A garden and a library

The public library in Camden, Maine includes a beautiful waterfront garden. June 2012

The lower level of the public library in Camden, Maine
opens onto a beautiful waterfront garden. June 2012

“He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

Several weeks ago one of our readers sent me this quote, and I immediately thought “That would make a great post for the blog.”  What makes the quote so appealing is that most people can have at least a small library and garden, or even if they cannot, can have access to public or private libraries and gardens — sometimes very grand ones.

As much as I love my own library (not a place, but a collection of books scattered throughout two different homes) and my own modest attempts at gardening, I will never tire of exploring the wonders of public libraries and gardens.  I also enjoy the more modest but equally appealing libraries and gardens of like-minded friends.  In such settings there is wealth enough to fill several lifetimes with exploration, discovery, and joy.

I read a translator somewhere who said that he imagined Cicero must have been referring to a garden as a gathering place where people could sit and discuss ideas.  While that sounds logical, there are all kinds of reasons for gardens, just as there are all sorts of reasons why people need libraries.  Wherever you find them, and whatever you find within them, I wish you an abundance of opportunities to enjoy both.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    I loved this phrase: “there is wealth enough to fill several lifetimes with exploration, discovery, and joy.” That really nails it.
    I miss going to the library, now. Browsing online isn’t the same. Also, since (as you noted) it would require several lifetimes to read everything in even a smallish library, it’s daunting to pick something to read. I feel I’ve wasted time on some books that would have been better spent reading other books….!?!

    • Susan, I agree that browsing online is not the same. It has advantages, but it isn’t the total experience that one gets in a real library, especially one with lots of atmosphere (which is often found in the very old ones). I try to be philosophical about time wasted on books that I ended up not liking, but now that I’m so much older, I have been choosier (often opting for classics such as Vanity Fair which I’m currently devouring and totally love) and also being more willing to put a book down without finishing it if I find it boring, formulaic, or unnecessarily profane. As you say, for every book we do read, we give up another one we might have read. That makes it easier to “just say no” to a book that has no redeeming value.

  2. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Having just now come indoors from my early morning pleasure of watering our flower and vegetable garden, and settling down to read your blog, Cicero’s words ring true. Gardens and things to read are deeply satisfying, especially during this time of pandemic and upheaval when many of us need anchors that are quiet and peaceful. Flowers and books are good for the soul.

    I followed your link about Cicero and enjoyed reading about his interesting life in Roman politics. Lots of important people, lots of intrigue were captured in his many writings that have survived over 2000 years. It didn’t end well for him. He might have done better with a calmer life of gardens and books.

    I saw your earlier note about other dollhouses and I followed the link to the royal one. Amazing! Thank you!

    • Judy, I’ve started watering in the early morning too (as a supplement to using the sprinkler system, since some patches obviously aren’t getting enough). Other than reading, nothing has helped me maintain my sanity more surely than spending time working outside, gardening and weeding. Often I’m able to combine both pursuits by listening to audio books while working. I can’t think of a more satisfying day than one in which I spend several hours working outside (in mild temperatures 🙂 ) listening to a great story or uplifting work of nonfiction. As a bonus, when I’m outside I’m not nearly as tempted to snack and sip tea all day long. Although taking an iced tea break in the early afternoon certainly hits the spot! Thanks for the tip about Cicero. I’ll have to go back and read about him. What an amazing world we live in, rich with nature, history and undiscovered possibilities. Happy 4th!

  3. Mike

    we come from the earth, we ‘re turn to th earth and in between us gardening,,

    • That about sizes it up!

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: