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A publication week excerpt from Uprooting
But first, briefly…
It’s publication week for Uprooting! There is still time to preorder it from your local independent bookstore before its official release date on August 3rd. I really cannot wait for you to read it, and to hear what you think.
If you’re local to Bath, please join us to celebrate Uprooting’s launch. The incredible team at Toppings bookstore are throwing it a Trinidadian party, complete with rum punch and the Trini street food, doubles. My heart is so full at the very idea, and I very much hope to see some of you there.
Lughnasadh. Lammas. A time to reap what was sown. I begin to see in the small rectangle of my phone screen images of Uprooting landing in the waiting hands of others, a brightly coloured harvest of many months nurturing, tending and growth. Neighbours stop me in the street to congratulate me, the delightful abundance of their enthusiasm for my story’s arrival in the world threatening to overwhelm me. I am so grateful for it all. I am a writer, but in this moment, there is only feeling. The words will come later.
The words have come already. This feeling is familiar, this overwhelm at the potential generosity of the world. This soul-deep gratitude for the plentiful gifts that these harvest times can bear. In celebration of Uprooting’s publication week, here is the gift of an excerpt from the book where I have already said it better than I possibly could right now.
An excerpt from Uprooting
The crocosmia are in their fullest glory for weeks, flying above the garden in their unmissable bright red. They look so tropical, and therefore wildly out of place in my imagined vision of an English country garden. But my ideas of what is tropical and what belongs in an English garden have been profoundly upended. I read that crocosmia are fully hardy here, even escaping from gardens to make themselves at home in the landscapes of the Hebridean islands. I take photos of them in the garden from every angle, tilting my phone camera this way and that, contorting myself into odd shapes around them, trying to capture this sense of them suspended in flight. I post the photos online and look at them on my screens later. Rubies sewn into the garden’s green cloth. Blood Pollock-spattered across the landscape.
I am able to spend more and more time outside again, and find myself there frequently, unthinkingly taking my grief into the garden. The busyness of spring tasks seems to have slowed. There is watering to be done, of the houseplants which I place out on the patio for a summer vacation, and the annual veg. For the garden, I take advice that I see online to water the plantings in the veg beds thoroughly but relatively infrequently to encourage the growth of deep roots. Ornamental perennials I have watered-in on planting, dipping the watering cans into the pools formed along the stream’s course, and then left them largely to their own devices. The rains have returned, and there seems to be plenty of water held in the clay, and I am hopeful that the mulch, and all the creatures and worms that have followed it, will help make the nutrients trapped in the soil available to the growing plants that need it. I am doing my best to help the earth of this garden become as healthy a soil as possible. In doing so I am trusting that the plants will be given the resilience they need to thrive.
The biggest call I feel from the garden now is to move languorously along the paths and enjoy it. I step outside and wander around the beds, listening for the call to do, to tend, but there is little. The midsummer stillness feels oddly like midwinter, a pause, this time at the top of the expansive inhalation of the year before the swooping exhale into eventual darkness. We are near the peak of growth. The garden is tumbling well out of my control, its lush growth reaching up, out and over, beyond any limits I could have imagined. In places I tie things in to makeshift supports, where they begin to encroach on the path so much that we cannot pass, or collapse onto and inhibit their neighbours. I add ‘supports – rusty metal?’ to my list of garden desires, although this feels more like a need. The sheer abundance of it overwhelms me. I have never received such a generous gift.
There are so many flowers, but I read that to have even more I must cut them, and delay the plants’ going to seed. Something about that line of thinking feels cruel, but I spend an evening with a glass of wine, after the children have gone to bed, deadheading the spent flowers of the purple daisy, whose shining bank of blossom lights up the conservatory. The repeated cuts are cathartic, and I am rewarded later with a fresh flush of bloom. It feels less callous to think of sharing the prolific blossom so generously offered. I pick posy after posy, and while they are beautiful in the house, I especially enjoy leaving them on the doorsteps of others to return their kindnesses. Generosity multiplying many times over.
As I feel the garden grow well beyond anything of my doing, it is disturbing to realise that I have no true control over this space. I might cut it and trim it and prune it to create that illusion, but I begin to feel the deep reality that these plants are beings with a life and a will entirely their own. In the bare earth of spring, I planted two Thalictrum delavayi side by side. One of them is towering upwards, covered in buds and soon to flower. The other has disappeared, seemingly dead. I am coming to realise that while I may think of it now as my garden, I am at best a co-creator in this space. My planting is mere suggestion; the plants interact with each other and this unique place to grow new possibilities beyond my limited human imagining. I am just one more creature who might grow, maybe even bloom, in this fertile space.
The garden’s explosion of growth feels unimaginably bounteous. I feel like I have never seen plants grow so much before, and the beauty of it, so freely offered by all these immigrant beings thriving on this English soil, touches my already tender heart. How did I never know that life could be this effortlessly abundant? I remember the effort of all the hours of patient mulching, but even that had its ample immediate rewards. I am amazed over and over again, and in the vulnerability of my grief I feel the garden’s generosity fill my heart. It swells and swells until it bursts the walls that have guarded it for so long, like a seed cracking its case at germination. I bend and touch the ground. The earth is crumbly, friable, where I have tended it. It seems a good place to root.