Most of us walk around with dreams. Some of them are worth having and others need more thinking through. As the weed bursts forth despite the cool spring, I dream of having one of the gardeners across the road at the palace work my little patch with all of their amazing machinery that turns gardening into a comfortable activity conducted from a golf cart. As I dream of this luxury, my reality is that I have managed to clear the infamous bishop’s goutweed from the beds behind my house using a spade that was produced in the dark days that preceded ergonomic science. I look to the ceramic Buddha’s head placed serenely in another corner of the garden and note that unless I get onto that patch within the next couple of days, the lord Buddha will be buried in a virile jungle of weed with notoriously deep and tangled roots.
Across the road, gardeners dressed in uniform whisk about the paths of the palace in white carts. A blower clears the pathways and a rake dragged on the back of one of the carts makes orderly patterns in the gravel. The tulips prepare to bloom in equidistant rows and the very sight of a weed fighting its way up in the soil in between results in its prompt extinguishment. The long rows of linden trees receive a shower of nutrients through a tube directed at the roots. The King’s recent order to distribute free compostible doggy-doo bags in the park has been promptly seen to by a machine that effortlessly hammers poles into the ground from which the new free offerings hang. No where is there a spade, old or new, to be seen. Spades are the instruments of the plebeians across the street.
As I walk through the park, green with jealousy as well as one of the King’s compostible doggy-doo bags wrapped in readiness over my hand, I notice that the birch leaves are the size of mouse ears. It is written in the lore of Swedish peasant farmers that when the birch have reached this revered state, the potatoes must be planted. Planting these most Nordic of all bulbs is one of those things that everyone should get a crack at. Having the chance to dig a spade into the earth is to experience the very essence of spring.
One of the royals breaks the ground with a shiny new spade and hundreds of people clap. It’s time to “plant” another tree. I ask myself what life would be like if each time that I picked up a spade I had to do it without getting my hands or shoes dirty, and with a team of bodyguards ready to throw themselves on top of me. With my gardens tended by teams of specialists in golf carts, I’d never get the chance to know the joy of planting a potato and, yes, even uprooting the prolific goutweed. The answer is that I’d be dying for that moment of plebeian joy across the street.
I’m not a Republican so far but things are moving in that direction. It isn’t that I don’t like the royals, it’s just that wellbeing isn’t to be found in a perfectly manicured garden but in a life of experience dug with an ancient spade. No one should be denied that pleasure.
Attention all tulip lovers! The park is full of them and in Stockholm you can now enjoy a special photographic exhibition of tulips. Visit www.nordicwellbeing.com and check Happening Now 2010 on the home page.