“Sometimes he used a spade in his garden, and sometimes he read and wrote. He had but one name for these two kinds of labor; he called them gardening. â€˜The Spirit is a garden,â€™ said he”
â€” Victor Hugo (Les MisÃ©rables)
I just read this, in my new nightly ritual of reading the kids to sleep with an early English edition of Les MisÃ©rables that I have from my great aunt’s house. I have been a huge fan of this story since about 1990 when our class traveled to Toronto to see the show at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. I loved the show, and dubbed a classmate’s copy of the soundtrack. One day when visiting my Great Aunt, who lived in the same house where she was raised by my Great Grandparents, I spotted an old edition of Les MisÃ©rables in her lawyer’s bookshelf, behind glass doors. I borrowed it and read the whole thing. About 10 years later, my beau (now husband) bought me a 4-volume French edition. In Paris we had to visit Victor Hugo’s house and I still wear my souvenir watch I bought there.
All this to say that picking up my copy of Les MisÃ©rables is just one of many small turns of the spade that I have been taking with my own spirit lately. Delving back into the “me” that had been somewhat vacated during the toddler years and rapid pace of the urban working life.
Tending my spirit, reading Wendell Berry again, revisiting nature, pulling out the pen, dabbling in art. All this labour in my garden is at the least stirring the soil.