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Lesson Seven


Mandela's Garden Nelson Mandela

Pre-class Work I

Read the text once for the main idea. Do not refer to the notes dictionaries or the glossary yet.

In early 1977, the authorities announced the end of manual labor and arranged some type of work for us to do in the courtyard, so we could spend our days in our section. The end of manual labor was liberating. I could now spend the day reading, writing letters, discussing issues with my comrades, or preparing legal documents. The free time also allowed me to pursue what became two of my favorite hobbies on Robben Island: gardening and tennis.
To survive in prison, one must develop ways to take satisfaction in one's daily life. One can feel fulfilled by washing one's clothes so that they are particularly clean, by sweeping a hallway so that it is empty of dust, by organizing one's cell to save as much space as possible. Just as one takes pride in important tasks outside of prison, one can find the same pride in doing small things inside prison.
"Almost from the beginning of my sentence on Robben Island, I asked the authorities for permission to start a garden in the courtyard. For years, they refused without offering a reason. But eventually they gave in, and we were able to cut out a small garden on a narrow patch of earth against the far wall.
The soil in the courtyard was dry and rocky. The courtyard had been constructed over a garbage dump, and in order to start my garden, I had to remove a great many rocks to allow the plants room to grow. At the time, some of my comrades joked that I was a miner at heart, for I spent my days in a wasteland and my free time digging in the courtyard.
The authorities supplied me with seeds. I at first planted tomatoes, chilies, and onions—hardy plants that did not require rich earth or constant care. The early harvests were poor, but they soon improved. The authorities did not regret giving permission, for once the garden began to flourish, I often provided the warders with some of my best tomatoes and onions.
While I have always enjoyed gardening, it was not until I was behind bars that I was able to tend my own garden. My first experience in the garden was at Fort Hare where, as part of the university's manual labor requirement, I worked in one of my professors' gardens and enjoyed the contact with the soil as an alternative to my intellectual labors. Once I was in Johannesburg studying and then working, I had neither the time nor the space to start a garden.
I began to order books on gardening. I studied different gardening techniques and types of fertilizers. I did not have many of the materials that the books discussed, but I learned through trial and error. For a time, I attempted to grow peanuts, and used different soils and fertilizers, but finally I gave up. It was one of my few failures.
A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the owner of the small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom.
In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. Leaders must also look after their gardens; they, too, plant seeds, and then watch, cultivate, and harvest the results. Like gardeners, leaders must take responsibility for what they cultivate; they must mind their work, try to drive back enemies, save what can be saved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.
I wrote Winnie two letters about a particularly beautiful tomato plant, how I made it grow from a tender seedling to a strong plant that produced deep red fruit. But then, either through some mistake or lack of care, the plant began to wither and decline, and nothing I did would bring it back to health. When it finally died, I removed the roots from the soil, washed them, and buried them in a corner of the garden.
I told her this small story at great length. I do not know what she read into that letter, but when I wrote it I had a mixture of feelings: I did not want our relationship to go the way of that plant, and yet I felt that I had been unable to nourish many of the most important relationships in my life. Sometimes there is nothing one can do to save something that must die.

Read the text a second time. Learn the words and expressions listed below.


v. to make plans about what to do 安排

n. 方面

n. Here: a small room for a person (persons) in prison

n. 干辣椒(粉);Here: pepper 辣椒

v. to build

n. the act or state of touching or meeting 接触

v. 种植;栽培

v. to become weaker or worse 变衰弱

n. 文件

n. a place for dumping garbage 垃圾倾倒场

v. to remove; to get rid of 除去;消灭

adj. lasting

adv. in the end

n. 肥料

v. to grow quickly in a healthy way 长得好

v. to perform a duty or a task with satisfaction 完成;实现

n. the entrance hall of a house

adj. mental 脑力的

n. an important problem

adj. using the hands 体力的

n. 隐喻

n. a person who works in a mine 矿工

n. 混合物

v. to help sth. to grow 培育

n. 洋葱

n. a small area of ground

n. 花生

n. act of allowing 允许

v. to go on with; to be busy with 从事;进行

n. a part of a larger place; Here: one part of the prison 监狱的一个区

n. a young plant 幼苗

v. to continue to live 生存下去

v. Here: to take care of; to look after

adj. delicate, easily broken or damaged 娇嫩的

n. 网球

n. the head of a prison 监狱长;Here: 看守;狱卒

v. to dry up; to be reduced in size and colour 枯萎


Rite of Spring Arthur Miller

I have never understood why we keep a garden and why over 36 years ago when I bought my first house in the country, I started digging up a patch for vegetables before doing anything else. When you think how easy and cheap, relatively, it is to buy a bunch of carrots or beets, why raise them? And root crops especially are hard to tell apart, when store-bought, from our own. There is a human instinct at work here, a kind of back-breaking make-believe that has no reality. Besides, I don't particularly like eating vegetables. I'd much rather eat something juicy and fat. Like hot dogs.
Now, if you could raise hot dogs outside your window, you'd really have something you could justify without a second's hesitation. As it is, though, I cannot deny that when April comes I find myself going out to lean on the fence and look at that miserable plot of land, resolving with all my rational powers not to plant it again. But inevitably a morning arrives when, just as I am awakening, a scent wafts through the window, something like earth-as-air, a scent that seems to come up from the very center of this planet. And the sun means business, suddenly, and has a different, deeper yellow in its beams on the carpet. The birds begin screaming hysterically, thinking what I am thinking—the worms are deliciously worming their way through the melting soil.
It is not only pleasure sending me back to stare at that plot of soil, it is really conflict. The question is the same each year—what method should we use? The last few years we put 36-inch-wide black plastic between the rows, and it worked perfectly, keeping the soil moist in dry times and weed-free.
But black plastic looks so industrial, so unromantic, that I have gradually moved over to hay mulch. We cut a lot of hay and, as it rots, it does improve the soil's Composition. Besides, it looks lovely, and comes to us free.
Keeping a garden makes you aware of how delicate, bountiful, and easily ruined the surface of this little planet is. In that 50-by-70-foot patch there must be a dozen different types of soil. Tomato won't grow in one part but loves another, and the same goes for the other crops. I suppose if you loaded the soil with chemical fertilizer these differences would be less noticeable, but I use it sparingly and only in rows right where seeds are planted rather than broadcast over the whole area. I'm not sure why I do this beyond the saving in fertilizer and my unwillingness to aid the weeds.
The attractions of gardening, I think, at least for a certain number of gardeners, are neurotic and moral. Whenever life seems pointless and difficult to grasp, you can always get out in the garden and get something done. Also, your paternal or maternal instincts come into play because helpless living things are depending on you, require training and encouragement and protection from enemies. In some cases, as with beans and cucumbers, your children—as it were—begin to turn upon you in massive numbers, growing more and more each morning and threatening to follow you into the house to strangle you in their vines.
Gardening is a moral occupation, as well, because you always start in spring resolved to keep it looking neat this year, just like the pictures in the catalogues. But by July, you once again face the chaos of unthinned carrots, lettuce and beets. This is when my wife becomes—openly now—mistress of the garden. A consumer of vast quantities of vegetables, she does the thinning and hand-cultivating of the tiny plants. Squatting, she patiently moves down each row selecting which plants shall live and which she will cast aside.
At about this time, my wife's 86-year-old mother, a botanist, makes her first visit to the garden. She looks about skeptically. Her favorite task is binding the tomato plants to stakes. She is an outspoken, truthful woman, or she was until she learned better. Now, instead of saying, "You have planted the tomatoes in the damp part of the garden," she waits until October when she makes her annual trip to her home in Europe; then she gives me my good-by kiss and says casually," Tomatoes in damp soil tend more to get fungi," and walks away to her plane. But by October nothing in the garden matters, so sure am I that I will never plant it again.
I garden, I suppose, because I must. It would be intolerable to have to pass an unplanted fenced garden a few times a day. There are also certain compensations, and these must be what annually turn my mind toward all that work. There are few sights quite as beautiful as a vegetable garden glistening in the sun, all dewy and glittering with a dozen shades of green at seven in the morning. Far lovelier, in fact, than rows of hot dogs. In some pocket of the mind there may even be a tendency to change this vision into a personal reassurance that all this healthy growth, this orderliness and thrusting life must somehow reflect similar movements in one's own spirit. Without a garden to till and plant I would not know what April was for.
As it is, April is for getting irritated all over again at this pointless, time-consuming hobby. I do not understand people who claim to "love" gardening. A garden is an extension of oneself—or selves—and so it has to be an arena where striving does not cease, but continues by other means. As an example: you simply have to face the moment when you must admit that the lettuce was planted too deep or was not watered enough, cease hoping it will show itself tomorrow, and dig up the row again. But you will feel better for not standing on your dignity. And that's what gardening is all about—character building. Which is why Adam was a gardener. (And all know where it got him, too.)
But is it conceivable that the father of us all should have been a weaver, shoemaker, or anything but a gardener? Of course not. Only the gardener is capable of endlessly reviving so much hope that this year, regardless of drought, flood, typhoon, or his own stupidity, this year he is going to do it right! Leave it to God to have picked the proper occupation for his only creature capable of such self-delusion.
I suppose it should be added, for honesty's sake, that the above was written on one of the coldest days in December.