It is May. The forerunner of summer. I walk round the garden under leaden skies, braced against the wind. There was no frost last night thanks to the clouds, but a heavy one the night before. Everything seems small, growth is slow; a stunted spring. I have looked at the slow to wake garden and wondered if summer truly will come again, or if the unimaginable might befall, and seasons stall. It has felt like winter forever, mood matching weather. Or is it weather matching mood? The garden and I, we are both made of the same atoms, both run on the same quantum energy, who is to say which of us influences the other?
I have been slow to wake this spring. What little bursts of vitality shoot forth, are rapidly seen off into exhausted dormancy, like the frost and drought and wind frazzled tips of the plants that have braved new growth. Of course, all is not dead. The spring ephemerals, the primroses, the bulbs have powered through as usual, as I power through the routines and rituals of care that grind and ground me. Seedling creatures require much care, and there are many more of them than ever before this year.
In fever dreams of spring I have been feverishly sowing spring seed. An inner madness counter to the outer one. A way of learning to tend this land. A means of populating beds still too bare at reasonable cost. An offering in return to the village plant sale that gave me so much for so little last warm, early spring when the garden was alive with vibrant colour by this time. I buy seeds, am presented gifts of others. Someone drawing a line under their horticultural adventures offers free pots in the village newsletter, and I am given a few dozen. They sit now, lined up in neat rows on the conservatory floor, beans and squash and sunflowers planted in them, given new life with hopes and wishes for the summer to come. If they do well I will have more plants than I need, will give more away. Gardens seed generosity.
Is it May? Wind lashes the windows and hail pelts the garden now as I look out at it from winter dark rooms, and dream of the fire. Beltane, a ‘spring time festival of optimism’ celebrated on the first of May was a time of fire. I light one to burn these dark winter thoughts away. Beltane was marked with hawthorn blossom, but the buds on the tree that guards our home are still shut tight. It will be Beltane when they open. We are six weeks away from the peak of the year, but the growing season feels like it has barely begun. The garden is slow and stirs but a little. I take my cue from it.
There has been sunshine this spring, but little warmth, and before the relief of these last few days a long run with no rain. I look up the averages for this region, and am partially reassured to see that April is one of the driest months. Only partially, the garden tells its own story. I am new to this area. The garden has no history, it is lost to me. This connects me to this space. My history is lost to me too, ancestral knowledge dismembered. What season's festivals my Caribbean, my black and brown ancestors might have marked I do not know. The garden tells me her story, written in the ever blackening soil, and through my hands I read it. Through my dreams I remember my own. When we wake from this long winter slumber, we can grow a new story together, this land and I.