It’s beginning to end, the season of abundance, of frivolous beauty in the garden, and laboured-for harvest from the pots of vegetables. It’s beginning to feel dishevelled. The runner bean plants disrupted by (and not quite recovering from) my rifling for treasure. The annuals fading into oblivion. There is no denying that winter is heading this way.
Some of this summer has been spent in wrestling with a tension in the garden:
How do we keep gardening a relaxing past-time, whilst also growing more (plants, vegetables and our own skills and knowledge)?
We’ve entered a season of conflict in our home. I wander around barefooted, eking out every last breath of summer’s warmth. My husband looks at the turning leaves with growing anticipation; autumn is best for him. September may have a foot in both camps, but there’s a distinct chill to the evenings that even I cannot wilfully ignore. It’s time to look forward to the leaf-paved season and gather reflections from the golden one that’s past.
This summer I’ve found myself struck but the thoughtfulness of others:
Our lives are marked by the decisions we make. Where and how we fill our time, who we spend it with… the answers will sculpt new possibilities whilst excluding others. Our decisions can change the lives of other people too, perhaps never more so than in our increasingly interconnected world. By the time I’ve dressed and breakfasted, I’ve interacted with continents and communities – through the source of my coffee, the makers of my clothes, the components of my phone… This knowledge can sit heavily; we need to be enabled to make daily decisions aware of – but not paralysed by – the impact they will have.
Over the years, I’ve come up with a system; a series of questions I try to ask myself when making a new purchase. It is an evolving approach, informed by conversations, reading, mistakes. And it minimises the helplessness that can arise when becoming aware of how our globalised world means our pop into the local shop can have far-reaching ramifications.
When my parents set off on their greatest sailing adventure* over ten years ago, our belongings entered a storage unit. This summer they opened that repository, and a couple of weeks ago, my childhood was returned to me. It turns out my childhood fits in seven boxes.
Well, two hours fifteen minutes but that doesn’t have quite the same pith to it. And what a two hours fifteen minutes it is. I’ve done some long train journeys in my time – 55 hours between Ulan Ude and Khabarovsk in Russia being my record – and it’s left me with a real taste for this form of travel. The trip on the Eurostar was no exception. I love the way train travel reinforces a sense of connection between destinations – you see one slip away and another emerge out the window; a contrast with the cloud-covered ascent and descent of flight.
Water is life-giving. It’s consistent – in how it flows, fills the space it enters. But water is also fluid, changeable. Abundant in some places, absent in others. It is easy to be casual with water when it springs readily with the turn of the tap. The emptying reservoir lies unseen.
Water is local. The drops we thriftily save will not, then, be available to people in drought-ridden East Africa. That’s not how water works. But it doesn’t mean we should be wasteful with it. The water from our taps has already been through the energy-intensive treatment process to make it safe for us to drink. It seems a shame, after all that, to pour it all over our unfussy vegetable plots.