Wake up to another spring day. Winter has been mild so far, barely a fleck of snow. I have found this surprising, and pleasing.
This morning the sky changes colour rapidly: expressionless grey to yellow to blue to grey again. Sun shines through our kitchen window, and shines through the window of the spare room and makes the linen curtains yellow. The sun is ignoring the front of the house, and the front garden, but it strikes a corner of the back garden, and the corner looks glad.
We hardly ever open the back door because it means disturbing the arrangement of old socks and tights that stops up the gaps between window, door and frame. To open the back door one must lift the window sash right up, collecting socks and tights as they fall, then unbolt the wooden half door and push it open, collecting more tights. I have not been in the back garden for months. Not since planting the bulbs. This morning I undertake the kerfuffle with the sash, bolt and tights, and step outside. It’s milder than it looked, and breezy.
It is odd to be standing in the place I have been only been able to observe through the window these past months, rather like being on a theatre stage looking down at an audience when one is more used to being in the audience looking up.
I can see in better detail what I have been straining to see through the window: the bulbs I planted in October. They stand erect like clusters of soldiers at the edge of the grass where it meets the concrete. There is a bulb-less patch where I can see that something, a bird, a mouse, has dug up some bulbs. Some you win, some you lose. Other things are growing too: a few buds here, a tiny red premature flower there. Some vigorous bulby things that are nothing to do with me are thrusting themselves up through the cobbles by the back door: the gifts of a previous tenant.
The sun goes in, and it begins to rain, big blobby spring rain that falls leisurely and doesn’t get you very wet or last very long.
I take some photographs, then take one last look around the garden, pleased to be out here again, pleased things are growing, though I don’t know what they are and I don’t know what to do about any of them. The wind is chilly, and I feel an abstract dissatisfaction that may or may not stem from the grey sky and the concrete slabs and the distorted old table and the woodchips and the ragged edge of the grass, and not being able to do anything about these either.
I step back through the window and close it, using a kitchen knife to wedge the tights back in to the gaps. I look out of the window at the garden again, happier to be inside looking out because from here it is just a garden doing what gardens do in February, while outside I felt responsible and inconsequential and helpless.
For good measure I inspect the front garden. I walk through the front garden every day, but usually in the dark, the details invisible. The front garden, though North-facing and much less sunny, puts me in a better mood. Here I feel more in control, though there is no reason why I should feel any more control here than at the back. A band of snowdrops is bursting up near the front door. I didn’t plant these, and I thank whoever did.
The roses look pretty dead to me, all mouldering black-spotted leaves and bare twigs; and yet, looking closer, here are some new shoots that I hadn’t seen before. And down under the sitting room window in the rectangle of stony soil where the strange plant lived before it dramatically died, some fresh red tips are appearing. I can’t remember what this plant was, only that in about October it spontaneously fell over flat, looking so much like someone had trampled it to get to the window that we warned our neighbours about intruders.
Later that morning I walk across the meadows towards the old town. Some way off stands a motionless group of seagulls, all facing this way. At this distance they look like white tulips against the green grass. A stiff breeze blows the grey scudding clouds and the leafless cherry trees. Students walk past, files, bags, tartan scarves. A thin, grey dog barks for a ball, and the white tulips lift up into the sky.