How is it for you? This enforced turning in?
I’m finding small things are gaining significance, for good and ill.
Even the view from the sink.
Our kitchen faces the front, so when you’re washing up, you can’t help but stare out of the window as your hands dip in and out of hot water. It’s a scene I’ve taken in countless times, without ever really stopping to think about it.
At first glance, there’s not much to see. At second glance, not much more. There are two hedges either side of a gate, rectangular slabs of green, largely blocking sight of the road beyond. They’re a little raggedy, but provide a popular skulking place for the local Dunnock; especially the hedge on the left, technically forsythia, but mostly serving as a framework for ivy. Though currently, scruffy spears are poking up, dotted with those cheerfully in-your-face lemon yellow flowers.
To the right, there’s another hedge. What, I’m not sure. I’m supposed to be interested in plants and flora, yet I don’t know what that large living wall even is, out there in front of the house. Some kind of Euonymus, Japanese spindle thing. Maybe. The Guardian never issued a suburban hedge identification chart.
But that’s not where the action is, at least not when you’re washing up. That all comes in the territory in between, where our peeling red gate bridges the gap from ivy-forsythia-dunnock world to the aforementioned, other-hedge land.
In this light filled space, you can catch sight of a flicker of south London pavement and the odd glimpse of the bonnet or boot of a car.
Here, as in a Warhol film, when a bird flies into an otherwise static shot, there are occasional micro-flashes of excitement. Sometimes this involves a child on a scooter trundling by, followed an anxious beat later by a parent. Often it’s a dog, lead stretching out of frame, as it pokes an eager nose into a vast and multi-layered world of smells inaccessible to me.
Yesterday at the sink, absently scrubbing tannin from mugs, as the covid news from the radio jabbed another grim combination direct to my head and heart, I was distracted, not by my cabin-fevered kids, but by a dog. A carefree dog, so excited by the olfactory delights of the hedge, that it decided that this was just the spot to take a crap.
I sprang to the door, fumbled for keys, stepped outside in time to see the half-squatting mutt being yanked away by its human, before it could finish its business.
Feeling ridiculous, I turned to one side, sensing movement and there on a patch of Bowles Mauve, (I know that because there was a handy garden centre label when I bought it), was a large peacock butterfly, the first I’ve seen this year. Hot sun beamed over the hedges onto the path and for moment I felt tiny and elated and tearful all at once.
There on our thin flower border was a visitor from another world. Not unfamiliar, but in that instant this almost-still, gentle entity seemed so utterly beautiful I was transfixed. The vivid blues and creamy rings of the eye-spots, the bright reddish brown of its wings, those delicately dark framed wing edges, slowly twitching as it paused.
And then it was gone. And in its wake, this small, cloying, worrying, fearful planet of ours became vast and incredible and astounding once again.
And yes, we are very lucky to have a garden. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/06/coronavirus-crisis-garden-housing-tower-block-home