Story telling from Australia
It’s winter here in Australia and I get the feeling my troublesome garden is trying to tell me something. The lime tree is losing its leaves, the climbing honeysuckle has fallen away from the wall, the plum tree – which has never produced anything edible unless you happen to be a fruit fly – has shot leggy branches well beyond the reach of my pruning shears – and the clematis appears to be heading next door. Now that its leaves have dropped I can see how fast, and how far, it has grown.
This garden is trying to tell me something and I’ve been far too busy to listen. If these plants could speak they would be clamouring for my attention, begging me to prepare them for spring. Winter doesn’t last long in Sydney; there are winter mornings when spring feels like it could arrive before lunchtime. The long respite of a European or North American winter, when gardens and gardeners hibernate, is barely long enough to sweep out a shed.
The plants can speak of course; I’m just not listening.
Nigerian-born novelist Ben Okri, who won the Booker Prize for his wonderful novel The Famished Road, was at the Sydney Writers’ Festival a couple of weeks ago, and I caught the tail end of an interview with him. ‘If you want to be a writer you have to learn to listen,’ he said. ‘You must listen to yourself, to others, and to the world around you.’
I reckon that advice applies to gardeners as well as to writers. Right now I should be walking around our tiny back garden, listening to what it’s been trying to tell me for weeks, then getting on with the jobs that need to be done. Instead I’m in Jervis Bay, preparing for a talk at the Berry branch of the Country Women’s Association being held on Saturday afternoon.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted to be here and I will love talking to an audience of fellow CWA members and their guests, it’s just that I’m feeling a tad guilty at neglecting so much that needs to be done while I’m ‘gadding about’ on a book talk.
So this morning I got up early to walk the dog – being productive – and I was out walking at the perfect time to watch the sun rise above the horizon. There was nothing to do but stand in awed silence as an impossibly beautiful line of light stretched across the water. It was a moment of beauty that made nonsense of any guilt I might have been feeling.
Life is made up of moments, and that is one I will treasure.
PS I didn’t have a camera with me, so thank you Kate for this photo taken yesterday.