The cruiser stern of my boat is now overflowing with life: it has become a nursery; a garden. Flowers, weeds and herbs thrive in the places I would least expect them – among the severed white roots of last spring’s nasturtiums, in empty pots of compost. It is the summer – teasing the life out of everything and leaching the soil with sun.
Among my nursery I have some stalwarts, such as the frilly Odessa I planted in Mr Jimson’s teapot and the large barrel of thyme that Jobo (an old friend) gave us, when we first rode the boat into London. I smile happily to see Gideon’s favourite pot plant, the succulent, shedding the tentacles of its old reddish skin like a discontented octopus, and leaping forwards with new life. I realise that because of its connotations – old and new – my garden is a Tapestry of memory; a living incarnation or palimpsest of our time on this craft.
The herb garden is looking springy and sprightly in the honey-dew sunlight. Small purple violets and pansies are erupting in the nooks and crannies of every pot on board. It is a delight for me to be among my plants in summer when I am at leisure to follow my own thoughts. This is a pleasure that I begin to think comes with age and understanding – the sheer joy of being surrounded by life that you have nursed and sustained. Whether it be the French lavender, the wild dandelions and clover, the swaying wands of my beautiful white foxglove delicately spotted with purple, the wide-eyed exclamation marks of my pansies or the linear assertion of the lupin: the language of plants and living things, is as beautiful and satisfying language to learn as any human demotic. Sitting here, among my plants, with Behemoth at my feet, wrapped up in a ball (a customary position for her) I feel proud of all the life that I support (and that supports me!)
Beside the banks of the Lea, back by the filter-beds, among the tangled blackberry thickets and hawthorn– dizzy with life and birdsong – it suddenly occurs to me, that the primary and most basic act of creation is that of helping something to grow. In that case, shepherds, husbanders and horticulturists are the world’s true artists and their profound acts of creation and life-giving: birthing animals, growing plants and crops, is the origin for all creative and artistic gestures.
This summer’s mandate: make something grow; nourish it and give it life.