It feels like the sun hasn’t risen in months. It makes a shy appearance around 9am, skulks around outside the window for a wee while then disappears again around 3.30pm. I don’t own a S.A.D light but I really wish I did. I read about a special meet-up the other day where people go do yoga under an enormous sunshiney lamp. I’m not so sure about the yoga, but some artificial daylight sounds just great round about now.
Even when I was little, I could tell my mother was at her happiest wearing her gardening jeans – on her knees, trowel at the ready, scuffing through dirt and soil, sifting out stray stones and plucking out weeds as she went. She seemed happier still foraging around in woodland gathering wild flowers and picking crab apples and brambles she would later blitz into tasty sauces (if we hadn’t eaten them straight from the washing bowl first, that is). For a long time though, she was gardenless. With no patch of green of her own to look after and unable to wander in the forest quite so much, she paid extra attention to her beloved house plants.
“It’s like a jungle in here”, my dad would grumble as he emerged from behind a thick wall of flowering Busy Lizzies. “It’s like a jungle in here”, he’d gripe as he swatted away the leaves from the enormous spider plant that tickled his head as it dangled from the kitchen shelf. When he marched my sisters and I into his bedroom one day and pointed at a yuka plant my mother had somehow managed to nurture to the size of a fully grown palm tree, we had to agree that it was, indeed, a little bit “like a jungle in here”. And then there was the cheese plant. Brought back to life by, I can only presume, a combination of my mum’s enthralling conversation and whatever the hardcore plant food was she secretly smuggled from Bolivia, we had to navigate round/through the folliage like David Bellamy just to change the channel on the tv set.
My mum has a garden of her own again now. She plants the seeds, she grows them. She digs them up again, moves them around, plants them again and watches them get bigger. Round and round she goes, planting, growing, planting, growing. “Maybe one day the garden will be finished and we’ll be able to sit out”, she’ll say. She says it is a ‘working garden’. Much to my mother’s horror, a lot of my favourite things in the garden are weeds.
While I was growing up, my family had a caravan on a site in Ayrshire. I loved it there. Between the ages of 0 and 12, I spent all my free time there with my mum.
One time, while I was playing with my friends (climbing trees, rolling down hills etc., etc.), I spotted my mum – far away, over there somewhere. She’d been walking in the woods. As she got closer and I could see better, I knew she was wearing her skin tight blue gardening jeans, her wellies and her coral reef cardigan. It hadn’t been christened ‘the coral reef’ yet though. That came later. I referred to it as her ‘bear cardigan’ at that time because it was big and fuzzy. I could see she was humphing great armfuls of daffodils. As she got closer still, she started to smile at me and kind of waggle her head – y’know, like you might do when you see someone you know but you’re not *quite* close enough to speak to them yet. You kind of gesture with your face or your hands or something. I’m sure she would have waved if she could but of course she couldn’t due to the 10 kilos of flowers resting on her forearms. With sticky willy stuck in her hair, mud on her knees and weed fluff all trapped in her cardigan, she was quite a picture! At the time, I was a bit embarrassed. Being about 8 – maybe 9, I was all, “Oh, here comes my mum… She’s just so embarrassing” but now? Now that picture is one of my very, very favourites and I’m glad it’s stuck in my brain.
Me? I can’t grow nothin’. I’m just pleased not to have destroyed the Busy Lizzie my mum gave me when I moved into my house. Eight years and going strong! Well – maybe not going strong so much, but it’s not dead.