Monday, 2 January 2012

A bit of earth

The seasons have gone by faster than usual this year, my daughter said to me as we were walking down a narrow, mud-slippery lane.  
Not quite 14 is my daughter; have enough years gone by for her to utter this commonplace?

But then I reflected:   perhaps she doesn’t speak of time at all, in the sense of a seasonal round that seems to speed up with every passing year, but rather of the word that she actually uses.  Seasons, not time. The seasons – their expected shape, their accustomed progression -- have blurred.  That topsy-turvyness has been a feature all year long.

January now, and winter has still not come properly.   Fresh plants, not of this time, are presenting themselves in the garden:  a daisy from the summer, a pansy from last spring, patches of grape hyacinth usually associated with late February and spring green shoots everywhere.  An inexplicable mound of flat-leaf parsley has self-seeded itself by the porch . . . blown, no doubt, from the nearby pot where it failed to thrive during the cold, wet summer.  Spring already, if judging by all that activity underground and not the low, gray sky.

There are some years when it is a relief to turn the page, to buy a blank calendar and pin it to the wall like one’s colours to the mast.  I still have enough optimism to expect and hope that this year will be better.  That which has been stuck will be forced to shift and change.

This picture has to be decoded, explained.
The green shoots are obvious, what is not so apparent is the quality of the soil itself.
In December, the first “batch” of home-grown compost was spread on our garden.   I don’t mind sounding ridiculous here; it was a great satisfaction to me.

This compost took two years to accumulate, in a purpose made bin behind the garage:  countless trips with a pail of kitchen scraps, not to mention leaves and grass cuttings from many seasons.  Then two years to marinate in its own heat and weight, to break down, to become a dense rich brown.  When we lifted the heavy canvas I was thrilled (in the most physical sense of the word) to see what eight seasons had wrought. 
Is two years a long time, or a surprisingly short one, for such a transformation?

So often it is our small, consistent efforts that gradually, so gradually, amount to some really worthwhile change.   All year I feel like I have been making compost of various kinds, and sometimes the effort has felt rather futile.  No doubt I have been nourished all along, even if the more obvious effects have been deferred.