Thanks to the brilliant Beverley Ward for providing the inspiration for this week’s post. As I’m updating my site, I thought I’d share something with you that was a bit more creative than the usual musings on my life.
Here’s a piece I wrote after reflecting on how nature helped me through the complete mind scramble that was the first lockdown last year.
The garden was segmented. Separated out into places of play, of work. Under the pine trees were two flat rocks. We placed bowls and filled them with warm water and bath toys. Eventually the dog learned to be wary and got out of the way when she got hold of the blue watering can.
Over the other side, near the fence, was the vegetable patch. We placed careful seeds in egg boxes to cultivate and transplant. But the next day she forgot they would grow into something interesting and threw them all over the lawn. When the lettuces that did survive sprouted she held her hands wide to hold their leafy weight. We ate them drenched in sharp mustard vinaigrette, on the veranda in that sunshine that never seemed to end.
We placed an old plank between the decking and a stump to make a bridge for rattling metal cars. We hunched down in the mottled shade, creating worlds on flattened cardboard boxes with felt-tip pens because we’d lost our own.
It was enough for her small legs. That one kilometre ring that stretched around the house. Within that were trees, puddles, the newts that lurked at the bottom of the pond. But every day, it was the same. We painted our names onto stones we found in the garden so we could sing the ‘hello’ song at the start of the day, just like she used to at nursery. No-one was ever left out.
My legs were too long for those confines. Only in secret could I take my feet further. I threaded through the sparse forests that lined the hills, hidden from the prying helicopters above. There was no official piece of paper in my pocket, signed to say I had a useful reason to be there. I pushed past the invisible barrier of 1km, determined to run my weekly 10km, even if it took me a few minutes over the rule of one hour. It was my sanctity, my only escape.
Our use of the garden expanded. A swing tied to a sturdy branch, a balance beam, a climbing net. We strung old metal objects between trees to make a rattling musical instrument. At the beginning I read too much about stimulation and play. Every day was an effort to engage different parts of her brain, until I tired of it and just opened the door, let her run in the garden, go round and round the house on her bike until she was tired enough to sleep.
The weeks stretched into months and the sun hung over us – relentless, ripening. Every morning we toured the plenty of the garden, from the square planter of strawberries to where next door’s raspberries had sneaked through the fence. We did the same tour of the field with the dog every morning and she’d come back with purple smears on her cheeks from the wild cherries. Our tiny kingdom of plenty.
Tiny tendrils of our lives are spreading out again now. I look back on that feast of space, of stimulation for my little girl, the famine of interaction, of other life. How strange to reduce your world to a scrap of earth. How blessed to have things to grow around me to remind me of the still-turning earth. What a curse of opportunity that time was.
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