For the first time in several years I’ve found myself back in an environment I thought I was done with, at least in terms of living there. I am in a city. A large one. And whilst there are trees the stars are invisible under these orange polluted skies. I am without a garden at the very moment I’ve started to feel confident and attached to one to attend. My shock and grief at finding myself in new found old surroundings is palpable.
I spend hours wandering the 100 or so acres of common ground in a corner of South-West London. I walk through urban meadows comprised of gorse and brittle skeletons of yarrow. I come across, what looks from afar, as three enormous London plane trees. Their contorted limbs stretching, searching, grabbing the space around them - predatorily inviting one moment and protectively warning the next. Three witches. Yet on closer inspection one of these witches (as only witches can) has split into two separate beings - seemingly jostling one another for space, like Laurel and Hardy trying to walk through a narrow doorway together. They are the gatekeepers over a piece of common that forms the border between two postcodes.
As winter thaws and rain falls I find myself racing after woodpeckers and goldfinches, thirsty for colour that pops. I can’t keep up in the ravines of mud and find myself slamming into the ground, only faintly surprised that as a 35 year old woman the shock and pain of falling-over takes on a particular shade of ridiculousness. I’d forgotten that when I fall I have an unnatural and comical tendency to bounce right up again as if I were on a trampoline. But with the mud I loose my footing as quickly as I found it and discover myself bewildered on the ground once more. So I don’t move for a while. Righting oneself, especially in sodden soil, requires patience, care and a little thought. Slow and steady movements, finding ways to support yourself, these are the techniques I learn to straighten myself from the ground up.