tend “to incline, to move in a certain direction,” c.1350, from O.Fr. tendre “stretch, hold forth, offer” (11c.), from L. tendere “to aim, stretch, extend”
tend “attend to,” early 14c., aphetic of M.E. atenden (see attend).
I am a gardener. I am this moniker perhaps before I am anything else, before I am a woman. Before I am an aunt. Before I am a friend. For those who are not gardeners ‘tend’ will mean something slightly different (or altogether different). For gardeners the contemporary French (transitive) verb attendre is perhaps more fitting – To wait for, to await. To expect.
A gardener understands possibilities, embracing patience and possessing both a strategic vision as well as the tactical wherewithal to execute and to be undaunted by the scope of making something real out of nothing. For a gardener all things are also impermanent, the vagaries of weather, soil, sun – finicky plants, and hardly ones all may thrive or die without reason, explanation or intent. The larger world, I think, is harder on gardeners because we do not take, nor can we comprehend the ‘need’ of others to do so, and this causes us enormous pain.
This is my love’s labor (soon to be lost with uprooting myself). Five and half years of effort; of buying dirt, humus, peat moss, collecting coffee grounds and manure, sifting debris out of a back-filled, disused, courtyard, causing myself physical pain over and over and over again to nurture, to love the Earth and to tend my own soul, all of these in combination to create this. The mindset of a gardener is to give and our fleeting reward is found in butterflies and bees demanding more, of bird song and the beauty found in a friends’ smile at gifting the bounty from our attentions and labor.
Our skills are honed in solitude – there is no world stage to command, no film crew, no paparazzi, no reporters with probing questions or talking heads spewing hate. A gardener only understands unconditional love and finding a path to integration and tolerance and, even as we attend, in the end we know we control absolutely nothing.
I think about the disastrous records and current actions of global leaders played out as the rest of humanity waits to exhale; so clear to so many of us that the machinations of a handful will bring forth doom upon the rest of humankind. Where, beyond a healthy ego is narcissism and sociopathic behaviors that destroy because of indifference and avarice. Where even the nearly 2000 year old words attributed to the Caledonian Calgacus, and recorded by Tacitus in his Agricola, cannot adequately express the destruction we now bear witness to – largely because there is no peace, anywhere.
“Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans were resisted, still left in us a last hope of succor, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery. To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvelous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.”
Regardless of its intimacy all things are not perfect in my garden – but it is free of warfare. I refuse to use the arsenal available which would root out the evil of garden slugs and grubs alike (much as I loathe them). And that is the difference between a gardener and men such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Bashar Hafez al-Assad, of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, of the militants (or CIA and Mossad as some believe) of ISIS (or ISI as they are taking to now call themselves) and Vladimir Putin, and, disappointingly as I actually voted for him twice, Barack Obama with his double set of standards over offering airstrikes to protect the Yazidi while the instruments of diplomacy, equanimity and aid are denied Palestinians because of an omnipotent Jewish lobby. The tacit denial of war crimes being committed because it impacts trade relations and now further lobbying with the United States Congress to keep the ICC from pressing charges (I know, I want to be sick too).
We have just marked the 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War I; we’ve learned absolutely nothing. Blood still soaks the streets and fields as it did in Flanders it is not soldiers as cannon fodder this time (not yet) but innocent children and women living in the wrong place.
With an online search of the French transitive verb Attendre the use in a sentence sums up – perfectly. On attendait mieux de toi. We expected more from you. Perhaps being a gardener should be a prerequisite for all world leaders.
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