“The thing is”, writes Annie Dillard in her essay ‘the Weasel’ (1) “ to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse.”
Reading this, as I went about my daily post hip-op exercise routine, spurred me on. I was eager to set my pulse racing again and to seek some new horizons. Hence Tuesday May 2nd saw me out stalking my calling by way of a Hardrock bike ride and walk up to the Hen hole gorge. Earlier I had been reading poems by Glyn Hughes (2) and noted how in one he described venturing into the hills looking for ‘messengers’. Well I was fortunate that on my walk I encountered two. A wheatear perched on a lichen covered rock at the foot of the gorge and a willow warbler in full song amongst the birch by Mounthooly were both harbingers of a summer to come. A week later I was on the road again. My destination on Armstrong was beyond the head of the Bowmont valley, up by Kelsocleuch burn to the foot of Windy Gyle. A vertical ascent on foot saw me ensconced in the cairn high on the Pennine ridge. By the time I had got there I had well and truly plugged into that pulse and was ready for flask of tea and jam sandwiches while the wind and mist and vistas enveloped me.
Further on in her essay, Dillard revisits her underlying theme. “I think it would be well and proper and obedient and pure to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.” Well as long as ones necessity isn’t pursued at the detriment of others then this is a bold directive; one especially resonant with gardeners. With fitness now more or less assured following the bike/walk adventures, I could now turn to it. May is full of necessity; digging, raking, planting. While addressing these tasks, I was able to observe and enjoy the wild garden in all its gay abandon. Together the dandelions, forget me nots, cowslips, buttercups and emerging yellow rattle all mingled to form in Alys Fowler’s words “ a pollinator friendly garden” (3) At the time of writing I can report that it has been a backdrop to nests of pairs of blue tits, robins, starlings, song thrushes, blackbirds, wood pigeons house sparrows and dunnocks. A pair of mallard have made frequent visits though no ducklings have appeared on the pond.
Horticultural activities took a novel turn, a new horizon appearing, when our daughter Beth came home for a few days. “We’re going to make a terrarium”, she announced and so we did. In the large glass open topped ball which she had purchased she added cactus compost,charcoal and gritty sand. Three cacti were planted and three air plants glued to a piece of Scots pine which I had found years before. Also on hand on the assumption that one day they would come in handy were sea urchin shells, sand dollars, a pink conch shell and twisted heather roots all collected on past holidays. Agate collected from the Bowmont river and tumbled smooth completed the decoration. She was well pleased with the result especially as it had an unexpected knock on effect. Her niece, Carys, came to stay a few weeks later and on seeing the decorated orb wanted a project of her own. Step forward offshoots of my sempervericum collection. We planted them in two bowls at which point she plundered her box of lego to complete the arrangement. Her mini garden became a rock festival with an array of suitable lego characters and instruments. Mine was transformed into a paradise garden with two miniature figures, a married couple, as resident caretakers. New horizons in miniature!
Hang on though, where are the musical tags which usually accompany these posts? Well there is one so no escape! Given that children past and present have featured it was no surprise that a classic album from 1969 would flood into my mind. ’To our Childrens Childrens Children’ was an early album by the Moody Blues. ‘Eyes of a child’ has always been a favourite track, with its lyric of “listen, hear the sound, the child awakes, wonder all around” particularly memorable. A later 1972 Moodies album, ‘Seventh Sojourn’ has a track which both recalls the theme of this post and takes me on to the next. No surprise: it is entitled ‘New Horizons Two’.
1. Dillard. Annie. Teaching a stone to talk. 1982. Harper. Living like weasels is an essay in this collection.
2. Hughes. G. A Year in the Bull-box. 2011. Arc.
3. Fowler. A. Guardian. 22/4/17