As I begin to write, it is just 6:18am, although I’ve been awake for about three and a half hours already. I’m in a condition best described as ‘recovery’ at the moment, and discomfort triggered a bout of insomnia and drove me out of bed a couple of hours ago.
There is nothing more special on a summer’s morning when you cannot sleep than creeping outside into your garden, cradling a cup of your favourite hot drink and sitting down to listen to the birdsong and watch sun begin to peep over the eastern horizon. Today has started cloudy and there is rain in the air but the dawn was still tinged with a million shades of silver, pink and gold.
I have to admit, I do love my garden. It is my very own piece of paradise, wrestled out from among rosebay willowherb, thistles, brambles and my perpetual headache, spirea. But in eighteen months it’s gone from an overgrown wilderness, most charitably described as ‘messy’, to a relatively ordered progression of flowers, a fledgling hedge, an orchard border and a vegetable plot. Where weeds once grew I now have potatoes, brassicas, alliums and parsnips. Where neglect once reigned, loosestrife, primulas roses, hostas, goldenrod and more now hold their own.
At the moment of course I can do very little other than sit back and watch my garden grow. Carefully crouching down to inspect the courgettes, haphazardly sprinkling seeds and planning for the future is about all I can do unaided. My family are helping me with other tasks, even my unfortunately insect-phobic elder stepson has willingly offered his help with watering, but for the majority of the time I sit in the garden and watch, rather than stand or kneel and work. And it is an incredibly restful feeling.
If, as a gardener, you have to take time out and allow your garden to ‘happen’ around you, I can think of no better month than July for this to happen. Other people can do the simple tasks of soaking everything (and everyone!) with water, or collecting potatoes and lettuces for supper. And as a gardener you get the chance just to enjoy the fruits of your labour and absorb the healing energies both from the sunshine and from the wealth and breadth of life around you. July is the peak of the season, the best time of the year to watch rather than do.
I wrote a few weeks ago about not being able to see past a big event. That event, as I’m sure most readers will have realised, has come and gone. Yet in some respects I am still living for the moment, still unable to think past this month. My recovery will be slow and steady and I do not know as of yet when I will be fully fit and able again.
However my garden is slowly pulling my mind back into gear, as I plan next year’s crops, draft plans for some raised vegetable beds so that my disabled partner may tend some crops with only minimal input from others, write shopping lists of new flowers and herbs that I intend to grow, and generally begin to think about the forthcoming weeks and months and plan how I am going to get the best out of the small patch of planet I’m lucky enough to have been given to look after.
If you are unwell, or uncomfortable, or in need of recuperation or restoration, I do heartily recommend a garden. It needn’t be your own, just a green space that you are able to enjoy for a while. And if you are lucky, as I am, to have your own patch of planet, even if it is just a 6 inch by 2 feet windowsill, consider planting something, tend it, and watch it grow, if for no other reason than the joy of watching as verdant green lushness slowly grows from the dark earth. And I hope that the simple act of watching helps your restoration, as it continues to help mine.