How much is happening while nothing’s happening?

How much is happening while nothing’s happening?

The days go zooming by – sometimes literally. I wait to hear a whisper of inspiration inside my head for the next blogpost, knowing that eventually something will arrive, unbidden but urgent, start forming in my head, going off at funny angles or coming out completely differently when I sit down to write.  Which is often very exciting! But – “What to write about when nothing much is happening?” ran my conversation with myself the other day as I tended the almost weed-free garden at the back of the house, rooting around, searching for any unwelcome blow-in that’s crouching under the fresh green foliage, while searching in my thoughts for a theme. 

And there it is, as usual, right under my nose. Of course, lots is happening while nothing much is happening. Culture is oozing through the ether for one thing. Plays and films, conversations with writers or actors, screenings of recent productions on YouTube or Netflix. Articles and podcasts arrive in my inbox recommended by friends. They look fascinating and I add them to the reading list where they form an increasingly boisterous and demanding queue. There’s so much online that it’s difficult to choose and hard to carve out some white space in the diary. I used to have no more than a passing regret at being unable to get tickets for this performance or having to miss out on that event because it clashed with some other unmissable one. Now there are no such excuses. You can ‘go’ to everything, spend a huge portion of this unusually big amount of time you have available enriching yourself culturally, catching up on stuff you realise you do regret you didn’t see. In theory, I want to – something niggles at the thought of ‘missing out’ or someone says, or I just feel, I must. In practice, I cop out some of the time. Honestly – it’s exhausting.

I suppose I’ve been doing a lot of adjusting, adapting, getting accustomed to, coming to terms with – as well as exercising a useless gift for tautologies! I had phone calls, WhatsApps, Zooms and Facetimes. Talking to people about the lockdown and what it might mean for me with my newly acquired (though not very surprising) status on the NHS risk list. Never been on a risk list before as far as I know.  It makes it all more real. Whatever real means. And however long real lasts. It’s difficult to imagine the passage of future time, to grasp what a particular period of time to come will feel like. I can make a judgement at this moment of what I feel about it and it’s easy enough to say (and mean) “I’ll be fine”. But it’s impossible to imagine it, to truly comprehend what the reality will be, what range of emotions I’ll experience and how I’ll deal with them. Mostly, I’m not thinking too far ahead. At least the far ahead is not at the front of my mind but I know it’s filtering itself constantly in some other mind-space a little bit further back, a slightly turbulent undercurrent in some pensive part of my cerebral cortex.

In the garden, a Welsh poppy has come into flower half way down the gravel path that meanders between the two flowerbeds. One of these beauties arrived quietly a few years ago, a refugee from some other garden seeking shelter. They are the purest orange with paper-thin petals, filigree leaves and slender stems. I love their elegance and wildness. I wanted them to stay, put down roots, procreate. I tried collecting seeds one year, drying them and sowing them in the garden the following spring, expecting to get lots more to bloom in the early summer.  Perhaps the seeds blew away or the birds or the squirrels gobbled them up because only the original and one offspring has flowered.  They have minds of their own. I like that about them too.  

The hostas are unfurling their leaves like a choir standing up to sing some rousing hallelujahs. The Virginia creeper is creeping like a band of guerrillas stalking the territory hellbent on a power grab. I have to mount a resistance campaign, snipping it back a little every other day. My friend slipped into the back garden yesterday, stealing up the back passage (well, how else should I describe it?) thus avoiding the house and staying at a clinically acceptable but socially manageable distance. Not entirely legal but completely safe. She brought a potted cutting of a white foxglove from her garden a few miles away. And with that tender young plant now nestling in my border, a reminder that the thread of life goes on, that seeing people in the flesh is something to never take for granted. Precious, the sense of a friend’s company, being able to look together at the same piece of sky above our heads, gaze at the birch swaying in the breeze, listen to the children in the neighbouring gardens, rue the absence of a haircut, exchange thoughts on going grey. 

After she’d gone I thought about the word, ‘together’ and how it means something physical, spatial – being side by side; but also something emotional – being calm, well-balanced. The garden helps keep me together. It is full of reminders of friends, planted with the descendants of their plants, touched by their hands and tended by their care.

And this week’s photo-bunch of flowers brought love and peonies.

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