the imperceptible weight of light, i learnt as a little girl that the only proper way to count time, in the middle of may, is with dandelion clocks. cheeks pink as sea thrift, wishes on the wind. perfectly proliferous pappus, parachute, plume, they’re at their prettiest in the evening, floating gold filament and feather. sometimes in the springtime, even just the sight of them feels a sweet and simple glimpse of forever.
we are such forest-trees, and our fair boughs
have bred forth, not pale solitary doves
but eagles golden-feathered, who do tower
above us in their beauty, and must reign
in right thereof; for ’tis the eternal law
that first in beauty should be first in might
somewhere between the gods and the grasses, the horse-chestnuts are flowering. the trees are all in candle, lemon curd and blush, and each inflorescence illuminates in the storm scattered light that rushes above us. brilliance brushes branches. eventually, each bloom will transform into their own conker, in the autumn, when the countryside once again grows cold, mist-covered. but, for now, it is May! and a showy clematis is climbing up the trellises of the thatched roof cottage, with the stained glass roses, to whom this garden belongs. and, at the bottom of the hill, if you will, you can scramble over a fence, hop over a stream, and then, you’ve found your way to the edge of the woods.
dandelion wishes, ginger beer in glass bottles, i’ve a picnic, and a patchwork blanket, which in truth, is looking a little worse for wear, in need of some repair. the sky’s vermeil and vapour, shadow and shapes of a spectacular scale, and so this canopy of leaves become shelter. i lie down, and lose hours. the bluebells have all gone to seed, but all around me even the grasses, if you look closely enough you’ll see, have blossomed silver and wispy minute feathery petals. it’s almost as if they’ve each captured a piece, or a sliver, of moonlight, fallen to the forest floor last night. silver, viridian, unfurling ferns and moss. there’s a gentle, but not imperceptible, strength, to all of this, the delicate wild strawberries and the forget-me-nots too. the sounds of a springtime shower gifting life and hope anew.
the fading constellations are far away freckles, the dawn stretches the night’s skin thin, draws the curtains on the last of the cascading lyrids. and then, a circling chariot. the light turns to amber, dripping gold, it’s a honey-speckled morning. the clouds are silver lined, a revolving speedwell rising.
i’ll bundle blackthorn, hang hawthorn at the door, light and dark brought together and then tethered, perhaps they’ll bless the coming year. their petals are as delicate as mulberry silk, they’ll tear between my fingertips. i’ve silver bells, and drooping stars, and the wind is carrying along with it May, which is now weaving its whispering way through the wavering wisteria that has draped itself all over my neighbours house.
sunshine, showers. an oak leaf umbrella offers supposed shivering shelter from the rain. i spot bluebells like lanterns strewn about in the shade. do you see how springtime sings life into colour, pulls at the seams of things, stirs skeletons from slumber? puddles and gutters become silvery streams and tributaries, or else tiny swirling storming seas, scattering blossoms coming together as islands. there’s the drowsy-sweet scent of lilac, too, like pan’s song for syringa, it’s the surest sign that everything extraordinary is here, and that incomprehensible beauty is always near.
scent of drowsy-sweet lilac, and salt on my lips.
a sailor’s arms, covered in sinking ships,
black ink schooners, and furious sea monsters
wrapping tentacled arms around his wrists.
the sea and the stars move in measured procession,
a whispering idea, in a walled garden.
each contrived celestial oscillation,
just a note in a plunging eternal rhythm.
the sun followed me to where
apollo, with his lyre, stood guard over the old market square.
magnolia stellata, wrapped in white paper,
confetti collecting in the cracks between cobblestones.
the edge of springtime.
and i watched,
as the morning sky, which had been morphidae
(i mean to say it was black at the edges)
broke into a dawn that spilt ribbons of light like they were blue silk caught in the wind.
and there were pale sunbeams pouring,
over this silver, silent, world.
under a cupola and a willow tree i watch whispering couples holding hands and walking quietly around cloister gardens. all i can hear is the sound of the wind, and from time to time, sunday service cathedral choirs singing latin hymns, or else chanting their sacred devotions, under starry vaults and sails. for a moment, i’m crying, it’s surprising. in the courtyard, the cherry plums are small, and crooked, sharp branches sparkling with sap, like frosted sugar crystals, petals as snow.
a walk in the park, a picnic on the hill, there are bluebells growing in the shade, birds building nests where the willow meets the water. the wind still has a touch of winter to it, i think, pale white cherry plum petals falling like snow.
i lie down on the grass, daisies and dandelions dotted about, they’re drinking up the sun. the touch of now-not-quite-as-cold earth against crinkled coat against chiffon the colour of april rain clouds against bare skin. i drink the last of my karak tea, pull the hat over my eyes, see speckled light through woven straw sparkling, and once more, allow my thoughts their drifting, as they might decide. to love and loss and longing, and then to language and what might lie beyond all that, key to the cage or else divine diaphanous veil or maybe it’s all just easy enchantment. i’m so very uncertain about a lot, these days, but one thing i do know is that if i don’t have faith in there being some sort of guiding light within us, a never faltering flame that to those who go looking reveals some sort of secret inner something penetrating everything around and about all of this, well, that’s hardly worth thinking about.
later, at home, and i’ve a rose coloured bow in pulled back hair, and three blossoming branches have somehow found their way into the tall blue vase that now sits atop my dining table, next to the books stacked in clumsy piles, next to what is now about thirty courgette, pumpkin, strawberry, seedlings, all in their cardboard starter homes. i’ve cheese from the farmer’s market, black truffle, even, a slice of marmalade and elderflower cake, for later, and a map of the new forest. it’s a place i miss ever so much. memories of dungarees, moorland ponies, my first nursery and the cellophane as stained glass that was stuck to the segmented windows there. of the fleur-de-lys public house (haunted), of my mother’s shirt buttoned up hastily and thus incorrectly, the brown suede hiking boots, brown curls, how adorable my brother was, the ferns and the fiddleheads and the filtered light. to be remembered forever… it is a place that i will remember forever (this is so that you might understand who i am).
front door painted the colour of ivy and peeling.
front garden filled with brambles scrambling.
there are wellies in the hallway.
there are packets of seeds neatly compiled in wooden boxes on the kitchen table.
there are brown paper bags filled with bulbs.
rachael is a to-the-point but ever so kind sort of a person, she’s got white hair and asks rather a lot of questions about california. from a chipped cup (i don’t know why it is that i find chipped cups so incredibly charming, but i do), i most gratefully drink the very hot tea that she has made for me. an eighteen-year-old cat, with the palest blue eyes, watches over the scene with some amount of lazy curiosity.
it’s a five minute stroll to the allotments. on springfield road, there is a towering magnolia almost as tall as a house;
goblets or stars or waxy white and pale pink petal porcelain cups and saucers catching and then spilling over with sudden springtime showers. though it’s still quite cold, the top of the tree flowers, the ones most out of reach of me, closest to the sun, are opening up.
rachael walks more quickly than me, pulls a very heavy looking ring of keys from her coat pocket, there are perhaps 20. she searches a few moments for the correct one, it’s silver, and smaller than you might think, for a padlock so very impressive looking. chains and bolts, the size of my palm. the metal gate swings open.
devil’s claw, hellebore. elderly gentlemen, one even wearing a cap, perhaps he’ll be my mentor, wave to say hello. their plots are almost industrial, stripped bare black soil, i imagine they grow prize potatoes, submit them to country fairs, that sort of a thing. rachael warns me of the devil’s claw, i sign a few pieces of paper, hand over £72, and then assist for a few moments with the picking of the last few woody parsnips, left over from the winter.
my plot is long, thin, a jungle. my very own little piece of pretend wilderness.
speedwell scattered about like spilled sapphires.
bumblebees, no wasps allowed.
there’s a lot of evidence that a family were here before me. plastic toys, yellow diggers, monster trucks, a trampoline and sandpit, even. i don’t know where i’m going to put all of these things, i will have to rent a pick up truck. i pick up plastic bottles, and with all of my strength, and with bare hands (soon to be blistered), i lift a few logs and place them in a pile. if i want to burn them i’ll have to do it on saturday, after the farmer’s market, after beeswax candles and pastel de nata.
– a hand-painted wooden post.
– sweet pea swirling tendrils, climbing roses.
– one of those ornate french country tables, white, for bottles of wine and much-deserved lunch breaks.
– the ugliest pumpkins you might ever see.
– the surprising of my fellow plot-owners by not failing horribly or immediately.
– a miniature wildflower meadow.
– orange and yellow tomatoes.
– perhaps even a chicken or two.
– a sunhat, a linen skirt, freckled shoulders.
enchanted, frightened, in equal measure. eloi, eloi. edges of the wild, evergreens, powerlines. a little too old-fashioned, english girl impractically nostalgic. abalone shells as altar of eros, ink stained fingers planting tomatoes and irises. foxgloves, forget-me-nots, pressed into the pages of heavy books and forgotten forever. feed the hummingbirds before breakfast, they’ll hover about the kitchen window, sing the songs that appear as they wish. mint tea in a mason jar, mountain on my chest. eloi, eloi.
saturday evening. lemon drop daffodils, saint julian’s day, heavenly protector of wanderers far from home and looking to find safe lodging. old man’s beard, traveller’s joy. english pear scented candles crackle. shadow and glow. earlier this afternoon*, probably the last of this winter’s snow, although it was eleven degrees and i don’t entirely understand how. tonight, though, now, raindrops race one another from the top to the bottom of my apartment windows. lavender’s burning, lilac perfume. a spoonful of elderberry syrup, a two cup teapot, i fall asleep under stars on the ceiling.
the next morning, and there are blue ribbons tied around blackthorn branches. glassy petals, magnolia spearheads pointing up. i’ve tulips bundled in string, and i am sitting on a wooden bench by a willow tree, underneath an umbrella. i’m eating a belgian chocolate twist, but only because the pastry i actually wanted was sold out, again. there is a boy sat next to me, i think he’s about 13 years old or so, and he’s got a fishing rod and a bucket filled with bait. everything is blossoming, every person is a beacon. i can hear bicycle bells in the distance.
all of a sudden, the clouds, which had before been billowy, reflections in a rippling mirror lake, block out the sun, turn shadowy black, and then break into a hailstorm better than any i’ve ever seen before. each stone, icy pearl precious beyond comprehension and beyond my ability to describe. millions of years condensed into muted iridescence, now stinging my bright red, and very cold, fingers. i attempt to catch a few. my skirt whips about in the wind, and gusts blow parting patterns on pond water. everything moves into its rightful place.
i have guarded my heart, as hortus conclusus –
or, twisting trail of petals to tread.
all the while, venus has been wandering above us,
she’s been scattering patterns of stars overhead.
a couple fall, then catch, on the canopy,
the cypress ceiling, cosmic chancel, that shelters me.
now a capiz crescent wanes watchfully,
and the night sky is lapis lazuli.