We rarely reach the point in life where we can say ‘I have achieved my perfect balance.’
But there are moments.
I had one this morning, in the middle of a very unromantic task: taking the kitchen waste out to the compost heap.
The light was catching the veg patch just so. I could smell the tomatoes. The birds were twiddling around, in their own sweet way. I wondered back across the garden via the walnut tree. I like to stand under it and gaze on my cut flower patch.
I have been taking a bit of a digital detox in recent weeks. We’ve been on holiday to Cornwall, glamping. We had no wifi, and a very sporadic signal. We read. We fed the ponies. We battled with a log-burner for one-pot cooking. We toasted marshmallows. We picked up Cornish accents. We slowed down.
We had a jungle adventure in the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
The jungle was incredible. But it was in this strip of zinnias too that I had a moment of wonderment.
It was completely aflutter with butterflies; more butterflies than I have ever seen: commas, tortoise-shells, red admirals, painted ladies, peacocks.
Another outing was the Riverford Field Kitchen, in Buckfastleigh, Devon. The kitchen serves a fixed menu of several shared plates based on the organic veg being harvested on the farm. The menu changes daily, based on what is good right now. It is a sociable experience, with canteen-style tables shared with other diners.
The food was sensational: generous plates heaped with delicious, satisfying veg-based dishes. Whilst my step-daughter and I had the vegetarian option, the rest of the family agreed that the meat was completely unnecessary. It was a feast.
There was an equally generous selection of puddings, and joy-of-joys, you could choose two! The children enjoyed lemon meringue pie, caramel tart, chocolate nemesis and Eton mess. Stevie and I plumped for plum and lemon pudding, and semolina (I know!) with collapsed cherries. This was a revelation. The milk was infused with with black pepper, fennel seeds, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. The semolina was (unnecessarily) enriched with Mascarpone and then served with collapsed cherries. It was divine. I have recreated it at home without the Mascarpone, served with collapsed damsons. It is one of the most delicious combinations I have ever tasted.
After lunch, we took a stroll around the farm.
It was inspiring to wander through fields where wild flowers grow along the edges, and no artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides are used.
Needless to say we bought the cook book, ordered the veg box, and I have been having fun in kitchen ever since. Stevie and I are upping our fruit, veg and herb production for next year. We are referring to the project as ‘Fantasy Farm’. In addition to the real winter salad and herbs, increased yields of roots and legumes and brassicas and fruit trees, we have a couple of imaginary goats, a waddle of ducks and a very sweet Jersey cow, named Irma.
After being away in Cornwall for a week, we came back to a rampant garden. I enjoyed a couple of hours dead-heading and cutting flowers for the house. I have kept the sweet peas going, but they are ready to be cut down to make way for the dahlias, scabious and amaranthus.
We are harvesting courgettes, tomatoes, beans, sweetcorn and potatoes by the bucketful, and redcurrants, damsons and raspberries by the basketful. If anyone comes for dinner, you have been warned. Apples, pears, grapes and pumpkins are on the way.
Back to Balancing
Four months ago I began practising yoga daily. I have practised yoga for twenty years, but when I had my children, daily practice became a challenge, and it remained a bit sporadic for the next fourteen years. In April, Stevie and I went away for the weekend, and I had the head-space to realise I was missing my daily practice. Since then I have been getting up early every morning to practice. I am absolutely loving this daily space to enjoy movement, breathing, and being right here, right now.
I don’t think it was any coincidence that I refound my yoga practice the week before I started working full-time again in a challenging and exciting new job. At some level I recognised that I would need some time every day to come back to myself, and find balance.
Between yoga flows, balancing in tree pose, deadheading, harvesting, playing in the kitchen, planning tulips for next spring, spending time with my loved ones and that little thing called work, I have been finding it a challenge to write my blog. I wonder if I need to take a little Autumn-and-Winter sabbatical, and come back, refreshed, in the spring.
So if you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t worry. I am still around, but replenishing myself and the garden. No doubt experiencing the odd moment of wonderment, earthy delight or sensory pleasure.
To fill the gap, please feel free to explore the archives of previous posts. You can click on the categories at the top of the page, search for a particular plant using the ‘search’ window below, or explore archives of previous posts organised by months.
One thing that I have learnt from yoga, and from gardening, is that balance is never fixed. Balance is a moment. It is where we are at right here, right now. We have a moment of perfect balance, and then something shifts. Our centre of balance moves, and we will wobble. But we will find it again. It will be a little different, but we will find our way. Just like the seasons, life is always shifting. We can’t fix it in time; so go with the flow. Life is a series of moments to be enjoyed, right here, right now.