The seasons run their race, even though global warming does seem to be changing the pattern we are used to. It is now turning hotter as spring slowly matures into summer and greens deepen, losing their bright green newness for a darker maturity. When the weather is like this we embrace the garden. It is full of scents but I actively mine it for the colour. My partner (OH) talks about it moving through its blue phase into the red, and we do seem to have a continuous run of flowers now until late autumn. I sit on my bench with a camera and listen to the birdsong and the hum of insects. Sometimes I wonder how we can breathe such seems the density of wee beasties flying around the garden.
The garden is not just a visual feast, but also an aural and olfactory one. Occasionally the raucous gulls mask the more melodious notes of goldfinches, thrushes, the gentle chirping of sparrows and the proprietorial song of the robin. Scents and sounds change at different times, but as we move into June it is the roses that provide the nosegay.
Photographs provide the material for me to work into my art, as I showed with the ‘4 Seasons’, but throughout my work as an artist my paintings have featured flowers I have grown, from the lupins in my small back yard in my Lancashire ‘2up 2down’ when working as a dustman, to the geraniums and poppies that have formed the subject of works more recently. I enjoy sitting contemplating the garden, enjoying the imagery, collecting the colour through the camera. I sometimes use the sketchbook to look harder at the colour, but these days the technology in the camera and Photoshop has replaced the sketchbook, forcing drawing down a different path.
Colour feeds me, and the feel of the sun on my arms, the breath of air whispering across the hairs on my skin makes the garden experience something special. From early morning to late evening there is always something happening. Ants scurry around my feet, my eye seeks out greenfly on the flower buds, butterflies in blues and reds skitter past, at astonishing speeds sometimes.
Black specks on high reveal where swallows are wheeling across the sky, perhaps the same birds I photographed in Cape Town’s Green Point Park. The gulls, garrulous as ever, quarrel with each other over everything and anything. Crows and jackdaws patrol and rowdy groups of magpies carry their ancient rhyme ‘one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy’ as they make their undulating flight across the garden.
The blue tits are busy feeding their noisy brood in the nest box outside the office window, their cheeping constant, whilst the resident dunnocks silently rummage through the bushes. The pigeons, in ponderous flight like Wellington bombers, try to soar after bugs or try to jump on each other in the ash tree. Occasionally everything freezes as a hawk glides above them all scanning for prey, but normal life soon resumes.
It all feeds my soul and makes me feel glad to be alive, even if sometimes guilty for not working at something more, but I am like the Beatle song
The man with the foolish grin
Is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
And he never gives an answer
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round
All this quiet contemplation is broken by a call from the greenhouse, urgent, compelling. OH comes rushing up the garden, distressed. “A bird, a bird” she wailed, “it’s trapped and I can’t get it out…”.
In the greenhouse, cowering in the corner is a robin fledgling. It chirrups at me and give me a look as if to say ‘leave me alone’. But it can’t stay, there is no food for it here, it must regain the freedom of the garden. “Hello” I say softly, slowly reaching for it, “how are you then, c’mon…” and it flies up and into a window pane. It sits on the cill cheeping at me, and I spread my arms wide, cupping my palms either side, talking gently and slowly moving them until I cup its trembling body in my hands. I can feel its little heart beating as I gently carry it outside the door, feel the warmth of its body through its soft feathers.
Outside, opening my hands, I say “Go on then”. For a moment, it just looks at me, then turns and springs into the air, up into concealment in the honeysuckle. OH is relieved and smiles with pleasure. So am I relieved, for the urgency of her call had filled me with fear for her, my heart had leaped.
I go and sit back amongst the roses, relaxing, slowing my breath and breathing deeply of their scent as my heart beat slows again. Then, rivalling the musical trill of the blackbird, I hear the lovely liquid notes of a serenading robin. It is all the thanks I need.