Nostalgia is not a sweet or minor matter, being, fundamentally, a form of boredom and it is boredom, not confinement, that will kill the lion. Forget the smiling, amiable, charming elder speaking winningly and dulcetly of the good old days for he (or she) has only contempt for the present and those good old days so deliciously described were as rotten as those of today and as similarly lamented.
Men were not more manly yesteryear, nor women lovelier. I’m sure that we would find Helen of Troy a drab and a disappointment and, as for Cleopatra, all that kohl and filleted hair would be dismaying. Wasn’t she rather short for a queen? There are even those who lament present conflicts who point to past wars as being nobler, more on mannerly, gentlemanly lines and then all those glorious trappings: the horses, the poetry, the delicious sport of it all. Blood, of course, was bluer and redder then.
Every age, it would seem, sighs for its past and yet, when it comes to gardens. . . . They were just as lovely then as now. But the one thing that they clad themselves in like some gorgeous raiment and the one covering lacking in today’s gardens was the absence of foul, disturbing, downright disabling noise; The pre-industrial garden was a luxury of sweet repose.
Instead of blasting blowers, exuding poisonous fumes along with deafening, military bombast, the garden of the recent past had the to and fro of whispers of sweeping brooms and bamboo rakes monitoring debris.
Hedges were clipped by hand-held shears whose cuts were sweet to the ear rather than the ceaseless sounds of gas or electric pruners. (When they stop in your garden, they begin at your neighbor’s.)
And the lawn, it was always a pleasant place, even while being mown, with a hand-pushed rotary machine that whirred with the sound of a moist spinning wheel and whose only defect was a tendency to get grass clogs. It got the job done a bit slower, true, but it also saved toads and frogs and butterflies. Far less tribulation to the nerves (did we have nerves then — I mean, in gardens?).
In yesterday’s patch we had hand-held sheep shears to clip the edges, a bit arduous but awfully good for young muscles. Not the brutalism of today’s trimmers. Or we let the edges just grow and concentrated on lemonade and reading.
What leaves had fallen in the fall gathered in great piles so wonderful for swan dives and tunneling for children and dogs. We burnt them (yes, we should have mulched and composted) in great slow pyres of delicious scent and I miss that odor so.