Given we're nearing the end of the year, I thought I'd share a few things going on with me, all to do with growth and change, which is healthy but never easy except maybe for plants (who do it to reproduce), which brings me rather too directly to the fact that my son is grown and empty-nester questions nag. How will I feel if I hit fifty and have never planted a pleached beech allée that I might walk through at seventy? If statistically I have only thirty springs left, wouldn’t I want to build that studio, plant that tree, renovate that barn, plan that meadow now?
Many days I think I can’t live another day without a scullery, a transitional space between indoors and out. My mother died young, so perhaps I'm a little fixated on the future at the expense of the now. But these are real questions to me—the wanderings of a horticulturally-obsessed middle-aged mind.
So out of the dish-room and into the heart/hearth/earth of it: I’ve been writing my gardening column twice a month for a couple newspapers for almost two years. It’s been great, like going to pilates is great—for mobility and capacity. The writing muscle is real. And my profile has increased locally which means I wear lipstick every time I leave my house. But lately I’m straining at my column’s limits, pushing my writing a little further and researching more. I’m happy I’ve been able to occasionally take an essayist’s stance in the column and here with Cultivated, posing as many questions as answering them, telling the truth whilst also trying to find it.
But I want more. More words. A longer range. I have so many questions. Desire, that engine of wonder and discontent burns at every new plant I see growing for the first time, every new gardener I meet whose knowledge exceeds my own, every landscape carved by a history I don't fully understand. I learn and learn and it’s the learning I love the most, the way the world opens up with a new botanical puzzle to solve, new knowledge to place, new narratives to build from discovery.
And so I'm back to a word that has dogged me for so long I daren't even write it but there's nothing to do but acknowledge it now: book. I should put the columns, the good ones, the decent ones, into a book.
I've set benchmarks of avoidance: approach someone when you have 10,000 followers on Instagram; when you hire someone to help with SEO optimization/social media integration; when you figure out exactly what it is you are doing. So I think small: a local publisher, a local book, a Canadian audience. Small.
At the end of the year, what else is there to do but resolve oneself? Sharpen the edges on goals and shoot a few arrows out into a new year? I'm going to try it. And I hope you will with your goals too. Report back in the comments below and we can hold one another to account there..
But before we do, let's have a little fun. My 'Smitten with Salvias in Sussex' is posted now and it's a bit of a romp. You can read it here.
I've also posted my article published yesterday titled 'Fence Me In: Lessons from the Sun King' about English walled gardens, vertical gardening, intimacy and Versailles. I wrote the entire piece to get to the last two paragraphs, to share a moment synaesthetic of joy.
And with that I wish you a very happy holiday season! May your tree stay standing, your menorah aflame, your poinsettias alive, and any mistletoe you find yourself under deliver the kisses you deserve.
See you on the other side of 2016.