We give gifts often because it’s expected, sometimes because we feel the need to fill a need, and, ideally, because we are motivated by a sudden inspiration and decide not to stress about whether the receiver will think it is too much or too paltry, or misconstrue our intentions. The truth is, I would like to be that person who gives gifts willy-nilly all the time for no reason at all. Yes, something to work on.
This particular list has a theme, and that theme is “gifts with a mission.” Or, it could be “gifts that give.” Still, it is I who gets to decide the missions, which gives the gifts a selfish bent. The whole topic is fraught with peril. Nevertheless, here goes:
1. A $50 membership to the Garden Conservancy will do some good, even if the recipient puts the membership card in a pile and rediscovers it in October, 2014 after the frost has blackened the basil. But, assuming that does not happen, he or she will receive an Open Days Directory, and thereby be alerted to some wonderful garden visiting opportunities. The mission, in this case, is that of restoring once beautiful spaces to their former glory. Before this worthy organization existed, landscape restoration—if it was considered at all—took a back seat to building preservation. Which was simply not fair.
2. The HerShovel was designed and manufactured by women for women. The shape of the handle, the angle of the blade, and the enlarged step were thoroughly thought out by Ann and Liz, the Pennsylvania entrepreneurs who started Green Heron Tools. They minimize their environmental footprint, advocate for the interests of women in agriculture, and seek out women to trial their line of tools. Just for the record, I am (sadly) not one of the testers.
3. There are a few books on nature and garden journaling out there, each aimed toward a different type of “noticer.” For the writer, I suggest The Forest Unseen by biologist David Haskell, who has the gift of noticing the microscopic world and relating its nuances to the vast geologic time scale. His writing soars. Artist's Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson is an expansive and joyful effort that includes journal pages from 27 artists. Her project ideas and drawing guidance will leave you hankering to create. Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles Roth is an oldie but goodie that offers a more nuts-and-bolts approach. The mission here, of course, is getting us all to pay more attention. So we will care, and know what it is that we care about.
4. A tool holster (such as this handy Tommyco model) has the beneficent mission of saving tools from the sad plight of losing themselves to the wildness that is your garden. And you know how that ends: if they reappear at all they turn up rusted beyond repair. So there you have it. A simple, inexpensive device can save the lives of loved ones. You too can be a patron of lost tools.
5. A Phalaenopsis orchid may seem like a stretch, but consider this: To keep an orchid alive, to appreciate it and coax it into a second, third, and fourth bloom, I believe you have to strive to think like an orchid. That is, you must imagine yourself clinging to a tree and absorbing the minerals in the rainwater that runs down into the channels of its bark. Your ropey green roots aim this way and that, exposing themselves to the moist night air, epiphytically grabbing convenient surfaces. And after a time, when all is right, you send up a root lookalike, which magically transforms itself into an exquisite series of intricate blooms. If you think like an orchid, you will be less likely to drown your plant’s roots. But, more to the point, you may also be inclined to think like a pillbug, an eagle, a cloud. And imagine if all humans troubled themselves to think beyond their own wellbeing. The earth would be a better place.
And wouldn’t that be lucky?