I Shall Be A Gardener

On Friday I cried – not wept, cried. This is not usual.
Then I got angry – very, very angry. This also is not usual.
But the reason for these reactions was even more unexpected.

Centenary Square, Birmingham - London Plane tree cut down (32985799131)
On Thursday there were six mature pohutukawa trees flourishing along the nearby main road, providing shelter, shade, beauty and birdsong. On Friday there were six broad stumps. Two more pohutukawa on my street are also under sentence of death.

This was made all the more painful by the fact that none of the local residents had been consulted, nor even warned we were to lose the trees. The first I knew of it was the sight of stumps, and the severed limbs being fed into a chipper. I cried. I got angry. And there was nothing I could do.

Despite being several decades old (I don’t know the date they were planted, but they were there in 1958), these trees were being eradicated – felled and fed into chippers – for three reasons. The power-lines strung over them could be affected (which is why many of the local trees already have deep Vs cut out of their middles); the footpaths laid over their root systems tend to crack over time; and the design of the new housing development calls for driveways where the trees are. Were.

There was nothing I could do. I was angry – no, I was enraged – that in this day and age it was considered acceptable to destroy such trees, carbon sinks and habitat of native wildlife as they are, in favour of metal and cement.

Pruned pine by power lines
I was even more angry that the local government’s “Urban Forest Plan” forbids replacing those trees. (Judging purely from its effects in my area, it seems more like a Concrete Jungle Plan, but one imagines they are planting trees somewhere. It’s just that I haven’t found where yet.)

So I turned my thoughts to what I could do, and the first thing that came to mind in my tack-spitting state was guerilla gardening. But it will be some time before the trucks stop grinding to and fro and the soil settles on the “reinstated” (i.e. grassed) ex-treed area, and in any case, before one can be a guerilla gardener, one must be a gardener.

I have been living in this city for nine years now (in three different houses) and after three years in my own home it is beginning to dawn on me that I might just… stay. As someone who was fourteen before she’d lived 12 consecutive months in one house, this is difficult to really grasp. But I think I am finally putting down my roots (albeit in trepidation lest they be hauled up again).

So I am going to garden. Not just the annual maintenance of pruning – no, I am going to plant, and tend, and plan, and by golly, this patch of ground is going to flourish. There will be trees (putting the utu in pohutukawa?), there will be flowers, there will be herbs and vegetables and as little grass as I can get away with.

Claire Gregorys Permaculture garden
I shall enrich soil and foster seedlings and propagate cuttings and stake tomatoes and scarlet runner beans. I shall slowly but surely (and organically) eradicate the weeds and the codling moth and the passion vine hopper. (And the citrus borer. *shakes fist*)

Of course, I have other responsibilities in my life, and I don’t propose to lose all sense of proportion and go feral. But I am convinced that gardening will not only be good for the land and the air and the neighbourhood and the climate generally, but it will be good for me. The fresh air will be good for me. The exercise will be good for me. The satisfaction of knowing that I was distressed and enraged and helpless but I’m doing something will be good for me.

Yesterday the tree-choppers and tree-chippers roared around us, and I planted some coriander. Today they fed more plant life into the chipper, and I weeded a patch and planted potatoes in it. Tomorrow they may be gone, but I’ll still be here, and I’ll still be gardening.

Antos Frolka Gärtnerin
Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret, as Horace observed. You can drive Nature out with a pitchfork [or a chainsaw], but she will keep coming back. Sometimes by invitation.

March: a Sense of Power


This chapter covers a variety of concepts, from anger to synchronicity to why people would prefer to think there is no God (“Most of us are a lot more comfortable feeling we’re not being watched too closely”).

“Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves.”

This idea of anger as a marker of transgression or trespass also comes up in another book I have been reading of late: Boundaries – which is an example of synchronicity.

I will cheerfully admit that I did most of the work for this chapter fairly early on in the month (i.e. half way through it) and my mind has been elsewhere since.

I was surprised by some of the things which unburied themselves in the “Detective Work”.

“My favourite musical instrument is” the low whistle – which I have never held, let alone learned to play, although I once discovered someone in New Zealand who makes them.

“If I wasn’t so stingy with my artist I’d” buy her (her? my internal artist, like many children, doesn’t seem strongly gendered) some really flash stationery. Maybe some ink-bottles.

Pointless Archaism

“If it didn’t sound so crazy, I’d” write a supermarket musical. What do I have to fear from crazy? One day I’ll do it.

I am haunted by the fear that if I commit to this writing life, if I let the dreamer loose, I won’t be able to keep making myself go back to work.

With the regular exercises, further surprises ensued.
I was supposed to describe 5 traits I like in myself as a child. I came up with one: my ability to pun. (Whether anyone else liked that in me as a child, I know not.)

That was a bit depressing, but I did better in the field of childhood accomplishments (e.g. started reading Agatha Christie at 6 1/2).

Agatha Christie

Habits! If only changing habits was as easy for me as it is for nuns. (Yes, that’s what I was like as a child.) Wasting time online, procrastinating, feeling guilty instead of getting on with things…
Physical habits are relatively easy to break, I think. It’s the ones in your mind that most closely ensnare you.

The lists of people I admire and want to meet (dead or alive) were confusing: great writers such as Chesterton, Lewis and Stoppard; and a rather strange mix of people including the Pimpernels (Scarlet and Tartan), Francis, Fanny Crosby and Edith Cavell.

If anyone can tell me what the common thread is there, I shall be much obliged to you.

In other news, I spent the entire long weekend (four days in New Zealand, Lord be praised!) in Not Writing. I meant to write, but I meant to do many other things, and it turns out four days is only four days long.

One thing which I did mean to do (and did) is create something for my Artist’s Date. It still needs a few finishing touches, but here’s a clue:

Can you guess?