The slight, the momentary, the grand, the ageless. All seen because we looked. And looking opened our eyes to so much we had not noticed before.
2020 was a year like no other. For all of us. But for the outside world, the world of our gardens and the countryside beyond it was much the same as ever. From March 29th to October 25th each day we left our homes on foot in Dorset and in Lancashire. From our back doors we went into our gardens. From our front doors we walked the streets and lanes, the footpaths and tracks, never further than a handful of miles. We always returned feeling better able to face the challenges of weird and worrying times.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous” – Aristotle, 4th century BCE
The newly washed sky is stretched smooth by the chilly breeze. Spring is the time for simple understated flowers. Celandines are beginning to pass. Primroses still offer themselves up for admiration. And now it’s the time of forget-me-nots, blue-sky flowers that come and come again year on year, dotting themselves hither and yon, smuggled among the shoots of other plants that are just waking up to the fact that summer’s time has been declared!
After days of dormancy The Wind has awoken. The air is full now of near-marine sounds as the Wind & the Trees discover their voices. Without each other all is quiet, but together they take us to the coast. Waves ebbing over shingle, breaking over rocks, swirling around reefs – all here inland. As the Trees hush and shush in a near constant sigh, they feel like dancing. All the rising sap has added suppleness to them. Stiff in winter, but lithe in spring. Some sway, others waft. Some lean like pennants atop mainmasts, pointing downwind. Some try hard not to enjoy it, but succumb and flutter their twiggy fingers. There is movement everywhere.
From atop the foxglove minarets comes the call: ‘The garden is great’. One by one as they open their throats their floral voices join in, summoning bees to sup. Spiring up into the dappled shade, they eye the sun lovers in superior fashion. Let the magenta gladioli flaunt themselves. Foxgloves choose to wear their style with cool, calm majesty.
Footpaths & Bridleways. The signs urge the walker to veer away from the route being taken. Over a stile and far away. Ones that point into overgrown undergrowth are resistible. Others that lead between overflowing hedges, across open fields of corn to nearby misty hills and the promise of new views draw the walker on into the yet-to-be.
From glamorous to almost comical. Poppies that wore their purple tissue petals like starlets now stand undressed, restyled, transfigured. Smooth green heads with flat-top toupees stand stiffly in the borders, each keeping safe a treasury of seeds.
A fluttering family of long-tailed tits pecks away at the caged fat balls, quickly, before sparrows get wind of the feast. Maybe six of them, possibly more. Hard to tell as they are never still. Sated, they flit to a nearby cherry tree where they break their silence with a chorus of ‘si-si-si’, for now it doesn’t matter who hears them. ‘Let the sparrows come,’ they call.
Cool early morning on the Autumn Equinox. The return of the rooks re-staking their claims to the village skies, viewing their domain, eyeing with intent favoured trees, and after a sky-filling raucous swirl above my garden they fly on, leaving a robin singing his own bold song as the sun sweeps the misty sky clear.
Fleshed out with foliage since spring the trees are now becoming exposed by the wind rushing through them. X-rayed by autumn, the barebone forms of many are once again featuring against the rain-filled sky. Structures revealed for winter to hang its storms on.
Andrew Pastor lives in Drimpton, Dorset where he gardens 365 days a year if he can. He has written other books all of local interest, community plays and entertainments. He collects plants.
Patricia Barrett lives in Stubbins, Lancashire where she would stitch 365 days a year if she could. She has presented numerous textile workshops and has never stopped learning. She collects languages.