Over the last month, I’ve ‘appeared’ in two very different gardens…
Just last week, I was lucky enough to read from Digging Up Paradise at Long Barn, probably one of the most beautiful and interesting private gardens in Kent.
The evening was organised for the charity, Haller, aimed at empowering communities in Kenya. It was generously hosted by the owners of Long Barn, who also had organised some delicious sunny weather for us! Because Haller is all about sowing seeds, this is one of the poems I read during the evening:
Deep in the root ball of the ship
the plant collector is making a nest.
He counts his catch, tucks each seed
in its own hand-labelled box, an ebony
cabinet ticking with paused hearts.
Soon he will grow a fresh desert,
bring back to life these dried moments
of the old land. And as he waters
his dust, the sailors sleep on,
and no one sees how the wooden
mast dances its memory of the wind’s
song until, reaching for water, it leans
too far, loses balance. White sails,
like baby gowns, christen the sea.
The second garden is the Kensington/Olympia Community Garden in London, right on the edge of the train track. This is an amazing idea – local residents are encouraged to take over one of the brightly coloured wooden boxes to grown their own vegetables and fruit. And how they did! What I loved most was how different each box is.
It was inspirational! And well looked after by the community gardeners, including Will Gould (that’s him above) who had asked me to run a poetry workshop there for the Chelsea Fringe. It was such a pleasure to have two unsuspecting tourists from Sweden join us – they had wandered in to see the garden and ended up writing poems too. Below the photograph of us all ‘in action’ is the group poem we wrote during the day. It was a serendipitous mix of random memories that created something beautiful in its own right – much like seeds!
A Group Poem – Kensington Olympia Community Garden
We remember sitting in the garden,
eating a cabbage,
being told not to walk barefoot,
crawling through damp rhododendron tunnels
and waist high backyard fields of wheat,
seeing how paths between emerged.
We remember late Spring,
walking in the greenhouse,
watching new life,
biking home from school and climbing a tree,
eating plums until our stomachs ached;
we remember smelling a mint for the first time,
cutting grandmother’s grass,
and we remember to be humble.
Denise, Magnus, Will, Anna, Lisa, Zoe, Nigella, Ginny, Isobel, Sarah