Midsummers Day …

The longest day of the year. Usually celebrated on 21st June, but different cultures will celebrate this event anytime between 21st and 24th June.

In truth, the length of the day is no longer than any other day. 24 hours. That is all we are allotted and within those 24 hours, we must ensure our lives, as always, are as fulfilling as possible.

What we do have though, is the increased amount of daylight time. This is indeed the case for the longest period on 21st June. The longest period in the year between sunrise and sunset. A day to rise with the sun, and settle down as it sets. In between, accomplish all you can.

Having returned from a short adventure. my attention is overwhelmed by the amount of greenery in the garden. This year we have had significant rainfall as well as sunshine and for sure, it is a mix that the garden has relished and rewarded with abundant growth. Flowers and colour are certainly still there, but green is the dominant colour. Where do I start? how do I begin? what am I trying to accomplish? and the longest day is ticking by as I spend to much time procrastinating.

Spurred on by better, and more accomplished gardeners than myself, I am encouraged to get started with committing to 15 minutes and to do something. Anything!

My 15 minutes starts with uncovering an overgrown pathway. I had started to create this gravel path many months ago. Motivation and time dwindled. Perennial grasses and weeds took hold. Slowly, the path disappeared. That is until today!

With memories of the story about recovering the lost gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey in Cornwall running through my mind, I move in to my own lost and overgrown garden and begin clearing back the weeds and grasses. Uncovering previously collected rocks, bags of golden chip gravel, paving blocks – even an abandoned spade, thoughts of why I was working on this area came flooding back.

I had developed an evergreen border at the end of the garden. An area that holds its colour and form throughout the seasons as well as providing natural habitat for wildlife and nesting birds. Backed by a neighbouring bay hedge standing some 12 feet, or more in height, above which the borrowed landscape of a nearby woodland area can be seen adding the deception of a much larger garden.

In front of the bay, I am growing variegated privet to an average height of 8 feet. In front of theses, holly. Each bush 5 feet high and with a spread equally as big. In front of the holly is a box hedge, much lower, but from front to back, the border had reached around 12 feet deep. Or more.

What I had not seen, but it was creeping up on me, was our sons resistance to coming into this part of the garden. I already knew that green is a colour that in many cases will ease the anxieties a person with autism will have. A basic hangover from our ancestors who viewed green as an indication of safety for a variety of reasons I will not go into here. As this border held wildlife, and a depth that created hidden areas, our son was experiencing a heightened level of anxiety as a result of an unknown, something, moving around in the border. A person with autism needs routine. That sense of routine is far reaching and in our sons case, he needs to be able to see, and understand what he is looking at, knowing that it is always there without surprise or change. The hidden movement of a blackbird nesting deep in these plants, creates a panic and fear of attack. Our son would freeze at the sound or movement when we passed this border. The instinct of fight or flight would kick in. As he could not run away himself, being a wheelchair user, he is dependant up myself to get him away. Until I did, he would fall into a rage, born from deep, but genuine fear.

The answer was to remove the border. Cut it back and open it up. Our son would be able to see clearly that there was no threat hidden within it. Over time, I dug up the box hedging and holly, replanting them in more open areas of the garden and cutting them back into an easy to understand shape – I knew I should have practiced topiary – and thinned back the privet and overhanging bay. I repositioned the gravel pathway so that it runs through the middle of where the border was and when I became tired and preoccupied by our sons declining health and need to care for him more to safely bring him through these attacks from epilepsy and the anxieties, my work and enthusiasm in the garden fell away. Nature began reclaiming what I had left, and tried to make the best she can, working between rocks and stones and bags of gravel.

This was my long forgotten project. The bigger aim is to use our garden to calm our sons anxieties and to ease his pain. Each plant put in is intended to serve as an educational tool to help illustrate life for him. In the garden, and through the plants in our garden, our son has learned to manage fears, control the terrors in his mind, increase the variety of his eating habits, to learn about life and about death and oh so much more.

We have encouraged him to explore all the wildlife on our garden safari’s and I have developed his interest in picking up a camera and picturing those things of interest to him in a project we call Marc’s Window.

How dare I lose my motivation to garden. How dare I turn my back on creating and continuing to maintain this garden environment for our son. How dare I give up on creating a safe area, a fun area, an educational area, a forest school area. How dare I just stop, knowing how dependant our son is on us, and what I do in the garden to enable adventures to happen just over our own very threshold to this wonderful world.

I needed that initial 15 minutes to make a start. The day after, I was there for half an hour. Today our son wanted to join me and helped (safely) cutting up stems to add to the compost. We ordered a new polytunnel today, so that during the winter months I can encourage our son to sow seeds, for spring and we will learn all about nurturing, patience, creativity and giving.

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