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In Association with

Gardening, with Pen in Hand




by Eva Shaw, Ph.D.

I am asking you to look at keeping a garden journal.

It’s good for the soul, it’s good therapy, and it’s a good way to grow.

Just today I’ve received a new one—a hard cover that’s stripped like garden onions, with a silky marigold-colored ribbon to mark the progression of my journaling.

The journal is pristine, clean and fresh, much like my cutting garden was less than a year ago. Soon, the journal will be spilling over with words like my new garden.

Gardens and journals are much the same—they start with dreams. The one in my front yard was a birthday present from my husband. He hauled bricks, sweated over cement, wheeled in topsoil, all in the name of love. I choose the flowers. I dug in the dirt to create a bit of paradise joining with nature.

I planted sweet peas for fragrance, and since their season is short, they tell me to cherish life, reminding me that we do not know the number of our days. I planted bulbs by the dozen. I loved their surprise factor. I can never remember just where I’ve planted them and BAM!

They pop up in unexpected places. They take me to a time when as a child I was ill, feverish and miserable. Mama arranged a handful of King Alfred daffodils in a crystal vase and placed them near my bedside. It was my first grown up bouquet and formed a part of me that continues, now these years later, to share her “flowers make you feel better” philosophy as I give bouquets away.

Daisies are in the garden because they’re part of my history. When Joe and I were first married, barely making ends meet, he splurged one payday showering me with a small bouquet of daisies. In our 31 years together, I’ve received more expensive gifts, but the daisy remembrance is wrapped in the velvet of precious memories. I must ask him if he remembers. I am sure he does.

Sunflowers are in my cutting garden although I cannot get myself to cut these beauties as they tower over the garden fence and flaunt their faces to the world. They tell me it’s good to be sturdy and stand out from the crowd.

A journal is like a garden where we “plant” our ideas, some perhaps too dear to share and some that are better left as secrets. We can place words on paper to write out, scratch out, rewrite and ponder at silent moments.

There are no rules to journaling as there are no right or wrong ways to garden. Someday when I’m older, I may want to think back and marvel at my (possibly misspent) youthful middle age, juggling writing projects with a garden full of marauding slugs barely waiting until twilight to pay a visit.

Taking time to write in a garden journal feels odd, especially if we’re not practiced at jotting down thoughts, plans and even jumbled ideas. Knotty memories may shoot up and we may wonder if they’re weeds or the sprouts of something to be cherished. Sometimes we have to wait and see.

In our garden journal we need not censor or explain. The book can be for our eyes only, to be hidden away from others. That’s the “job” of a journal.

Journaling about the garden isn’t great literature. It’s simply a reflection of me. Oh, how I wish my grandmothers had kept journals.

So if for nothing but the future, I’ll write. Someday, perhaps from this beautiful new journal, a yet unborn child will say, “I’m planting sweet peas. Great Grandmother Eva adored them.” This reader will know that in 2005, only lavender sweet peas produced flowers. That “fact” will disappear unless it’s in my journal.

I’m going to press flowers between the pages, a snapshot of my garden, maybe a bit of poetry, a photograph of my Welsh terrier, Buttons. I will add garden-variety quotes to stir me and thoughts I cannot do without.

What will I write? What will YOU write? I’m a simple person and will scribble, “Today I’ve started this garden journal. With paper and pen I will tell myself about my garden.”

It’s my hope you write about the breezes on your face, the soil on your fingers and the sunshine on your back, among other miracles.


Eva Shaw is a woman who lives to write, garden and mentor. She teaches writing online, speaks nationally on grief and recovery and is the author of the just released, What to Do When a Loved One Dies: A practical and compassionate guide for dealing with death on life’s terms. Available in local bookstores, or from the publisher and from Amazon.Com .

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