Posted by: stelladuffy | December 28, 2013

The Joy of Gardening

I just spent “half an hour tidying the garden”. It took two and a half hours. (Would have taken longer if Shelley hadn’t come to help clean up.)
I love my garden, I love having a garden, I know I am lucky to have it, I was both born in a home withut and have lived many times without a garden as an adult.

I love that it’s a really small, south-London-terrace-size garden. I have fruiting apple, plum, cherry and hazelnut trees, grape and passionfruit vines, olives, lemons, baby oranges in pots. I love that things grow, of their own accord. That we plant them and care for them and they also just … grow. That gardening is as much about letting chaos reign as it is about containing it. (And that reigning/containing chaos is exactly the right analogy for writing, making theatre, pretty much every creative work I can think of.)
Gardening is the perfect analogy for pretty much every creative work I can think of. It’s loving and ignoring, letting go and holding up, offering and offering and offering – and sometimes knowing those offers just will not work.
Sometimes it’s making threats – I told the mock orange that if it didn’t blossom this year it was in trouble. Sometimes it’s about making good on those threats – the mock orange is now a lot smaller than it was.
Other times it’s about keeping on caring for something that probably doesn’t belong and maybe shouldn’t be there and actually doesn’t really fit but but maybe, might be, worth it in the end. And when it comes good, it’s always worth it in the end. (Lemon juice from lemon tree lemons on Christmas Day.)
The garden, while gardening, is a place to think – no music, no talking, no emails/texts/twitter/facebook, just thought. Just allowing thought to be, to become.
It’s a place to remember – my parents, she from south London who’d never had a garden of her own, he from NZ, transplanted to London and no garden  for 20 years – and how they loved that classic kiwi quarter acre section in Tokoroa. When we moved in the section was bare, empty. A tiny little weatherboard mill house plonked in the middle (just like all the other Kinleith mill houses in Tokoroa). By the time my Dad had been dead for 12 years and Mum finally sold the house (for a pittance, no making money on a cheap 1960s mortgage for them, sadly), the house was still tiny, but the garden was full, flourishing, strong. When I go back I see the huge walnut tree and remember them planting it. I remember them both, working full time, and then working hours and hours in the garden at night and on his days off (he was a shift-worker, 6 days on/2 days off) or her weekends. Apples and plums and fresh green beans, potatoes, gooseberries, raspberries, rhubarb. The joy of growing. The excess of canning and bottling and freezing.
I remember how little they had and how immensely grateful they were for it – because they’d had so much less before. These were people who made their potato wine in the flat I was born in in Woolwich. They liked to make.
I like to make.
Books, theatre, garden, baking. It’s all making.
Today, I felt a book beginning as I worked. I don’t know what it’s about, I have one to finish yet anyway, and (perhaps) a play to write. But I could feel it starting, like a bulb opening in the dark of the earth, a green tip just beginning to reach up.
I will be wassailing my trees on January 6th. I’ve done it for many years now and it seems to work. Maybe I should think about wassailing my creative work too. And then what might come?


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