But as the summer wanes, and we turn once more from nature to our own minds for refreshment and solace, we begin to consider what the year's efforts have brought to us, and to reflect what is the serious lesson taught by all our labor, and to sum up our inward experiences, before we take that account of our material stock with which this simple record is to close. No experiment is really valuable which does not conduce to the mind's growth, and therefore amid these frolicsome records of disaster and enjoyment, I would wish to insert this one didactic chapter, which may easily be skipped by those who seek amusement only, in reading this little book, in which I can emphasize in a few words the effect of out-of-door interests upon the mind and moral nature of those who enjoy them. And I do this the more willingly because I believe that a taste for gardening is one of the elemental impulses of humanity. There are individuals without it, as there are people without sight or hearing or a sense of smell; but, on the whole, to dig comes naturally to man, and at some time or other in the course of his existence the desire to own a portion of the earth's surface is apt to seize upon him, and demand satisfaction.
This impulse is of maturity rather than of youth, for gardening in its larger sense is a thoughtful pursuit, appealing to the broader qualities of the understanding. It is not merely the desire for healthful exercise which stirs a man, but also the wish to learn the secrets of our common mother, to force her hand, as it were, and compel her to reward his toil. The fable of the giant AntŠus, who renewed his strength when he came in contact with the earth, has a subtle meaning, for it is by this contact that many weary souls have found rest and arisen refreshed.
To him who is tired of mankind the solitude and peace of a garden have a rare charm. Many a great statesman has turned from the cares of state to till his fields, or cultivate his flower-beds and trees, his alert brain finding full range for its activity in some scheme of landscape, or some great project for fertilizing a barren waste and rendering it productive.
Gardening gratifies the thoughtful mind, because it does not look for immediate results. It inculcates patience in all its teachings, - patience not only with processes, but with results, for disappointments have often to be met; the best of schemes fail of accomplishment, new enemies arise on every hand, visible and hidden. To combat them requires perseverance, fertility in resource, promptness in action.
The gardener's life can never be purely contemplative. However fair his domain, he must perforce keep his eyes open in it, and his mind active. Vigilance must be his attribute, or he will have cause for regret. By watching he learns what to do, and what to leave undone, the habits of the plants he tends, their needs, their uses, the different phases of their beauty. Unconsciously he becomes educated, and his mind lays up new stores of facts and deductions for future use.