Gardener’s Guide to Marriage


A little more snow came our way, and I was sent alone into the mountains to see how a half foot of powder felt beneath the old skis. Well, they still glide, I found. The forest is still lovely. And as I flew along the pristine glory of it all, I was still in the pissy mood I’d left town in.

I’d been fighting a bit with The Man of the Place the last few days. We’d been sick, sleepless, grumpy. I was a little perturbed, in fact, that he had insisted so emphatically that I take the skis and go. If there was something to not be perturbed about, I didn’t know it. Every word we spoke was another hot piece of kindling for the imminent marital immolation.

I wanted to break out of the cycle. I knew we had to, and had faith that we would (we’ve been at this 15 years). I just couldn’t seem to remember how. As I skied along, I reviewed my nice long list of insightful points to make, rational arguments to show that I was, in fact, quite right to be perturbed about the socks left on the floor, the incessant music making when the dusting needed to be done, the long naps when my list showed other things needed doing. Or whatever it was that started this fire. If it was even my fault, which I was sure it wasn’t. And now I had proof!


This being a powder day in the mountains, my thoughts mercifully wandered. I began thinking of snow melt, and springtime, and the garden. And then I thought of how in the garden, you’re not supposed to battle every bug with soap sprays and neem oil or boxes from the nursery filled with ladybugs. You are, in the words of Carole Tashel, not meant to struggle against natural forces much at all, but to “focus your efforts on enhancing unstressed plant growth: improved soil quality, proper watering, companion planting, preventing stress, etc.”

And Ding Ding Ding went the wise mind of the girl moving as one with her skis through the forest with snow falling all around. I didn’t have to win the fight! I didn’t have to come up with the magic bullet that would end all fights forever. I didn’t even have to fight. Instead, I could direct my efforts at enhancing unstressed growth. On love, on kindness, on respect. I should focus, as Eliot Coleman puts it, on the “insusceptibility of plants rather than the killing of pests…an approach that is plant positive rather than pest negative.”

I flew back up the trail, blissed out by the snowscape, the excercise, the revolutionary applications of gardening genius to marriage.


I decided to leave the neem oil spray in the shed when I put my skis away that afternoon. Something had shifted and I found myself on the other side of the fire, able to be affectionate and loving and not burning with my need to be right. I could be love-positive rather than bicker-negative. And so I was able to shine with that light of love, and, most wondrously of all, to be received.

And there it was, rising from the ashes: the shared heart — this garden– that has been built from our long togetherness.

You know what? It’s okay to have a few bugs! It’s okay to have weeds! The permaculturists remind us that the problem is the solution, that the weed makes good tea and the bug is a messenger. We can welcome these things not as the End, but as part of the forces of life.

The work we are given to do as partners in relationship–not just with our beloved, but our children and community–is simple. We can feed the soil, nourish it, offer the many small gestures it needs so that it may be fruitful and generous in return. Build it, rejoice in it, give thanks for it. It all turns on affection.

Now if we can all just agree that I’m right I’ll be quiet.


If you receive this in your inbox, as I think most of you dear readers do, did you know you could just hit reply to leave a comment? Very painless, and likely to produce a positive feedback effect of slightly more frequent writing on my part, maybe even once a month! Plus, I like to know who you are, and to be able to follow your adventures, too.

26 Replies to “Gardener’s Guide to Marriage”

  1. what a wonderful insight. I sometimes find that I’ve been fighting with my husband solely with the need to be right in the end… haha What a silly thing when I put it that way. Your adventure in thinking and skiing makes me want to go try skiing. Thanks for that. I could use a little reprieve from the negativity when it comes along.
    Glad to see you post again! I’ve missed your blog.
    I switched to a new blog reader – blog lovin’ – from Google Reader, and this makes commenting so much easier! I’m sure you’ll see me around much more often. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your nice post. It reminded me that sometimes the only thing wrong is thinking that things are wrong. Lovely photos, also.

  3. Awesome, as always. And strikingly parallel to what I’ve been feeling here in our home these days . . . instead of trying to get everyone else to shape up, I’ve shifted to saying Thank You and shining my light on all the little positives. Remarkable how they accumulate when you begin to notice them, and how everyone breathes more deeply and with less fear and anger. Love to you and yours.

    1. I like to think of you as a little support group in the practice of light shining. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it, but can be so hard, too.

  4. Ahh wise words from the earth straight through you my dear. Thanks to the mountains for passing this wisdom along, I think we are all feeling a bit of the bitter cabin fever righteousness these days. The lists are long and the action is low- hello people let’s get moving, or at least get out of my way!! We all need to get out more, let go more and remember being right doesn’t feel as good as being light.
    lots of love to you

  5. oh, Kyce, that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, giving love and kindness feels even better than thinking we’re right! A lesson to learn over and over in this humble journey of relating to our world. Thank-you for your honesty, what a welcomed gift.

  6. Totally lovely, I am pinning it! I so appreciate when bloggers share honestly about marriage; walking that find line between intimacy, and respect of one’s spouse, and authentic blogging crafted in a way to help others can be so tricky, it takes real delicacy and humility. You always do it with such humour, as well! Thank you.

  7. Thank you for sharing that. I’ve missed being given insights into your world these last few months. And you say you like to know who we are . . . I’m a mother to two little (big, they tell me!) girls. We live in Scotland and run an artisan bakery (yes, I followed you over here from Adrie’s blog!). I love your writing on simplicity and family life.

  8. Perhaps it is the season. We are experiencing a few…um…bugs and weeds…ahem…over in my garden as well. Thank you for the lovely reminder to nourish that soil. So glad to see this post. Much love to you!!!!

  9. Lovely. Brilliant. I think I’ve been zapping my eldest child with proverbial bug spray…well, pretty much since he was born. Time to turn instead to tending his leafy greens. Thank you!

    1. I’m laughing at this one, Andrea. Why is it so hard to not zap those eldest children with bug spray? Yeah, this is pretty much an extension of parenting wisdom (as well as gardening wisdom) towards the menfolks.

  10. Your thoughts are beautiful, I appreciate that you write them down to share. I am on a similar path, but in upstate new york. As a radical homemaking mama of three trying to push the boundaries, you help me examine my own thoughts. This latest post was especially insightful– thank you! ❤

  11. It makes so much sense to just focus on love, kindness, and respect. Congratulations on your journey of marriage. I’ve only been married a few years, and I love to hear about other couples, and their peace-making tactics.

  12. Love the permaculture analogy. Just love it. Thank you. Ben Affleck apparently said it less eloquently, but equally convincingly, at the Oscars–though I didn’t get to hear his speech. Methinks there’s new appreciation in the world for conscious marriage–opposite or same sex, it doesn’t matter. The reward of being and staying together, though, does. If the soil is tended.

  13. Oh man, how I loved this Kyce. For my garden and my marriage. It’s like Dr. Laura Markham says, “if a plant is not thriving, you water it, not yell at it,” or something like that. And yes, to the weeds of our garden and marriages and parenting. Life is perfectly imperfect and who are we to mess with that.
    With gratitude,

  14. I was so happy to see you had posted again!!! I loved this so much, so true, thinking just getting out into nature and breathing fresh air worked some magic, but esp. love your analogy to the garden, we had some very good things harvested, in spite of the moles, weeds and deer pestering! Loved seeing you here again, come again much sooner, love your blog!

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