The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun,
heart with nature
– Alfred Austin –
I have gardened for most of my life by now. Certainly my parents gardened, kept a tidy garden but for me I first woke up to the possible magic of a garden when I met my husband’s grandmother. Hers was the first garden I saw that had a distinct personality. How could it be otherwise? She was a feisty interesting woman.
Many years later I visited Highgate Cemetery on a cold July day, I soon wandered off into the east cemetery, entranced by how wild it was, overgrown, mysterious, like the setting for a fairy tale. That image took up residence in my mind. And it is really only recently that I have realised that those images, grandma’s garden and the east cemetery have always been lurking in my imagination.
Here where I have been living since 2010 but only doing serious hands-on gardening since 2015, I have been schooled by the realities of gardening within sight and sound of the ocean on a rocky mountainside buffeted by hot summer winds! And then just in case I was getting ideas above my station we ran head on into a long, long drought. One year I just about gave up, had days when I couldn’t bear to go into the garden because it was so painful to see plants withering but then shifted direction and started using a lot of rocks, pine cones, logs, just odd bits of wood to cover up the glaring gaps where plants had not survived and slowly worked my way back to my old enthusiasm for the magic of grandma’s garden, the mystery of the east cemetery.
Birds! The common starlings who are a huge presence in the neighbourhood and garden seem to consider themselves co-owners. From time to time they decide to roost overnight in our bathroom causing a flurry in the early hours when one of us uses said bathroom and the starlings then throw themselves about hysterically at the intrusion! Yes, we can close the window and often do, but in the winter when the rain is falling and I can see three or four starlings huddled in a row on the window sill I do want to invite them in and offer little warm towels!
In the last year in particular; gardening, digging, planting, watering, working day by day towards a picture in my head has been a road to recovery for me. It has been a joy and satisfaction to be creating something tangible. I never have anything but the vaguest plan when I start something new, such a pleasure to feel it taking shape. I think that gardening and cooking elicits that feeling of zen, being in the zone and making something that has not a lot to do with the conscious mind. And it is fun! We are working on one of the lower levels of our narrow piece of mountain and we take down a basket with water, flask of coffee and provitas or rusk and reward ourselves with a picnic!