Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Give a bear enough rope...

A clear (but cold) day, a giant fluffy bear and a rope hanging from a tree. What could possibly be more fun? Coco the bear had a ball being swung wildly about while we waited outside for my mother-in-law to arrive for her weekly play with R (she was late, so the bear swinging went on... and on... and on...).
When I was little our garden was a magical place full of secret and private spaces: the bamboo forest, inside which an old, broken statue could be found; the shed down the back where Polly and I used to sit on the corrugated iron roof and eat little plums from the overhanging tree; the old, overgrown fishpond whose coloured tiles could still be made out when you pushed away the plants. My friends and I conducted strange rituals, burnt things, buried things, dug up bird skeletons and made fairy hats out of the tiny caps of acorns. In my memory everything was verdant, lush and wild. 

Our garden now is nothing like that wild play-space of my childhood home. It is ordered, neat. Trees and bushes are planted tidily around the edges of the lawn; the driveway is edged with native grasses; there are no secret thickets or overgrown jungles. It's not the way I would have landscaped it myself, but it's the way it came and it does have its own kind of beauty (plus the native plants are easy to care for). Still, I sometimes wish my children could experience the happiness I felt in my old garden and the amazing possibilities that suburban backyard offered me. Which is why it was so especially lovely today to see R playing joyously with the rope hanging off our one climbable tree in the front yard. 

I'm no gardener, but my plans for our outdoor areas are informed by my childhood love of the garden and its many pleasures. I want to plant fruit trees so K and R can feed themselves as they play outside; flowering plants, for their beauty and fragrance (and for collection in bowls and baskets). I hope my children will, in time, discover some secret and special corners of the garden and make them their own.

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