BEAUTY IS in the eye of the beholder - and in his heart and spirit and everything else that opens wide in exclaimed delight at the lengthening days of this season. If what May is doing now is nature's apology for the behavior of last winter, it is accepted.

Among the forgivers, few are more forgetful of the cold past than those who know best where to embrace the warm present - in the garden. Thin the weeds tamp the mulched rosebeds, send the fingers inches-deep into the accepting earth - these are the stretching exercises of the garderner as he limbers up to run in May's race, the early lap of summer.

Gardeners are the most visible of May's enthusiasts, if only because their motionlessness is easily sighted: becalmed people of inaction who go into the backyard to pass the morning by clearing the tangle of the pachysandras and then fill the afternoon by watering the spaces. Observers see these gardeners as addicted painstakers, like writers who spend the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon taking it out. But gardeners who can go for the whole day with nothing to show for it but roughened knees and tired backs understand that it would be meaningless if the opposite were the case, if they had everything to show. What is everything , unless it is the already available pleasures of anticipating the sight of a garden's coming up in growth again?

Gardeners are usually content with small places that are part of the large process. In "The Man Born to Farming," the Kentucky poet Wendell Berry writes:

The grower of trees, the gardener, the man born to farming, whose hands reach into the ground and sprout, to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing.He has seen the light lie down in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.

So the gardener may not be so idle or contemplative a soul after all. He is dealing with uprisings. If we aren't noticing them, it is because we still think that uprisings come with loud noises. But not the ones known by May's garderners. They come with Silences, as quiet as growth and just as tremendous.