed, but of course all this was in great measure due to the time of year, the end of August being the very worst month for this garden, and one that I have never attempted to struggle with, yielding rather to the difficulties and generally going away. Shall I also confess my own character had something to do with it? Many people say, 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder.' This is not my case under any circumstances, and especially not with my little home and garden. The more I live here, the more I tend and cherish it; the more pains I bestow upon it, the more I love it.
When I am urged to travel and change, I only feel that I agree with Mr. Watson in these lines:
Nay, bid me not my cares to leave, Who cannot from their shadow flee.
I do but win a short reprieve, 'scaping to pleasure and to thee.
I may at best a moment's grace And grant of liberty, obtain; Respited for a little space To go back into bonds again.
After being away for only a short time I come back with the keenest excitement. But when I have been away for some long time and got interested in other things, I come back in an ungardening mood, have forgotten all the horticultural names, and - if the time of year is unfavourable - I see, too clearly, nothing but the faults, and have a much too direct answer to Burns's prayer in the last verse of his queer little poem, 'To a Louse, on seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church':
O wad some pow'r the giftie gi'e us To see oursels as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us And foolish notion: What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us, And ev'n Devotion!
I love what I am with, but with me, alas! les absents ont toujours tort, and for weeks I had been used to greater beauties and wider interests. Here the dome of heaven is lower, and no cypresses point upwards. The moral to me is quite clear: gardeners should only go away from home to learn, not to see how beautiful the world is elsewhere without any gardens at all, the science of life being to make the best of what we have to our hand, not to pine for what we have not.