In contrast to the general locked-down trend, we’ve spent less time, not more, on gardening lately. We decided to focus on vegetables, and have allowed the flowers, shrubs and hedges to do their own thing.
I’ve heard garden designers say that nature doesn’t have colour clashes, or create disharmony. They clearly haven’t seen our spotted laurel. Earlier in the year it was a lovely splash of green above the snowdrops and daffodils.
Bulbs, of course, are the perfect garden inhabitants, so uncomplaining, and polite. For a few weeks, they’re bursting with joy, and brightness. After that, they quietly fade into the background. They’ll put up with a lot of neglect. But in fictional terms, that makes them passive garden characters. They need a heroic gardener to step in and prune back the big bullies who would otherwise crowd them out, and take control.
Enter me, (tadah) with my trusty secateurs. Within an hour, the offending spotty villain has been calmed, and controlled. No story here, folks, nothing to see.
Except, as I step back to view my handiwork, I can’t help but notice the rest of the border. Up close, it’s clear that my actions have only presented a flash of the whole story. That verdant greenery we’ve been admiring from the kitchen window, is undergoing an invasion. There are as many weeds trespassing as there are lawful inhabitants.
The intruders are vigorous, heavy with young seed. Antagonists like these need an active, focused protagonist, willing to expend muscle, sweat and time: someone driven by the desire to win.
I’m already thinking about making dinner, and spending the evening with my feet up. ‘Mañana,’ is what I’m thinking. I repeat it throughout the evening.
The next morning I’m conscientiously standing at the window, pulling on my gardening gloves and thinking about the importance of timing, when a movement catches my eye. Are there more birds in our wildish garden this year, or is it just that we’ve taken more notice? I don’t think we’re the only people who’ve asked that, over the last two months.
Maybe we’ve recently been more diligent about topping up the feeders, and our guests can feel confident about the quality of our hospitality. Though one at least, it seems, is now opting for self-service. There, on the weeds I’d planned to remove, is a Goldfinch, pulling out a beak-full of fluffy seeds.
Now that’s what I call an active character. Nothing distracts this bird from the job in hand, not even me, opening the window to snap some photos. There is a determination, a drive, that I can’t seem to emulate. If only I’d introduced the Goldfinch to you earlier it could be the protagonist, but it’s too late. Besides, I’m confident that we’re viewing those seeding heads from different perspectives.
So this isn’t that simple kind of story, where a character is presented with a problem, that they then solve. Unless, of course, I’m still not viewing this situation from the correct perspective. Could it be that the key character in this is bigger than me, or the bird, and has only been mentioned indirectly?
Recognising the end point when telling a story can be tricky. I’m convinced enough to put my gloves back on the shelf, and settle down to admire the blackbirds, feasting on the Juneberries, the wood-pigeon swooping in to the big seed-dispenser, and the spotted woodpecker attacking the peanut feeder.