Gardening

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

Like English people, Chinese landowners also like to pay Chinese gardeners to “torture” the plants. But instead of mowing the lawn and shaping the leaves, Chinese gardeners bend the branches of trees into very “unnatural” shapes, which takes even more efforts and planning than cutting leaves and small branches – a more obsessive way to “order and shape their landscape”. And like Jamaica Kincaid stated in “Alien Soil”, the people who do all the hard work in Chinese gardens were the poor.

During the think-aloud reading exercise today, Claire and I talked about Kincaid’s statement that “I have never read a book praising the cottage garden written by a cottage gardener.” There is my intrepertation of the sentence: for cottage gardeners, their lives are so involved and dependent on gardening that they see gardening as a burden they have to carry. When I was touring in the villages near the south borderline of China, I saw children picking up a kind of think grass near a breathtakingly beautiful creek. I asked if they could get out the way so I can take a picture. They looked very confused at my request. “The creek is here everyday. Just take your picture or come another day.” “What are you doing?” “We have to pick enough grass to feed the pig before sunset.” the children answered without even lifting their heads. The view, the creek, the other plantary besides the think grass they are picking are so indifferent to these children that they do not even understand my appreciation for the view. on  The cottage gardeners, in my mind, must also be so buried in their work, that they have no leisure and intention to take time to gaze the cottage, not to mention writting essays about their appreciation for their workplace - the garden.

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Barbara's picture

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Shengjia-Ashley's picture

"Appreciation of beauty and

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Shengjia-Ashley's picture

I should write my posting

I should write my posting more explicitly. There are rudimentary reasons the cottage gardeners and could not enjoy their “profession”.

First of all, the cottage gardeners mentioned in "Alien soil" didn't choose gardening as their "profession". They are forced to work on the cottages. Second, they did not own the land and they do not garden the land as they want. They were not true gardeners. Their working status is, unfortunately, slaves.

I may be a bit radical here, yet who can appreciate working as a slave? Kincaid had sufficient reason to be pissed. The hinder between the cottage gardener and the appreciation of nature were not just the work, but more importantly hierarchy.

mtran's picture

You guys made an interesting

You guys made an interesting point that when we do a job to earn our living, we tend to see it as a burden to carry instead of enjoying it. I agree that the stress of life does sometimes take away our joy in what we do. Yet I also think that it is just as important to carry with you the passion of your job. After all, what makes a true gardener? In my definition, only skills won't work. A true gardener should also have the "spirit", the joy in doing what he/she is doing and the motivation to do better. I believe it is these characteristics that guarantee the best outcome in the long-term. If "the joy fades away" once we take something we enjoy as a profession, maybe we just haven't enjoyed it or loved it enough? Barbara's suggestion of ttepping back will give us a chance to re-evaluate ourselves...

Barbara's picture

Step back from the engagement of you life

Shengjia, your post reminds me of a popular opinion that "however you enjoy something, once it becomes professional, the joy fades away." In reality, not a lot of people really enjoy their commitment from which they make a living. The garden owner spend time on gardening (if they do it themselves) for the aesthetic value, but the gardeners are engaged in gardening because they need compensation for their work. This reflect how people from different hierarchies approach to the same thing differently. The same work can be leisure for some people, but bread for other. I never give up the goal to actually enjoy my professional commitment. I think step back from the work itself would help. For the children that you met in southern China, the memorable scenary you saw was the background that they always possess. People always appreciate what they do not usually have more. If we could meet those kids for a second time, I suggest persuade (we could do their job) them stop picking grass and attending to the surrounding. I believe they would experience something different. Though the pleasure may be from the temporary exemption from work, they might start to notice something new. By "stepping back", I mean pause for a while from the working status. We cannot appreciate the professional engagement mostly because of the repetiveness or the intensity instead of the task itself. I don't see taht a equalitarian social system will be achieved in the near future so that hierachy will always be there. There will always be people who are engaged in stuff that they don't love heartily. Everyone deserves happiness. It may require more effort for some people to acquire happiness. Try stepping back. Appreciation of beauty and life is, on one hand, make a society more equal, on the other hand, create a mental status where people let in happiness.

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

I have trouble understanding

I have trouble understanding your last sentence. Please, tell me more, how does appreciation of beauty and life make a society more equal?

Barbara's picture

To your question...

No, appreciation of beauty and life is not a cause for social equality. In order for people to have the same appreciation of life, we need to create an equal social background (i.e. gardern owners and garderners should not be classiffied by social ranking).

Shengjia-Ashley's picture

"Appreciation of beauty and

"Appreciation of beauty and life is, on one hand, make a society more equal, on the other hand, create a mental status where people let in happiness." So, what you want to say is not "appreciation of beauty on one hand and make society more equal on the other hand", but an equal social background is the prerequisite for appreciating life and beauty?

Barbara's picture

Yep :)

make a society more equal + create a mental status where people let in happiness --> appreciation of beauty and life

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