Cold morning yesterday. I bundled my ageing, aching self--had to go back to the physio, £60--out the door and walked to the gym. When I came back from the gym, I looked at the lumber and other refuse dumped on the scrub beside our building and suddenly remembered my attempt to plant bulbs there.
The ground had turned out to be too hard. I suspect there is concrete there and the dirt overlay just blew there over the years and life took hold, as it does. However, the land Benedict Ambrose and I (and the bank) actually own is soft, and so I planted bulbs around that. So when I walked around the corner of the building, I had a look at the place between our garden and the garden last door and found, despite the January cold, strong green shoots.
I was so excited I took some photos. If you look very carefully at the above photo, you will see a green shoot among all those pebbles.
New life in January is one of my favourite things in British living, and not just because I was born in January myself. My hometown is cold and snowy at this time of year; in fact, the snow is knee-deep there right now. Thus, it's always a little miracle when the bright white snowdrops appear against their rich green leaves in February.
I discovered during the 2020 lockdown that one of the things that cheered me up was seeing a new shoot in the vegetable garden. It was certainly worth the time, money, and effort involved in setting up this garden in the first place. So when I bought the bag of bulbs for the wasteland beside the building, I was doing two things: 1. rebelling against the Council who should be taking care of that land, but isn't and 2. investing for the the spring.
My investment has already been rewarded by the sight of the shoots, and it will pay dividends in a few weeks. I am looking for similar rewards everywhere else I am making efforts: doing the very boring exercises assigned me by physiotherapists, lifting weights, running on the treadmill, writing down everything we spend, investing our savings, having laborious conversations in Italian and Polish, explaining comma conventions to my pupils. Unlike housework, these things actually lead to developments: stronger muscles and thus less pain, more money and thus less worry, greater fluency and thus less embarrassment, more accurate punctuation and thus the betterment of mankind.
One day the COVID emergency (or lockdown emergency, if you prefer) will be over. Personally, I will zoom all over the world on aircrafts and trains to visit loved ones. And when I do, I will want to have something to show for this long quasi-confinement. The thought gives me a lot of hope, and this hope is nourished by all the little shoots, as it were, most recently the ones in the back garden.
So to add a list of coping methods for this awful period in our lives:
1. Plant a garden, even if just on the windowsill.
2. Keep a spending diary and celebrate your monthly savings.
3. Put on your runners/trainers and walk every day until you can run.
4. Then run.
5. Learn a language or some other difficult thing (like chess) and don't quit.
6. Teach someone something, even if it's just by starting a blog about it.
Also, think about trees. As I was in the gym, looking out the window and contemplating the autumn of my life (in fact, the exercise is partly about the winter being like a long, happy Christmas holiday, and not like a Toronto February), I contemplated trees and how they keep on sprouting leaves every spring.