… You look like you’re in a listening mood, though actually you’re just wedged, stuck in a crack between the patio stones.
Much as I love spring, in tandem with the sap rising I can feel an anxiety beginning to put out tendrils from my belly. It is now that the garden messily awakens from its slumber, and I feel dismayed by the extra labour involved in tending to it. How on earth will I keep on top of it?
My garden is a rather unruly muddle of foliage. When the neighbours aren’t outside with the radio on, it is also a place of profound calm. Sitting here now, the only sounds I can hear are birdsong and the distant mumble of traffic. I think the birds are catching up with the day’s gossip before bed, because they’re particularly chatty. I feel a bit silly, cross-legged on the ground, muttering into my phone. I’m talking quietly in case the neighbours are within earshot, but my dictation software can’t hear me properly. I said vociferous a moment ago and Dragon recorded that as syphilis.
After days and days of rain, the sun is shining, and the blossom on the cherry tree next door is glowing candyfloss pink. And here are you and I, little weed, your roots probing the soil beneath the stones, your solitary leg protruding from a splodge of soft moss. Now that I am down at your level I can see how exquisitely pretty the oozing moss is. I regret going at it with a spade in previous years, scrape, scrape, scrape, moss peeling away, paving stones now nice and tidy. I won’t be doing that this year. An insect scuttles across the stone between my feet and disappears into the dense green micro-forest.
It’s been quite a day. Sean is at the Port of Dover, caught up in the weekend chaos with coaches waiting up to 24 hours to board a ferry. His coach has been there since 11.30 last night and they are only now approaching boarding. I and the other mums didn’t get much sleep. It’s hard to not be in control of a situation (of course it is! don’t we know it! though you might not, little weed, since you are not burdened by being a person). By now, however, I have slipped into that state of exhaustion that bathes one in a kind of peace. The point of surrender.
Anyway, I digress. I was talking about this garden and how daunted I am by its upkeep. I can see dandelions out of the corner of my eye, one, two, three-four-five of them erupting from between the cracks. Briefly, that old dandelion rage bubbles up, a relic of the days when their appearance vexed me. I would descend vengefully upon them, wrenching their alabaster roots from the earth and declaring victory over this most persistent and muscular of weeds. It was a battle of wills, trowel versus Taraxacum (that’s the Latin name for dandelions, and yes I did have to look it up). Imperative to gouge the whole plant out, every last, rummaging root, or else the little blighter will be clambering up through the grass again in no time! In my ignorance, I hadn’t realised that their chubby blooms are beneficial to bees, and their edible leaves are packed with nutrients. Now, I leave them to flower.
Nonetheless, I cannot shake off the suspicion that the dandelions spattering themselves across my patio are smirking at me.
Also amongst the infiltrators are husks of last year’s acorns discarded, presumably, by the voracious squirrel; some rotting apple carcasses from autumn’s windfall; sparse blades of wiry grass, jutting out like an old man’s whiskers; and those things that look a bit like clover but with none of the Irish charm. Plus, beneath the Cotoneaster, a snapped-off remnant of a yellow clothes peg.
Perhaps it is just the tranquillity of this early spring evening, but there is something soothing – tender, almost – about this gentle disarray. I remember watching a Brian Cox documentary about entropy. As is usual with these things I understood only about seventeen percent of what he said, but the image that sticks in my mind is of a village being slowly swallowed up by the desert. The dashing Prof Cox, displaying no obvious signs of entropy himself, was explaining how the universe tends towards disorder. Bracing against that weight of shifting sand sure does make the shoulder muscles ache…
Neatening and pruning life to our purpose. Aren’t we daft, little weed… I wonder if, this year, I might be able to surrender to some entropy of my own. Last Friday, I didn’t dust the living room. In fact, I didn’t even clean the kitchen! That’s a metaphorical dandelion in my lawn, for starters.
Goodness, it’s peaceful out here. Eight or so birds have conspicuously congregated on the topmost branches of next door’s ash tree. The magnolia blossoms are honeyed with sunlight. I’m resisting the urge to nip inside and grab my camera…
Oh my, look at that! A downy white feather is drifting down from the sky… It must be from the belly of a passing bird. Some people believe that white feathers are a message from the angels. With all the billions of people on this earth and their trillions of troubles, do angels or any other non-material beings have the time and resources to harvest, then deposit feathers in the field of view of chosen individuals? I’m dubious. But what do I know.
The feather’s descent is mesmerising… I feel strangely emotional – oh look! Here comes another one! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a feather glide down like that. Sublime slow motion…
I’ve been so stressed today, while knowing full well how futile that is. I can’t control the situation down in Dover. I attempted mindful breathing for a moment or two but the worry was still there when I stopped counting the inhales and exhales. Instead of trying to jollify myself, I have accepted that I am anxious. That’s similar to letting the weeds grow freely, don’t you think, little weed? Allowing our feelings to just be what they are, whether or not they’re welcome, whether or not we are balling our fists, contracting, clenching in the effort of ripping them out by the roots. The effort of keeping ourselves pristine.
I’m rather tired of hugging onto control. It is a cold and slippery thing. This feeling I’ve had for a while now – that I am somehow dissolving – might indeed be the atoms of me, dissipating, floating, a gathering of dust in a beam of light.
The weeds are also beginning to colonise the gravel in front of my house, those spring and summer tourists of the plant kingdom laying claim to their patch. I worry that passers-by will soon start noticing and will judge me as I too have judged people who do not ‘tend’ to their gardens. Such neglect! That person doesn’t take very good care of their lawn, their life! It is a social sickness, this obsession with tidy presentation.
I’ve said it before, little weed, and I’ll say it again (if only to keep impressing it upon my own neural pathways): weeds are simply plants growing in places where we deem they don’t belong. Over the winter, my threadbare lawn has turned largely to wild growth (and mud). I am inclined to leave it that way and see what takes seed. Already there are some very pretty little purple flowers dotting the bare earth that was previously occupied by a row of plain and overbearing bushes. I will gently challenge myself to leave the weeds at the front of the house to grow… What use, after all, is a barren square of gravel? I hope I won’t lose my nerve. Maybe I could put up a sign explaining: “We’re here for the bees…”
Better still, I could sit with the discomfort, the squirming desire to grasp and discard, and keep reminding myself that this is what it feels like to be a person trying to not be quite so in control. Trying to not always need to be tidy.
Yes, little weed! I think my motto for this spring will be entropy, and let’s see what glorious, life-affirming chaos might emerge!