I had a wonderful weekend. I went to see my mother. She’s having some health problems and I was afraid she’d be depressed and hard to cheer up, but I found her quite buoyant, working hard on seeing her glass as half full and not letting herself worry about things she can’t control. We had a pleasant lunch out on Saturday, did a giant general knowledge quizz (nicely tough) in the afternoon, and spent most of Sunday sitting in her back garden in companionable quietness, reading and drinking cups of tea.
Sunday was a bright day, sunny but not too hot, and the garden was full of the hum of bees and the flutter of birds’ wings in the trees. Dozens of butterflies, gatekeepers and small whites, tortoiseshells and red admirals, were looping about between the fennel plants and lavenders and the last, spicy-scented Frau Dagmar roses. Goldfinches flitted about in the cypresses, chirruping constantly to one another, and the thrushes came down to the terrace steps to bash their snails, and paused to give us the leery eye, and went on bashing. A lawn mower buzzed a few gardens away. Flying ants were climbing up grass stalks and launching themselves, and a handful of gulls soared high overhead, picking them off. At about four pm a blackbird began to sing in the top of a neighbour’s apple tree. Then at about five thirty the man in the house at the far end came into his garden and began to do his accordion practice, adding a layer of soft, sweet folk music in the distance.
It was one of those days of simple magic, a day that just is; when one steps aside from the bustle of busy life and mental chaff, and the strong and gentle stuff of a deeper reality comes in at every pore and through every sense. Whatever one conceives the divine to be, he, she or it is intensely present on such days and in such places.
The air was warm, perfumed with the old roses and the resinous pungency of herbs and conifer needles. The birds chattered and sang and the breeze murmured, but there was no traffic, there were no aircraft going over, no trains passing. It could not have been more different from my dear, but very noisy, little bit of London garden, hard up against the embankment of the District Line, and half a mile from the Heathrow flight path.
I do love my bit of Chiswick garden, though, despite the fact it isn’t a patch on mum’s huge and peaceful haven of towering green and crowding life. I love my local birds, though I can’t afford to keep four different birdfeeders all topped up (she has fat balls, sunflower seed, peanuts and niger seed; a veritable birds’ deli counter). I love my lavenders, though they are a fraction the size of hers, and my very ordinary lobelias and pansies and petunias, and the urban fox cubs scuttling among the buddleias along the railway line and yipping at one another in the dusk… It isn’t the home of my heart, I know, but it is home, and I have dearly loved having the caring of it for this time.