Some things pre-date sorrows. A short path winds from the bottom of our lawn to a garden shed. As Spring moved into summer the path became overgrown with cow parsley and the prolific pink flowers known as ‘Herb Robert’, while great dandelions sprouted between the paving slabs. I love all those plants but reluctantly I decided I must clear a way to the shed. Who knows when Mrs Llew might need to go to it? She expects dragons wherever the undergrowth is tall. I mentioned somewhere on this blog a time when the wilderness below our Finchley pear tree shook – and out came a distant neighbour’s tortoise.
As I worked, the spicy woodsmoke of a bonfire drifted in the air, from somewhere not far away. I wanted it to stay but it was gone But this fragrance was a signpost: to a destination I cannot now see. Or maybe it is a place I once knew. But it is a place before and after and alongside all the routine duties and occasional tribulations of our daily lives as we live them. Which is why I believe it predates and outlasts our sorrows.
It rained, heavily. Pools formed in the street and our runner beans and tomatoes were grateful. In the air was another sweet and yearning scent, of hot, dry vegetation refreshed, and the heavy July air rinsed.
In the corner of our garden a great tall clump of white phlox grows beneath a buddleia whose soft cones of tiny blue and purple florets yield a memory of Spring.
In wartime I had a friend whose garden was full of phlox. We used to pick the tiny flowers and suck the nectar from their stems. The scent of those flowers brings back that time. It was a time which existed before and after and alongside life as I knew it, including the war.
I love cow parsley, and wild flowers growing between flagstones. And tumbling plants in old Oxfordshire walls.
As the summer moves on there will be a time when woodsmoke will speak of autumn and passing, and dying. And separation. But its poignancy will exist in its insistent message that there is another place, another world, for us and those we love.