This morning it raineth. Actually, it poureth, but this rain is mandolin, soft and steady like a gift to the dry ground, the new plants, the burns and the bird puddles. I have lugged a bird bath into my garden before now and not one bird went anywhere near it, choosing instead, the muddy and splashed-out puddles on the road. I watch them dip and shimmy and spread their wings out for an after-preen, their little heads tipping skywards for danger. They smile me. They tell me they want to do things their way, not my way. A pretty bird bath with a nice logo might give me a warm fuzzy as I stand and admire it, but what they want a puddle, thanks all the same.
It was fun yesterday lining up my new planters and filling them with stones and compost and chicken manure pellets and all those other things that guarantee new plants a jolly good shot at a Summer Success. If I confine them, I must needs give them my best intelligent guesstimate of a chance. I am no experienced gardener, no Capability Brown, just myself with my glasses perched for the instructions and my hands willing to follow. Add to that my instinct and my love of nature and this little garden could become a gasp for passers-by. My little granddaughter helped me with an eager enthusiasm, her tiny fingers in and out of the compost in search of worms. She was quite disappointed when I told her she would find precisely none. But Granny, she said, there is always at least one worm in every bit of soil! Oh, but if only this was true! I told her I knew where to find loads and took her up to the compost bin. We spent a merry few minutes playing with the wiggly things, then put them back to work among the cuttings and clippings and peelings of my life.
Although we worked together, we were both alone. Me with my thoughts on how much grit to lay on each base or the ratio of topsoil to compost and what on earth shall I cook for supper, whilst she sang merry songs to herself. Songs from her head. Songs that tell me she is happy and safe and loved. Being outside was being outside of ourselves and there is a constant need in me to be outside, mandolin rain or no. Earlier we had cut down an overgrown gorse bush and together we dragged the prickly limbs on an old dust sheet down the track towards the bonfire. We laughed at the crackle and spit of the flames as they caught the sappy green bits and flared them up like a rainbow. Our faces glowed from the heat and our fingers drew patterns of soot across our faces. We looked like Halloween.
Children in a happy life are freeflowing. Children are not yet bowed down by the expectations and demands of life and there is a delightful lightness in me as I observe them engage with what is, whilst keeping a natural hold on what isn’t. Inside a young mind there is music and magic, excitement and dreams. I know this and, in knowing it, I can relocate my own childmind. At times I must dig deep to find her, the wild-child, dragging her back to the surface and perching her on my shoulder so that she can see what I see but still remain her light and airy self. I might have to pump her up a few times, like Inspector Clouseau’s parrot, when she loses puff and sinks to her knees; when I see too much ahead and imagine the worst (like all grown-ups) but if I look out beyond myself, over the heads of all my doubts and worries, I can see, with her help, the beauty of absolute space and feel completely lost and completely found at the same moment.
In wild nature, even if is it just in a little garden and not in the Gobi Desert or in the vast expanse of a forest, getting lost is key. This child, the one beside me, the one inside of me, she knows how to be lost whilst knowing exactly where she is. ‘To be lost is to be fully present’, says Rebecca Solnit, ‘and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery’. Losing self, the constant chattermind of self is much easier outside than in. ‘In’ shouts about wiping down surfaces and scrubbing pots and making macaroni cheese, again, whereas outside has an agenda all of its own. I cannot control one thing that goes on out there and each thing manifests a string of consequences I can only understand through observation. No matter how clever I think I am about the filling of planters, I cannot guarantee success. The weather, the insects, the birds, the sun or lack of it will take new life and do with it as they will. So, I am as a child in the ‘out there’ of my life. I am lost in it whilst knowing exactly where I am, and it feels wonderful. ‘One does not get lost but loses oneself, (Rebecca Solnit) with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography.’
Thoreau said…..well he actually said a great deal but here’s one for relevance….
‘Lose the world (worries, inside thinking, doubts, fears etc) get lost in it, and you will find yourself.’