Uprooting a new year
I had planned to spend the last day of the year in the garden. Planting the last bulbs, sowing the first seeds. I woke up dreaming of the metaphors it would bring me.
Instead, I mess about with my children. Dawdle distractedly to the sound of an audiobook. Clear a window of Christmas and feel lighter for it.
At some point toward the end of the afternoon, I find myself making preparations. Getting out the compost, unearthing gloves. Going into the cellar to fetch the box of seeds, undisturbed since summer’s last sowings. The sight and smell of the packets all lined up inside nearly brings me to tears, a wellspring of feeling that threatens to wash away the year end’s jaded cynicism. Here is my store of hope.
At the moment, it looks like nothing. Some brown pellets of different shapes and sizes in paper envelopes in an old wooden box, that is all. But in my imaginings I see and smell and hear the buzz of the summer garden they will bring.
It is well after 3 in the afternoon. Soon it will be sunset on this last day of the year. This day of the latest sunrise. Tomorrow the mornings change, begin their slow creep towards the light. Just as Christmas Day was the first day after the winter solstice on which the human eye could discern a lengthening in daylight. It appears that these significant days of our calendar are not so arbitrary after all, and this comforts me, the meaning that lies beyond that which has since been manufactured.
I pour myself a finger of warming rum and go into the soggy garden. I bring my laptop with me. I am thinking of you. Before I can sit to write to you, an interruption. A neighbour pops round with the parish newsletter, which my children deliver to our end of the village. We chat about our Christmases, and in our cheery goodbyes, I am thankful for the community I have found here. Before I can sit to write to you, a ritual. I pour a libation to the ash tree at the top of the garden, which my daughter calls the daddy tree of our garden. I leave the last bit for the hawthorn at the bottom, our garden’s mother. I am grateful for all they have brought me between the span of their leaves.
It is uncomfortably warm for the last day of the year. I sit in only a jumper on one of the few dry patches on the garden steps and write to the music of the stream beside me, as the setting sun breaks momentarily through a gap in the clouds above, hints of blue, orange and pink on grey.
What a year this has been. High points beyond my imagining, a new direction for my life that I had not even dreamt when I first sat in this space two years ago. An agent, a literary prize, more validation for the question I have asked myself for all the years that I have known how to write than I ever thought possible. “Who would want to hear my story, of some little Black girl from the Caribbean?” You do, and it seems others might.
Next year, I will be finishing my book, Uprooting. I will be making preparations for the year beyond, when it is released into the world, blown into the ether like a seed from a dandelion clock. I will have no control over the soil on which it might land, I can only hope to bloom as brightly as I can this coming year, to set the most robust seed that I may. I would probably have been doing this anyway, determinedly squeezed between the cracks of life, but now I have the support of the Nan Shepherd Prize team, of Canongate, my publisher. How wonderful, how vulnerable a thing.
The sun is setting on this year. I grow cold. I have lasted this long out here, to write this to you, with the help of the cat, come to warm my lap just as I needed him. I know that every step into my future from here, like every step of my past, will be held by trusting that the help I need shall come to me just as I need it. How wonderful, how vulnerable a thing.
I have spent the last day of the year in the garden after all. Tending a relationship of a different sort, but one which grew out of this soil all the same.
Tomorrow morning we will do as we did last year. We will wake before dawn and walk with the children in the half light to the top of the hill above the village, where we will eat warm cardamom buns and drink hot chocolate and toast to the new year. I will be raising a toast to you, and whatever this next spiral around the sun will bring us. And then I will come home and tend to next year’s garden.
Happy new year, friends. May your coming year bloom brightly.
Thank you Marchelle, for sharing your world, thoughts and good things burgeoning. 💗