5th January 2022
Allow me, if I may, to paint you a picture. The threshold to outdoors is perhaps the hardest place to cross when you are filled with fear of what may lie beyond.
Two year of Pandemic controls have caused so many challenges for our son that we now need to address. Leaving the house even, is a key one.
Standing at the threshold with our son, hoping he will step outside with me, even for a short while, I look to our left, the steps leading down into this garden, giving the impression of a sunken garden, covered still with fallen leaves from the trees all around us. To their right, an area that was supposed to have an established alpine garden by now. Cotoneaster growing up and along a wall, leaves having fallen and through the bare branches, signs of repointing that has also escaped me. The fencing looks weathered and worn, not yet needing replacing, but certainly in need of treating and painting. The gravel garden no longer looks as golden as the stones are supposed to display and I regret the fact that I have neglected the raking and rolling them throughout the year. Again, another job left incomplete.
Looking to the right, at the far end of this garden room, the five barred fence and adjoining gate look almost barren and exposed rather than an integral feature to edge the garden. Beyond which is the main garden. Indecision and lack of attention has prevented completion of this area. It should by now house a potting shed and greenhouse allowing all those mini-adventures and activities to be crafted inside enabling our son to help manage his terrors and pain. A sign over the potting shed should by now have read “Head Gardeners Son” …. it’s not there!
Raised beds sit at the centre of this garden room, they are planted up and nature is doing all it can to bring on the bulbs and spring plants. Splashes of green in an area that should be, even in winter, magical to look at.
As I step outside myself into the area I had once wanted to be like a warm embrace for our son to encourage him outdoors, it looked like it had been forgotten. Our son resists stepping out, preferring instead to remain indoors. I’ll admit to not having either the time, or often, the motivation to get into the garden and nurture it. It is not so much neglected, not yet. Not quite abandoned, but certainly it has been left alone. For too long now.
Stepping out through the doorway. facing South-East. the shadows of neighbouring properties being cast along its length. This area is like a long walk. Twelve feet wide and around fifty feet long, the shadows gradually disappear as the sun rises in the sky and the whole length becomes a beautiful sun trap by midday. Today, though spring bulbs are pushing through in the cutting bed, there is not a lot here to encourage us outdoors.
Hit by relentless rain over the last few weeks and current frozen ground through sub-zero temperatures, there is not much scope to do much, other than plan for the future. Today the snow is falling.
A new gate, already painted, to be hung. Fencing and a further gate yet to be painted. A new small gravel garden to be created and form a home for our ‘Flora’ statue. A new pond in this area as experience has shown this garden to be ideal for the water grasses and lily, and indeed all the wildlife that attracts.
The potting shed and greenhouse will come, but I will add pots to grow an assortment of vegetables. Through the lockdown and limited ‘outings’ to shops to reduce the risk of catching the virus, a need to grow fruit and veg became essential. This needs to continue, not only so we can eat fresh and tasty food, but also to help our son explore and taste new tastes which can be a challenge for a person with autism.
The sun will begin to shine again, the rain clouds dry up and nature has a way of taking you by the hand once you engage with her and enthuse you to achieve many things. As a family, we remain very fearful of this COVID virus. We do not know for sure how our son may be affected if he became infected with it.
I’m sure many will relate to my feelings of emerging from a very desperate couple of years and a future that although full of promise and adventure will be embraced with caution. An optimistic caution, but caution none the less.
Our January garden will evolve. Five minutes here and five minutes there. Each little task being a step towards recreating something special that will once again reach out to our son and entice him outdoors on a bug hunt, looking for frogs and toads, butterflies and dragonflies, a variety of visiting birds, coming for the water and the seed we leave for them and hopefully they will help us with aphid control, or creating seedlings for future meals or gifts. Most importantly we will find once again, that focus of mind that will help him keep the terrors at bay and forget at least for a short time that pains he suffers as attention is distracted.
Snow is forecast again tomorrow, but I have resolutely decided that even clearing the paths and driveway of snow, is a step towards that vision I have found once again.