Berries and Birds

garden path2Our garden’s not very big but it’s brought me hours of joy over the years. There’s a scrubby lawn at the back where the kids used to play, and a narrow strip of path and garden outside the kitchen window. We planted laurels, rhododendrons and assorted evergreens to cover the fence, and they’re always teeming with birds.

I often stand transfixed as I wash dishes, watching the robins and blue tits, blackbirds and swooping starlings go about their daily business.

But I’ve been avoiding my garden recently. Deliberately avoiding it. After weeks of benign neglect, it’s become an overwhelming wilderness, overgrown with weeds and covered in drifts of autumn leaves – but not the attractive russet, red and gold ones you kick up and dance around in. These are slimy and grey and slugs live under them.

Scotland’s green for a reason, but we had unusual floods this summer. And everything’s grown, I mean really grown.

Our outdoor furniture, which used to look trendily shabby and distressed, is now sprouting flat greyish green florets of moss. Decorative miniature trees have rebelled and shaken off their self-limiting beliefs. Rhododendrons that were meant to be two feet high have doubled in size and smothered two small euonymus bushes.

Grey-green and damp, it was a perfect summer for weeds and plants, birds and bugs. A few glorious days lured us out to bask in the sun, but unexpected tropical showers were never far behind.

I ventured into the back garden this morning to collect the seed pods from some shrivelled up nasturtiums that had faded from glory, unnoticed, in a terracotta plant pot. Depression loomed, heavy as a leaden sky, when I thought of all the autumn gardening jobs waiting to be done. A month of illness, overwhelm and exhaustion can turn the sweetest of daily tasks and rituals into an soul-sapping backlog of chores.

A gust of wind in the branches, and suddenly, I caught the scent of it all; moist, rich soil, a fresh green breeze, raindrops on leaves and the beautiful mossy breath of trees. It didn’t look like a garden, it looked like nature, a bit of wilderness outside my back door, overgrown, untamed and perfect for birds.

I suddenly saw the sunset-bright berberis berries, the dangerously dark and tempting laurel berries. Clusters like hidden jewels, and below them, still thriving, the flowers of some daisy-like thing I don’t even know the name of, something I just planted because I loved how the colour blended in with all the other mauves and violets and purples back in May. I rushed in and grabbed my camera.

I stood transfixed and smiled a small smile. Life longs for life. Our happiness, our planet’s existence, depends on the tiniest of details we often overlook or take for granted while we’re desperately trying to make sense of the bigger picture.

Trees, birds and bees don’t make a mess of things the way we humans do. They don’t create slave trades, mutilate their neighbours in the name of religion, knowingly destroy their habitat or create global credit crises. They don’t get stressed by trivia or moan about blogging roadblocks. They just get on with it.

The bees follow their bliss. Flowers turn to berries, birds breed, eat the berries and spread the seeds – the evidence of their small but perfect lives. The seeds grow into the lush bushes and towering trees that feed and shelter the birds’ offspring in years to come. Nature’s bloggers.

I’m part of all this: I live, I love, I create and I try to nurture what matters, but the beauty, the unstoppable, teeming life in a tiny stretch of garden humbles me. At best, I’m just a guardian and a gardener, an observer who appreciates. All I can do is try to spread the seeds of the moments that stun me into silent wonder and hope they grow.