We have had a lovely dry spell here in east Devon. Cold and dry, just the way I like it. The mornings have been beautiful. I love the stillness that comes with this kind of weather. The quiet of a perfect winter’s day, punctuated happily by squabbling rooks, pigeons rousing in the wood and the cheerful inquisitive chatter from Robins as they hop about looking for things to eat.
I must admit, I haven’t been out in the garden as much as I would like recently. I lost my father in November, so my focus has been elsewhere, and it takes time to fall back into normal day to day routines.
Sometimes I try to fold up the loss, like a favorite jumper, and pop it in the draw, but I end up putting it back on again. I wear it round the house, when I’m out walking and when I’m at work in the day. I’ve decided, it’s not something I can put away, so I’ve given over time to reflection. Quiet afternoons spent consolidating feelings and memories, of which there are many. I’m not entirely sure how I should arrange them all initially, other than lay everything out, in a scrap book, of sorts, and slowly paste things down.
One of the last things I did, when we cleared his little cottage, was dig up the rose we gave him, a year or so ago. Its roots had taken, but there wasn’t much fight, it came up freely, even happily, and as soon as the ground’s a bit softer here at home, we’ll plant it out, somewhere we can see it flowering.
I have a few of his garden tools here. (He was a keen vegetable grower) There’s a rather nice old scythe, he’d owned since the 70’s, long before strimmers came about. I remember it well, as a child it seemed a foreboding thing. I remember in late summer dad scything the long grass under the pines at the back of the house. He’d make tidy heaps out of the cuttings, nettles and thistles, then pitchfork it all into a big pile by the hedge, to rot down.
I have a nice old hoe here too, another tool that takes me back to childhood. It’s curious because it’s relatively small, with a short (now quite frail) handle. It’s almost kid sized, and would always come in handy, I recall, for digging traps or burying treasure. Another object, now in my possession, is his old Opinel pen knife. He was given it by a neighbor of his 50 years ago now, it was always in his pocket. It’s a lovely old thing and my absolute favorite. The beech wood handle is dark and worn and particularly smooth, and the steel blade’s now half the depth it used to be, having been honed time and time again. It is priceless to me, so I’m hopelessly torn between using it, practically, as I would my own knife, everyday, in the garden, on the boat, on the beach, in the woods, and keeping it safe, on the shelf, to look at, to keep, and not to lose.
The clear crisp weathers been good for the soul and last week I spent the day in the veg garden for the first time weeks. Gladly it was time well spent, but there’s not much growing right now, save a circle or sorrel that sprung up of its own accord, and some curly kale which seems to be keeping itself to itself this winter. I cleared the tangle of runner bean canes that had blown down in the autumn. I dug up the last row and a half of charlotte potatoes which had been patiently lined up a foot below the ground. They were still in good shape, and very tasty, I didn’t even peel them. Just scrubbed them, boiled them, then roasted them in chunks with plenty of salt and olive oil. I also spent part of the day just weeding the beds. I used my dad’s old hoe on one occasion, but for the most part I just sat there quietly, on my knees, teasing up the weeds, one by one. A slow meditative process I find a certain peace in, perhaps a kind of healing.