Took my son to the airport today. I have no idea when I shall see him again for he is a wanderer, for now. No more of the hanging onto the mother’s leg, the silken blond angel who thought me the centre of his universe – now he is finding his own path, and though proud, it is never easy to say goodbye. We have progressed from ‘don’t go’, to ‘don’t drop off in front of my friends’, to ‘just stop at the drop off point’ and I watched him disappear from view. Proud as hell, and sad as hell at the same time.
But I have a garden that lies within my route home. Kew Gardens and I thought, this will be good. The fact that I managed to find a parking at the entrance to Elizabeth Gate was a sign (you have no idea how fabulous this is), so waving my membership card at the entrance, I entered a world of beauty.
As most of us mud-island dwellers know too well, the Great British Spring is a fickle muse. Sunshine one moment, sleet the next, so we carry our Uniglo’s close; the clouds puffy and lined with navy, but I think it makes for more beautiful photographs. Brooding scenery, stark emphasis on flowers. It is the time right now for tulips – a multitude of colours and names I love to read, never remember and always think, who was that person to have done something so right to have a flower named after them?
Performing today, beside the Tulips, are the Lilacs. Lilacs remind me of my grandmother for she loved them. Hues of papal purple, little girl pink and of course, lilac, the scent is Victorian, old worldy, reminiscent of dressing tables and Eau de Cologne. My grandmother. Also in the cast are Viburnum, the Snowballs of the floral Kingdom, oceans of cow parsley and those bells of blue, the bluebells.
As Kew lies within the flight path of Heathrow, I imagine my son on every plane that passes overhead.
Everywhere there are families. Children unaware of the work that goes into the display of Kew, only happy for the freedom of space. Picnics happen, even in the chilly weather, but we do those sorts of things. Like me, a few wander alone, only I am not wandering, but purposefully walking to find what is new since my last visit, what shall I look forward to in the next? The buds of peonies and roses are prolific and ready to burst into life. I have to see them. Past the restoration work, the folly, to the Palm House and the Lake.
My recent ex is in town with his new love. My son is leaving. Walk on, walk on and in the walking, the beauty seeps in. The doable is doable, life is more than feeling sad. Flowers don’t feel sad – they give, like animals, without question. Flowers are exquisite in their short lived lives, and I am impressed; so inspired that I enter the shop with every intention of buying seeds, garden tools, books about everything that is garden, that I don’t care about anything else – even the fact that I don’t have a garden.
My darling Mermaid (crab apple tree) has died after nine years of devoted service on our balcony. This is why I am looking for replacements in the large container that now stands empty. Should I for the lemon tree, or the lavender? Tradescantia or Bergenias? A stately Iceberg, or happy little lemon drops ? Leave with a tea towel.
I wonder if Henry Moore ever bought a tea towel.
An hour or so had passed and I was changed. I am happy. I defy anyone who can look upon the face of beauty in nature and not be. Another little secret – I go to Kew to get the children’s food. Have a thing for choosing smallness of everything and the jelly. Spent a little while on a garden bench chatting to Henry, the irony of Mother and Child reclining all to real and pondered upon the bench at the lettering of the people who lived, died and loved this garden. Maybe one day I may earn a bench.
Life will never be interesting without a touch of melancholy. Poets knew that. I took mine to Kew, and left it there today. The brilliance of bloom, of tangerine and purple, of full fathom blanc de noir and greens of lime and apple sucked it from my mind.
I am not a poet, but leave me in Kew for long enough, and the poetic may be stirred.
I prayed for God to be with my son. I saw his answer in this garden.