She encouraged them both to dig the garden as a competition, under the tree he loved that grew and flowed over the cared for lawn, behind their home before everything changed when he sat down next to him on his small bed. And the years of conkers and bike rides were stripped back with the bark and the tree was left alone, untended unheard. And she cried in the new home by the bottom of the yard where the hydrangea persisted despite its concrete glove. And much further away the branches still hung over the water reflecting a garden that belonged to someone else.
But he could always be found near water like his tree and his gardens shifted over the years from alleyways with student bins to squares of territory tucked round the back, to a courtyard and too tightly pruned roses. Before somewhere to sit and be and study things moving in the sunlight and she was always there overhanging in the background, invisible but present.
And now my hydrangea has gone back to earth, one bloom crunchily faded like a collection of cocoons, if I touch them they will fall away so I pull apart around it, tug of war the bindweed that’s stealthed it’s path over the year. The willow stars we made have settled and found their place while the bindweed ties maypole ribbons around them.
She’d watch him carefully in the morning with her spirited silence and when her last garden became irrelevant she forgot for a while. And the branches grew and wrapped themselves tightly around us all weaving and interlocking over time and distance, through space and memory, beyond and outside of what we could see, unbounded by what we perceive, unharnessed, unrestrained by the transient limitations of our senses.
And the roots go deep, channelling intent into the earth for sustenance and life, to anchor the moment to form the backdrop of a family. And they drink from the soil and convert from the light and the cycle continues, silently forging and moving.
She always loved trees, he knew I did too. She looked out on the garden that she loved and cried for the tree and the tree cried back.
Her loss. His loss.
My loss now
And she sat with me somehow
And I sat tall and stiff, upright like her tree, staring emptily into the middle distance and out there somewhere through the brightly coloured glass to a point in space and time where I didn’t exist and the reality was not what I sensed around me.
And I chose bamboo from the East and from our garden
And I chose willow because.
And now I’ve bought willow for our garden
To forge it’s roots deep and strong while he grows, to bend in the wind when it batters the house, to sway without resistance, to ease out new leaves, to nurture and protect. To give shelter.
Her job. His job.
My job now
I sit by willow
8.50 a.m – This morning
Back in the womb, deep in the mist where we used to live, when we used to live. I can smell the wood today, damp fresh good. Birds go up a gear and I’m barely holding on and I know why. Familiarity on the breeze, not sure if it’s coming my way.
Why are they so loud don’t they know what day it is?
I could be anywhere looking out, I’m not part of this landscape, it goes on around me. I could be looking out from a thousand different places. Their bubble of laughter breaking out of the distance while my carcass is held up by the picnic table.
What would you bring to this table ?
Ignore the chinking of dog collars.
Some gaily coloured plastic cloth, gingham checks from a world of ginger beer, mucky knees with mothers apron tied behind her at the high white sink. And you played on the scrubbed lino with hard plastic animals that came inside the biscuit packet. And the coal bunker stood its ground at the back of the bungalow where you used to lose the high bounce balls, all too frequently somewhere in the rockery and you love the swirls of colour on the firm formed rubber and your hair was a thick pony tail. And the front lawn went on forever and it was always late summer and we decorated prams with tissue paper for a charity push to nowhere. And we sat in the park with friends and bought Walls Funny Faces from the old ice-cream van man. And picnics were time to stop, to take it outside, to be together, to tear bread and watch.
And now I observe without a tablecloth.
No currant buns or cloudy lemonade, just the cold planed grain supporting my hands, the persistence of time and if I stare hard enough into the mist it takes the downland to the Alps from way back then. The unsteady magpie bouncing the phone wire, a second one on the ground, ungainly old man pecking. The late winter chill that means nothing to me, that has no power.
And they sit somewhere in their childhood, in their freedom behind the settee under the old model of a viking ship.
And they will travel
And they will become
And their journeys took their course
And they merged
And they moved
And they separated on the surface
And I still travel for a while, with his beacon, with his gift from back then.
And I came to this table
And we’re here without a cloth
I sit and watch
A collie smiles up to me with a dribbled ball in his mouth. I stroke his head and leave.