I‘ve been silent on here for some time, concentrating on work in the adult world, which left me with little time and energy for anything else. After a break and time to recalibrate, I’m on this page again… Seeing metaphors in my growing garden and this strange time of semi-lifted lockdown.
So.., sew..? How does my garden grow?
Unlike the nursery rhyme, apparently:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells,
And cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
Well, I’m not Mary, though at times I could be described as ‘contrary’… And in the elongated, strangulated times of COVID, my garden grew in pretty much the way it had always done – soaking up sun and rain and reaching higher into the sky. The garden is split into upper and lower levels and below, nature tended towards wild, whilst I tamed and pruned and mowed, just every now and again, to keep some sense of man-made order in the tangles of sap and seed that nature decrees.
My upper garden is a terrace and in that I seek colour and variety by planting up pots every year with a mixture of annuals and perennials. These are purchased from favourite independent plant nurseries in May, when the frosts start to thaw out and I can plant species of exotic origin, which will thrive for the short band of summer in the centre of England where I currently live.
But not in the time of Corona… In a land in lockdown I must do things differently… The garden centres were closed or restricting their custom and so, instead, I found plants at local grocery stores, where I had to stand in a long line to buy, or at supermarkets at the end of the day, dried up and wilting. By habit I shop much the same plants, but in lockdown, such choice was denied to me, so I took what I could find… Begonias, which I dislike, dried up petunias that no one else wanted: a half dead pack of lobelia, which my local Co-Op sold to me for a pound – “I can’t charge you full price for that…”
Each find was a little victory – a tiny triumph of patience, with trophies of a successful hunt which were carried home with a small smile of satisfaction.
At the end of May, when I should have been on ‘the holiday of a lifetime’ in Bali, my travel plans scuppered by COVID; I was planting up pots in my garden instead, feeling grateful for my gains, the sunshine and the soil in my fingernails.
And my garden grew through lockdown, with some human care and intermittent attention. As June peaked, the upper terrace revealed its’ treasures of bloom in a rainbow of glorious colours, jewel bright, amidst the green foliage. All this was just in time to impress the allowed number of guests who came to celebrate my birthday in the safely spaced arena of my garden.
The combination of plants gathered serendipitously, is decadently different to my norm, but somehow all the more special for it. All those nascent wilting plants have revived, thrived and continued to reward me with new flowers and inspiration throughout the wending UK weather, through out July and now into August, currently hot and sweet, so I spend my spare time in the garden, eating ‘out’ and engaging with the birds and my senses.
And outside the lockdown lid has started to lift. Some freedoms have slowly been restored, whilst others have clamped down, tighter. It’s an odd, jerky time and having now to emerge from my cosy COVID cocoon, I am negotiating it and the changes it brings, one step at a time. Some of the changes are jagged, sharp and unpleasant, but in this Corona time must be worked through, applying logic and compassion in strange, equal measures.
The authorities in the UK are reacting to the vicissitudes of the virus in an un-co-ordinated and clumsy way. I have some empathy with this though, as responses seem to be for me too, a weird wedding of expertise and knee jerk response. To control this , I break each situation down in to its’ base elements and build them back up again into the shape they need to be. This isn’t always easy in a world of relentless hard work, chaos and shifting sands of circumstance, but it gives a structure in this altered landscape of life and a level of controlled sanity.
And I take care to take care of myself. If I neglect this, which I have at times during the recent crazy path of the past, the madness takes over and I’m in danger of being subsumed by it. So I balance life and work. I focus on my creativity, my rest and recreation and then I have the fuel I need to focus wholly and resolutely on my work.
In the meantime there are the new found appreciations of meeting a friend for a meal, taking a small holiday, going for socially distanced swim and seeing my garden grow. This summer I have spent so much time in that garden and we’ve grown together. I’ve taken stock, I’ve pruned carefully and pulled out the dead leaves. And I’ve pulled the dead heads off plants, so they can breath and reward me with more flowers.
And as to those begonias that I used to hate, well, whilst not invited, they’ve gone and given me an endless supply of large, beautiful yellow blooms. The wilted petunias have provided endless purple flowers and the half dead lobelia – a cascade of sky blue and white to soften the edges of my tended terrace.
So actually, in this time of Corona, my garden has grown beautifully and so, it can be said, have I, without a predictable ‘silver bell’ or ‘cockle shell’ any where to be seen.
Yours – with green fingers and dirty fingernails,
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