As I write, Earnest the neighbour’s pea cock is stretched out indolently between the white elder and the pink one in the sunshine, between the wild roses and the rampant honeysuckle, as if he owns the place. Maybe he does, in the bird world.
I spend a great deal of my waking life staring out at this garden in the high fells of Sparty Lea, but at this time of year it’s a joy to be surrounded by masses of flowering trees, shrubs, climbers, all planted by ourselves over the past decades, yet so much a part of the place as to seem as if they’ve always been here. You might take the blooms for granted, the errant intoxicating smells as a given, as the individual flowers bob in the balmy breeze. But today I’m not just passing by; today I’m thinking of loveliness, and Earnest, as loud and obnoxious as he is, somehow completes that picture. He doesn’t even have to spread his tail out in a huge fan, since I’ve seen it so often it’s indelibly captured in my mind’s eye — he just has to sit and relax in the sun with the flowers blooming around his iridescent blue neck.
Seen from the far roadside, far down in the valley, our house looks like the hedges are beginning to overwhelm us, but up here, it’s a mini-paradise of recumbent bloom. It brings a lump to my throat, this delight.
Sometimes I do sit on the garden swing that nestles in amongst the elder blossom, and gaze out over the valley. But not today — today I’m thinking from inside looking out, bemused at the twists and turns of life, as I watch Earnest relax. How long we lived here before we even bothered to try to turn this bit of field into a garden. How it all grew, following our noses and the kind advice of experienced gardeners as we planted wild and cultivated with abandon. How the garden swing developed as a sturdy support first for our grandson to play on, then transmogrified into a more relaxing gentle swaying bench for the oldies. How Earnest loves to visit us, to sit in the sunshine and be surrounded by beauty. How the hedgerows soften the harsh wind blowing off the fellside, protecting more fragile plants in their lea.
How we too have been metaphorical hedgerows, humbly providing a support system for the next generation coming along. How they grew up and became sturdy hedgerows themselves. How the next visitors to this garden might react to the planting; will they rip things out before experiencing the four seasons here? Will they understand, or care, how the garden grew, slowly but inexorably, to become a place of refuge, of tranquility and calm?
These thoughts flit through my head like so many house martins capturing insects, sometimes alighting, often just swooping and diving about. It’s great to entertain such mental meanderings, but soon I must warm up the lovely lasagna for tea. Summer sunshine, balmy breezes, lovely gardens — they all conspire to evoke a sense of comfort and pleasure, a safe place to think, with no real demands on one’s time other than to enjoy the experience.