“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Yesterday I was over at the allotments, and I was lucky enough to bump into the preschool children, who were doing their Thursday forest club. Forest club is probably more accurately described as ‘explore the local environment club’, since we don’t have any forests close by. We do, however, have big clumps of trees, farmland, a river, horses, mud, bee hives, a large allotment, and sometimes there are even pigs. The children were digging up part of my neighbour’s plot – he had come along to help – and they asked me if I had any chitted potatoes that they could plant. I had some spare Pink Fir Apple, which are the weirdest shaped potatoes you have ever seen. Anyway, there was lots of excitement as the children dug over the area, pulled out the weeds, found worms, planted the potatoes and watered them in. Later on the children came into my allotment, weaving their way carefully around the paths, spotting tadpoles and picking chives.
To make your allotment thrive you need to do a lot of hard work; you have to pay attention to detail and give it plenty of energy. At the same time, though, it needs to breathe – to be a place where you can go to be creative and to learn, making something that wasn’t there before out of old bits and pieces. A place where it doesn’t matter if you make all sorts of mistakes. A place you can go to be yourself. Of course, it’s tempting to get fixated on measuring your productivity; to think that you can only tell how well your allotment is doing by how many vegetables you pull out of the soil. It’s so easy to forget that our lives are made up of moments, not of where we might get to at some future point. Yesterday, when I looked at the children laughing, and running, and tripping over, and exploring, and digging the soil, and watching out for the nettles, all in their different ways, I didn’t think ‘this is the point that each child is at now, and we must measure exactly how far they get from this moment, to a preordained point’. I thought, ‘look how amazing these children are already – how can we help them grow into the people they want to be?’.