“If thou of fortune be bereft,
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,
buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”
John Greenleaf Whittier
At the moment, the weeds are in control of my allotment. But gradually, bit by bit, I am taking over control. I am shaping the destiny of this tiny piece of land. My methods are haphazard to say the least: I’m not the kind of person who plans things out in minute detail. Instead, I am feeling my way, flitting from one task to the next, as the mood takes me. No one is giving me instructions on how to do it, or demonstrating the best way. I am finding out what works through exploring, and experimenting, through trial and error. Thus far I have managed to hang a gate – yes, it’s a bit lopsided, but then I’ve never hung one before (and probably never will do again). I have laid part of a path, made out of bricks saved from a chimney we had removed. It’s not very even, but it certainly looks good to me. The bricks are covered in cement, so I must chip this off: there is something deeply satisfying about recycling materials in this way.
I have also started to build a fence to surround my plot – the rabbits here are many and hungry. Again, I’m just feeling my way. But hey, how hard can it be to bang a few wooden stakes into the ground and nail some wire to them? And the pièce de résistance is my first raised bed. It came in kit form, so I didn’t have to do any sawing. But figuring out which bit to put where, and screwing it together, took brain power and a fair bit of strength. Again, I muddled my way through it, and it took a bit of time. But, when I build the next one I will be faster, and faster again when I do the next one after that. The very experience of doing it by myself is not only useful in helping me to learn, but is immensely satisfying as well. And I have done some planting – hyacinths, gladioli, dianthus and cornflowers, and some summer fruiting raspberry canes that I dug up from my garden. The onion sets are gently brewing in the greenhouse, and the seed potatoes are chitting in the utility room. Dig swiftly now, they implore me, we need to get our toes into the soil.
I’ve been thinking a lot about control this week, particularly the question of who gets to control the learning. It is so tempting, isn’t it, to be the one in control, especially where children are concerned? They know so little, and we (supposedly) know so much. But the danger of taking control completely is that you tread roughshod over the very process of learning. The mistakes, and the errors, the blistered hands and the wonky gate posts. The exploring, and the wandering, the search for something deep inside yourself that whispers to you, yes, you can do this. That incredible sense of achievement you get when you figure out how to do something by, and for, yourself. The very things that, for me at least, make it all worthwhile.
Wonky gate, wonky path Hyacinths for the Soul (and for the scent)