In rambling retrospective bluem. Or something. The writing impulse is cyclic, like the urge to post-process un-new photographs and just about everything else. The inclination to free-write ever rarer. And for proven reason. Instead of fretting about it and trying to force words that wouldn’t be forced I just ignored the hiatus and got on with other stuff. Planting more plants and painting my head green, mostly.
…Knowing that words would return eventually, in their own way, at some unspecified point. Maybe in response to the misty end-of-year air, dense as dulled pewter with scratched out cloud breaks. Like the negative spaces of a blackout tattoo. Not the artistic effect I was consciously striving for on my right forearm, admittedly, but the one I seem to have come very close to ending up with all the same. My so-far-favourite scabious puddle of unfinished, itchy ink. In any case, the gaps in between say very much more than the spaces filled. Haikuists know it. Insofar as anyone can know anything.
And grey is just the background colour of the now. A folded foil in which to post a snapshot in time. Slices of slate beneath the ridiculously expensive stone bird table where even the rubied robins can barely afford to dine. Weather-plummed stones a reminder of the variegated Aubretian purple pastiche to seventies rock gardening that was – and will soon be again. (Flares are always in fashion!) Wood pigeons and collared doves ungraciously trampling over the cautiously-peeking-through tips of early snowdrops, patrolling for ripe suet-berries released from twine-strung coconut shells by the industrious rabble of itinerant starlings. Sparrows splashing against their own better judgement in the thawed but near refreezing terracotta saucers, mesmerizing the grey-blue and white ninja-kitten who is neither old nor neutered enough to be let out on that side of the glass. Yet. There’s safety in numbers. Birds and blooms have always known that. Then the fascists caught on. Bird food and bone meal are boxed reminders that damage and death occur even when one is trying to organically nourish. And seaweed is a million miles removed inland from being the most saddening or saddened thing to be stolen from the sea.
Peat bogs and quarries aside, a garden can still be a place to privately reclaim what others would publicly take. Solitude, time and attention, thinking space. And the colour blue.
I started to pick at the skin around my fingers last Winter, something I haven’t done with any real sincerity since I was a child. I wasn’t even really aware I was doing it until I made my fingers bleed. Amongst all its myriad creative possibilities, gardening, it turns out, keeps my fingers safe from myself in gardener’s gloves. Especially handy when a project to feminize the top shed began with refelting the roof. There was a miniscule moment’s hesitation that I might be forging ahead too enthusiastically, too early in the year, without due preparation, when a rotten timber rung fell out from the wooden ladder beneath me. I paused briefly, just long enough to note that it wasn’t the rung I was actually standing on some six feet off the ground, pretended I hadn’t noticed what had happened and carried on hammering away at the clout nails. The ladder held out just long enough and has since been donated to the mini beasts who live behind the now potting-she-shed.
The problem with (and power of) hyper focus is that it excludes all else. Several things can’t be given attention simultaneously. It’s one thing or another. It’s how we won our last educational tribunal. And how we’ll win the inevitable next. But only a deliberate focus on coaxing new life out of the soil and supporting that which already exists there has enabled me to conserve the intellectual energy and emotional resilience needed for the fight which was hovering just beyond the near horizon but which has now, undeniably and unavoidably, finally loomed into full view. Since securing our son’s school placement I have consciously and determinedly worked really hard at not being that parent. The one the prejudicial system itself turns parents like me into. And everyone knows that mums of autistic kids are already, necessarily, either refrigerators, rottweilers or just plain froot loop crazy before the legal games even begin. I’ll readily admit to owning two of the three, a somewhat less than benign point of departure, but I’ve carefully reigned myself in. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been attentive or not taken notes. I recognise passive-aggressive when it meets me. How could I not? It’s a personality flaw of my own that developed at a very young age and I’ve spent years honing. When my scrutiny shifts I will happily demonstrate Aspie attention to endless detail, to anyone who cares to look, in all its marvellous glory. To anyone who might have mistakenly thought I just wasn’t listening.
My increasing obsession with the garden has not gone unnoticed. One of our neighbours has taken to calling me Charlie, after she of water feature fame. He may have even forgotten my real name. The reflective flow states that occur whilst tending the borders or clearing the pond create self-sorting thought trajectories which might begin with something like acknowledging the injustice of the honey bee dying after releasing its sting due to losing half of its musculature and abdomen in the process to recognising how much crueller that event would be if it had been purposefully designed to happen that way. From the theoretical nuances of layering a cultural model of autism over a social model of disability to the harsh realities of justice and equanimity existing only for those who can afford to pay for them. The rain turned to sleet and the wind blew it diagonally. I brought the hyacinths indoors.
The importance of nourishing the soil in its entirety instead of bullet poisoning any individual weed should be a metaphor too obvious to bring to anyone’s attention, except that a less conspicuous cautionary tale lies just beneath the surface substrate. In my over-confidence that I knew what I was doing, horticulturally speaking, I somehow managed to cause near disastrous osmotic chaos below ground, resulting in nitrogen-scorching of my beautiful magnolia tree. And I timed it to perfection to coincide with a biting frost. That was last Spring. The magnolia survived as a result of some remedial late night digging, root washing and recomposting in the dark. But mostly due to its own resilience. That’s a life lesson right there. Others to be reminded of are not to be fooled by appearances and to do your own research. Otherwise you might find yourself digging up a recently purchased chameleon plant at midnight. It astounds and infuriates me in equal measure that people have the gall and audacity to label any other species on this planet as ‘invasive’.
No, I don’t own a single pair of jeans without mud-stained knees. Weathered and distressed are things I’m very comfortable with. They’re why I enjoy hanging around salvage yards.