Evening

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“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I need these nightly rituals, now;

the damp smell of the earth

as I water the garden,

the happy presence

of seedlings sprouting,

a moment alone with the

new moon rising.

Noticing how, wherever there are spaces,

Life fills them up.

Rewilding in Lockdown

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One of the best things about rewilding the garden is the way it keeps surprising me.

Clumps of lemonbalm and fennel have self-seeded among the ferns, possibly from a teabag in the compost. Last year’s wildflower patch didn’t work too well (too shady, planted too late) but is now full of ox-eye daisies, red campion, honesty, poppies and bright pops of orange calendula. The overgrown lawn is rich with dandelions and clovers, alive with bumblebees, birds, butterflies, hoverflies and dragonflies.

Seeds are silently growing everywhere, flowers, herbs and vegetables shooting upwards in that mad rush of May green, but it’s the wild, neglected parts of the garden I love the most: the left-alone corners bursting with nettles, cleavers, dandelion and dead nettle to nourish and cleanse, ground ivy and forget-me-nots to provide food and shelter for the tiny creatures, herb robert, vetch and sweet honeysuckle to lift our spirits. Wild medicine for the soul!

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During isolation the garden has become classroom, kitchen, church and living room. It is teacher, friend, and wise old woman. We’ve spent our days there, watching the spring unfold, finding bugs, having bonfires, learning about plants, digging, playing and generally letting them be crazy, grubby little kids while the world has turned upside down. We’ve put a rope swing up in the field. There are few sights better than watching the children trot off through the long grasses, buttercups up to their waists.

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Who knows where we’re heading; it’s not really for me to say. But in the uncertainty, there is space for hope. I can’t change the world, but I can raise my children, grow a garden, make it a place of peace, a love letter to the earth. I can keep writing in the interrupted snatches of time available, cultivate gratitude, go gently, fail utterly and start all over again the next day. For now, that’s enough.

In the sweet-smelling promise of a May morning, the field is soaked in golden sunshine, hawthorn blossom filtering down like snow. The garden is lush, green and alive, vibrating with wild magic.

Perhaps in all this chaos, a beautiful future is trying to grow.

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April

fern
“Plant a garden. It’s good for the health of the earth and it’s good for the health of the people. A garden is a nursery for nurturing connection, the soil of cultivation of practical reverence. And its power goes far beyond the garden gate – once you develop a relationship with a little patch of earth, it becomes a seed itself.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass  (photography by Caroline Arber)

 

Spring comes late to my garden.

North-facing, paved over, with high walls on three sides, it sits in a puddle of shade all winter long. There are no sweeping vistas or sweet-smelling grasses on which to walk barefoot. The only plants that thrive there are hardy woodland flowers, ferns and bulbs in a jumble of muddy pots.

But I love it. It’s my sanctuary, and my little patch of the outside world. It’s where I go to plant seeds with my daughter in spring and watch them grow. It’s where we go, wrapped up in warm towels, after a bath to look up at the moon. It’s where we – if we’re lucky and the slugs don’t get there first – eat warm red tomatoes straight off the vine in summer and pick blackberries from the heavy boughs which overhang the wall in early autumn. It’s a habitat for birds and insects, a space for my daughter to play and of course, a miniature kingdom for my cat.

Right now, bright sprays of hazy blue forget-me-nots are appearing in places I don’t recall planting any seeds. The tulips and alliums are poised and ready to burst open into May. Delicate white blossom snows down from the tree over the wall and the elder and the ash grow above it all, side by side, like a pair of wily old ladies who’ve decorated themselves with young, budding, green leaves, ready for the big party. The herb garden is sweetly fragrant after the spring rain and plentiful enough to start harvesting for cooking again.

Everything is on the up.

Even so, it always takes my body a while to shrug off the last of winter. Even as Beltane approaches, I often still want to be curled up with a book under a duvet for another few weeks.

So, now that the ground is drying and the dawn coming earlier, one of the first things I do every day, without fail, is go outside.

As I empty the kitchen peelings and cuttings into the compost bin and top up the bird feeders, I breathe in the dewy dawn air and glimpse the sunrise over the neighbouring allotments.

I take a moment to notice the ferns unfurling and the birdsong and the mist and the soft colours of the morning sky, full of mystery and promise.

If only for a moment, I close my eyes, pause, and reset.

It reminds me to be grateful for the day.