Brown torrents and shooting bulbs: field notes from the garden 30.12.17

Five days have now elapsed since Christmas, and we seem to have reached peak ‘in-between-ness’.  The rhythm and pulse of life has become distorted; erratic, much like the swirling torrents of water beneath me in the stream.

A day of rain, sleet and snow, in addition to the continuing meltwater from the moors, has turned the stream at the end of the garden into a raging bull.  The same stream that my daughter and I paddle in during warmer summer months, is now an incessant force of energy that is audible and demands respect.

There are so many wonderful words that accompany active water: swollen, engorged, torrents, surging: all seem perfectly apt today.

A sea of brown-grey water, it churns like milk and butter, with white froth dancing on top as it licks the edges of stones and branches: a milky soup that started its life way up high on the moorland as a clearer brown, now frothed into frenzy and mad submission on its course through the town.

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In a departure from the norm – what else, given the confusing and seemingly timeless period between Christmas and new year – I take my laptop to the shed, and write these words inside it.  Yesterday, I sat inside the shed, with door propped open, gazing peacefully at the sleet and rain that fell down gracefully, yet forcefully.

My wife thinks that I am mad (and also wonders what on earth the neighbours think), but for me, there’s something alluringly primal about being under shelter, out of doors.  At its most base level, it represents the very fundamentals of the human condition – that need for shelter – and as I gaze out at the elements, cold, yet cosy, I appreciate feeling enveloped in this tiny outdoor space, at one with the elements.

Above the shed, hangs a ram’s horn: a humbling find on yesterday’s family walk.  Its cold, lined structure provides a wonderful visual contrast to everything else I can currently see: organic, and yet infinitely different from the delicate organic matter of plants.  Of the natural world, and in it – something different, fascinating, slightly eerie, and compelling, all at the same time.

The garden is cold, noisy and has seemingly been taken over by a couple of blackbirds.  Every day, they patrol the feeders and the bare earth that I have cleared ready to plant a vegetable patch.  Their manner is one of authority and ownership: the smaller sparrows, blue tits, long-tailed tits and coal tits have to wait their turn and snack in staccato fashion.

I check on the row of bulbs I potted a few weeks ago.  Already, some are breaking the surface, very slowly, glossy green tips sending up a periscope to assess the outside world and gauge their prospects for sending forth an advance party.  Life, even now, is gearing to get going.

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This is the last ‘field notes from the garden’ of 2017, and inevitably, as with so much in life, it forces me to reflect on the past year, and look forward.  From a gardening perspective, it’s certainly a year in which I have continued to define my eye, and explore structures and textures, largely in pots.  I continue to have absolutely no luck with cuttings, and flowers from seed remain challenging.

Standing here in the shed, gazing out at a garden in stasis, I can hear the blackbird shuffling and making noise on the other side of the shed to me, completely oblivious to my presence.  The stream’s churning mass emits a white noise that provides the background to this morning’s reflections.

Many cold, wet and dark days lay ahead; but in a couple of days time, a new calendar year will start a new cycle, and the onset of spring, and gardening in all its earnest.  These field notes were a way for me to start gardening blogging at an odd time, and almost ‘fill the gap’ in the gardening calendar; but to me, they have become a way to listen deeper, look more closely, and better connect with a space I always labelled as ‘dormant’ during the winter months.

There is incessant life in the garden even now, and it lays beneath the surface, filled with promise, just like the thoughts and dreams in my mind for the coming year ahead.

Thank you for following me in 2017 – I wish you a very Happy New Year, and looking forward to your readership in 2018.

Callum.

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