Gardening a leisurely activity? Not on your life, Anna Wintour

The Baltimore Sun

Amid stubborn rumors that she would soon be replaced, Anna Wintour, the legendary editor of Vogue magazine, was asked, while sitting on a journalism panel, what it would take for her to quit the business.

Wintour answered that her journalist father told her she would know when it was time to quit when she became "too angry" to continue, by which I think she meant "frustrated," but it wasn't clear.

But this was the rest of her answer: "The day I get too angry is the day I take up gardening."

I am not sure, but I think she was insulting gardeners.

She might have been suggesting that she would channel her angry energy into gardening and relieve the stress that way, but I don't think so.

Fellow panelist David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine, had just responded that only death would cause him to give up journalism, and I think she was suggesting that the only thing that lay between the exhilaration of working as a high-powered editor and death would be the empty wasteland of gardening.

Wintour is notoriously remote and never takes follow-up questions (think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada), so we may never know for sure, but I think she was saying that gardening is something you do to kill time after the meaningful work of your life is done.

I admit that when I think about quitting work or retiring, I imagine having more time to garden. But I am pretty sure that isn't what Wintour meant because - I am just guessing here - I don't think she gardens.

The world used to think of gardening the way I imagine Anna Wintour thinks of it - as a leisure activity.

And the world used to picture a gardener as a woman in a shirtwaist dress and pumps, who wore a bonnet and maybe an apron, and who snipped roses and placed them in a basket on her arm.

I bet that's what the impeccably dressed Anna Wintour would look like gardening. Like something off the cover of Better Homes & Gardens, circa 1952.

I can look like that, too, in my garden. I can stroll around at dusk, dressed for a party and with a glass of wine in my hand. But that isn't me gardening. That is me admiring my garden.

Me gardening is quite the vision. I have scared small children and cats when they see me in the garden - sweatband around my forehead, knee pads, gloves and all manner of garden weaponry sticking out of the pockets of my jeans.

And though I garden in my leisure time, I have never considered gardening a leisurely activity. It is four hours in the sun (sometimes the rain), bending, digging, lifting and groaning. My fingers are stained, and there is mud under my nails.

I am so filthy when I am done gardening that I often change clothes in the garage rather than drag all that dirt into the house. Gardening isn't for sissies or for legendary fashion mavens.

And gardening isn't something you do because you don't have anything else to do. To a real gardener, that doesn't even make sense.

I will admit that gardeners come into being at certain times in the life cycle: after they buy a house, after the kids are past that self-destructive toddler phase, or after the chaos of family life has waned and there is a little more time.

And I admit that the better gardeners are the older gardeners - the ones who have learned from their mistakes.

And I will even admit that the best gardeners might be the ones who have retired from some other line of work, because they have the time to do things right.

But I refuse to accept any suggestion that gardening is something to do to fill empty hours. It takes too much strength, it takes too much knowledge, it takes too much determination.

God knows that gardening is not something I do because I don't have anything better to do. And it is not something I am saving for that day when I am a burn-out case and gardening is all I can do.

Gardening is something I would rather do.

David Remnick had it right, I think. Death is probably the one thing that would cause me to give up gardening.

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