Monday, January 18, 2010

Dirty Hands - existentialism and garden happiness

Jean Paul Sartre might not strike one as the type to enjoy getting soil under his fingernails. He probably didn't. But one lasting memory of 'A' level French was studying Sartre's 'Les Mains Sales' (Dirty Hands). It contains the quote:

"Moi, j'ai les mains sales. Jusqu'aux coudes."
(Me, I have dirty hands. Right up to the elbows)

Suffice to say that the character wasn't talking about compost. And the story didn't have a happy ending. But, aside from people dirtying their hands in political assassinations, there is something blissful about getting dirt under your fingernails.

Now that the landscape has been returned to greens and browns, I have finally got round to planting the tulip bulbs that I received in October. Not being an existentialist, I didn't get on with DOING, but instead just did some thinking.

Ah, I thought when I received the bulbs, October's a bit early for tulip planting, I'll leave it until November.

Oh, I thought in November, November's a bit busy - I seem to be working lots of weekends. I'll get them planted in December

Argh, I thought in December, the ground has gone from mud to frozen in just one week. I'll get them planted over Christmas.

Grrr, I thought at Christmas, somewhere under that white is the ground, still frozen. I shall pelt the frozen ground with tulip bulbs and wail.

And so, half way through January, I've now planted them in pots. The tulips will come up. A little late, perhaps, but up they will come. That's what they do. They act. Existentialist tulips. And I got my hands dirty with soil for the first time in nearly two months.

And so, to paraphrase Sartre: Me, I've got dirty hands. I've plunged them into soil and into compost. And wow, it felt good.

14 comments:

Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

Yes, it is good to be playing in the dirt again.
K

patientgardener said...

How satisfying. I sowed some seeds in the greenhouse this weekend which made me feel good

Carol said...

Great solution! I know it feels good to finally resolve an unfinished chore. You will be rewarded too! Love the Sartre 'dirty hands' metaphor. Perhaps it was Simone who had the dirty hands in their happier days.

Juliet said...

I did Les Mains Sales too :)

I'm playing catch up as I haven't been up to much in the way of blogging or even blog reading since new year, so wanted to say I liked your snowdrop sculpture! And I've just seen another example of ephemeral art here.

A very late happy new year!

Anna said...

I have been eyeing up a little pile of unplanted bulbs HM and wondering and thinking ..... :) I am glad to hear that you are one step of me and have done the deed. You will not have to wait long for your reward.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

I love this post! I think we've all been there when it comes to bulbs. And you're so right that there's not much more satisfying than dirty hands from working with plants and soil.

VP said...

Fantastic HM! And if you want, you can still plant out your bulbs afterwards 'in the green' so to speak :)

fairegarden said...

Oh, I am so happy for you, Happy! Sartre would be as well, if he could, in his own way, sort of. As for me, I know exactly the feeling of thawed earth and the happiness it brings. Finally! :-)
Frances

Edith Hope said...

Dear HM, How splendid not to be alone in this late planting of bulbs, a subject I touched on on my own blog of a few days ago. It really does seem to be a topic which has brought the Blotanical gardening world together. Some things are just universally true. I am sure that Sartre would agree!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Yes, I miss having dirt under my nails, so I'm vicariously enjoying the feeling along with you. Bulbs are so forgiving. I think there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

James A-S said...

I too planted my last bulbs at the weekend: the theory being that if you plant them late they are less likely to be devoured by mice.
At least that is my current excuse.

Joanne said...

Snap well the planting of a few tulip bulbs in a pot and getting my hands in the dirt the first time this year bit.

At least we know they didn't get frozen so there should be no problem having flowers eventually.

The clay soil here is inclined to be a bit wet for tulips so they don't last many years in the garden.

Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel said...

Love dipping my hands into the fragrant well-cooked black gold of compost!
Alice

HappyMouffetard said...

Such a relief that I'm not the only one to get a little behind on planting :)