I am to create a garden. I am to turn a tangle of wild grasses and weeds into a sacred space where friends, family and others seeking peace can spend time. This garden is a full quarter acre. It has received little love or attention for many years and I have little experience or knowledge of gardening. But this piece of land is mine to craft if I want and I take up the challenge.
I enlist help. For one warm, clear autumn afternoon I am visited by five people much younger than me. One a gardener by trade, the others city artists, they bring energy, enthusiasm and an enormous capacity for hard work. They are entranced by my vision, by the opportunity that I have here and the potential of this overgrown quarter acre of overgrown land.
They are supplied with tea, coffee, apples from the trees but they rest little. Keen to be at the transformation. I do not share my inner fears, my doubts that I am capable of doing this. Instead, I show them what I have created before. Why I begin this project.
Outside the front door of the small home I rent, in the corner of the old kitchen garden of the estate I rent my cottage from, I have created a flower bed. Two seasons later, it is abundant. Lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, chocolate mint. Rose, lady’s mantle, lavatera, astrantia, nepeta. Nastursium, love in a mist, poppies. I like to garden as I like to photograph; light and shadow, colour and contrast, shape and texture. I look at these images of what I have already created and I am reassured.
They continue to work; clearing, digging, creating a pile for burning later. I watch in awe as shape and structure begins to appear. I catch a breath. This is going to be a garden.There is to be a bothy. A modular structure that is created by two of these city artists who have created PhD and Masters degrees for themselves. It is homeless, this bothy and it is offered to me to fill a corner of this garden that I am creating. I am grateful, enormously grateful that there will be space to sit and be part of the garden from. When there is rain I will sit inside and remain part of the garden. There is talk of a deck, a fire pit. There is support and enthusiasm for this project and I allow myself to believe in their belief. I allow myself to see the vision I have for this space.
There will be fennel and rudbeckia, marguerite daisies and penstemon. A rowan tree. A willow hedge. A salad bed. I will become adventurous and grow sweet peas, beans and purple cabbage. Ruby red chard. I will learn to compost, enrich my soil. I will learn to garden, enrich my life.
My helpers return to their city. I am alone and I dig until the light fades. The birds are quiet. A bat flies overhead. The soil is rich; it turns easily. It has been cared for in the past. I will learn to care for it now, this land that has become mine to care for. I did not intend to become a gardener. But this land is here, it is mine if I want it and I want to transform this overgrown piece of ground into a space of peace where flowers and trees and vegetables and insects and humans, these by invitation only, can share the sunlight and the seasons and a return to a deeper connection with this world we live on.
I stand and ease my back. I have made a tiny inroad into the digging that must be done. I have made a start and there is pride in what has been achieved in these two days. This garden will take some time. It will not be rushed. It will grow as I will; we will learn from each other.The silence deepens. The moon will rise, almost full. I raise the spade over my shoulder and turn to the path. I walk the length of my quarter acre of ground where yesterday there were only weeds and wild grasses. I walk toward my home in awe that this new and profound responsibility, that of transforming this piece of ground, is now mine.
The three cats that I live with come to meet me. Rare to see them all together, this rare sight reminds that I will not be alone as I walk this new walk. Others will come to share in the peace that this garden will provide. And it will be peaceful. It is already.