September 1st. Riding the train back to London, passing, on the train tracks, the buddleia, buddleia and more buddleia. Saturday morning; fellows on their way to football matches filled the carriages. I wished I could have stayed in Essex and drawn the event out for days, touching more deeply and then fleetingly the feeling of being with all of those who, James Hitchmough so pointedly told us, were in “the cult”. On this very train must be others feeling the same. Catching the underground to South Kensington, a full carriage on a Saturday midday, I notice two people, clinging to posts as I was, with luggage and a Beth Chatto Gardens shopping bag with grass foliage and flowers sticking out the top. Maybe not such a random thing but they too having just left Colchester on their way home to Liverpool and the Botanic Garden there where they work. They said a woman from Argentina, who also was attending the symposium, was on their train from Colchester which was the one following mine; a veritable vascular system of green folk. The camaraderie and connections like rhizomes; rings of water.
Intended to visit the gardens of the Olympic Park and The Barbican that day but I decided to go wander around instead; buy a pair of shoes I’ve wanted for 36 years. A mistake I think, (not the shoes) but finding a bit of space from the throng was eventually what I found in, of all places, Hyde Park. I hadn’t spent time in the park over the years aside from walking through to get somewhere else. To find a quiet bench or massive tree trunk to sit on or against was just what I needed. The earth under me and a big plant for companionship.
What will I do with this enormous pull I feel from this green land? The pull I feel from the golden state of California? The soft blue-green tawny one of this group of islands I live in and am fairly, though less vigorously than I once was, rooted? How important is feeling, being, close to a community of plant-minded people that I have just been in? How loud is the voice to say yes to that and go? Where?
The T’s urge me, again, to come be in Knightley. I am one of them they say. The hedgerows, oak trees and soft rounded hills do too. The density, oddly, of people on the land deeply, for centuries, is compelling and drawing. I feel at home. I am offered marriage as a way to circumvent the immigration problem. It is not completely ridiculous. I do love them after all.
I am invigorated and encouraged by the lack of pessimism about gardening during my stay in the UK. It is a counterpoint to much of my current gardening life: not what is possible and exciting but what is ailing or insurmountable. No mention here of drought in the negative, just that it is; no mention of pests, diseases, four-legged grazers, without optimism about a solution or awareness and humor about our place in things and how unreasonable we often are; no tone of drudgery or chore only the joyful pursuit of living with plants in a dynamic and experimental, and possibly, healing way. Hundreds of people in one place experiencing gardening in this way. I would like to have more of that in my life and less of the other. I know I am being reactive and a little unreasonable but being here in a deep and ancient culture of gardening, that values gardeners, and with those who love gardening so much and do it for the love of it and what it can offer to many and other lives; truly living that because it is what is nourishing to the earth, to other creatures and themselves, is very appealing. Being in the presence others who find piles of branches and stacks of cut logs left to rot, instead of burnt, in the company of masses of plants, an utterly normal and natural thing to do is like a breath of fresh air; and not having to explain how I think or feel.