It used to annoy me that my garden was reached by a walk down the alleyway, rather than being attached to my abode. Now I see it as part of its charm. To go there I must make the effort; I must go there deliberately. Its inconvenience results in it being a quiet place, as its setting seems too inconvenient for my neighbours to go into their gardens much. And I treasure my garden for that quietness. The doves like to sit in the neighbour’s apple tree that partly hangs over my fence, and I have been watching some pigeons take twigs into the conifer trees – busily building a nest. The hawthorn trees are just beginning to bud. They remind me of David Hockney’s paintings of a country lane through the seasons, with the hawthorns being the harbinger of warmer days. And I think of the line of hawthorns along the track where I run, hosting the round bushels of mistletoe. The lilac tree is late in flowering this year – its purple buds are formed but not yet ready to show their glory. There are some bluebells – both the blue and white kinds, and an odd tulip, late in coming, standing proudly.
I heard about something called ‘no-dig-gardening’, in which you don’t dig the soil! So I’m giving it a go. Ideally, I should have started in the autumn, so I’m a bit late, but it is about putting your vegetable peelings etc onto the soil, covering them over with cardboard etc and letting the composting happen right on the spot. And as the stuff decomposes all the goodness goes straight back into the soil and makes the consistency of the soil beautiful, so that all you need to do is make a hole for your plants. So my veg peelings now go into a container in the kitchen during the week and at the weekend I put them on a section of soil. I don’t have much cardboard, so I thought I would just cover the peelings with grass-clippings – same principle, I assume, of blocking the sun and aiding decomposition. I have a hand-pushed lawn-mower, so I trundle it along a bit of grass, rake up the clippings and scattering them on the peelings. It’s good too, because the drying grass keeps the weeds down and helps stop moisture evaporating from the soil. And after that little process, I’ll watch the wispy clouds go by and be quite timeless and carefree.
I thought of the wonderful words of Henry David Thoreau in his book Waldon: or, Life in the Woods, ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life’. My retreat may not be the woods, but in my garden I can have a go at living deliberately, to be surprised by joy and feel connected to all the living things around me.