How I Met My Green Family
The land was very different when I was young. The methods of farming were gentler then, as industrial farming hadn’t yet been completely embraced and the earth was still teeming with life.
One fine afternoon in May, I went wandering from my parents’ farm and made my way to a favoured little field some distance from the house. This particular field was bordered and enclosed on all sides by spiky gorse bushes, thorny brambles, foxgloves, fuchsias, crab apples, blackthorn and sweet-scented hawthorn trees.
While walking on my short, plump legs towards the centre of the field, I remember turning round to look behind me, because I had the feeling I was being watched and saw that the gap through which I had entered had completely dis- appeared. It was as if the trees and shrubs had moved tightly together and the entrance had been swallowed up. There was no way out of the field any more and I felt frightened and confused. At first I spent what seemed like a long time shouting for my mum and dad, and searching for a way to get out. Eventually, though, I became distracted by the sunshine, the happy chatter of the hedgerow birds and the familiar, intoxicating per- fume of the hawthorn blossoms. The forest of grass beneath my feet was busy with creatures of all kinds – creepy-crawlies and tiny dancing butterflies. The trees and plants were bursting with life. I could feel their individual presence, their unique personalities. They all seemed animated and slightly exaggerated, as if they were vying for my attention. Certain bushes were shimmering and preening. Some of them seemed soft and benevolent, while others appeared curious, if not slightly formidable. Eventually, I forgot about being scared and sat down in the grass to soak up the sun and the magic. There was a feeling of comfort around me that seemed playful, almost childlike, and very familiar. The emotion I experienced there was somewhere between tickles and giggles. It had the sense of pure joy simmering beneath it.
Nothing else special happened that day, as far as I can remember. Time passed and I became familiar with my ancestor’s land and its inhabitants. Eventually, a neighbouring farmer’s daughter shouted a greeting to me from the other side of the hedge and the spell was broken. I looked around and noticed that the gap in the field had been restored, so I left and wandered home.
The experience I had that day changed me, and it has informed everything I have done in my life since, including my garden designs and my understanding of nature. I spent most of my years as a garden designer trying to recreate that atmosphere I had met that day. However, it turned out that there were three ingredients to that particular magic potion and up until recently I had only been working with two of them – intention and design.
However, I finally understood that the third magic component is a familial bond with the land I belong to. What I met in the field that day when I was young, was love. The love and curiosity of a supportive family. I felt a longing for the land and the plants to spend time with me.