Is something else my destiny, or is this it?

September 2, 2004

Lifted my potatoes this afternoon. Back in May I popped into a little patch of soil four red desiree potatoes that were sprouting and left them to get on with it. Red desiree are one of the best for boiling and mashing. The plants grew up, flowered, and started to shrink back, so I got the fork in this afternoon. Got 9lb of perfect potatoes. Washed them in a bucket, boiled some this evening with a good double handful of beans I shelled sitting in the garden listening to my next door neighbour playing her violin through the open window. Though she can really play that thing, I prefer to listen to the birds. When she had finished I sat drinking piping hot Assam listening to the gulls in from the coast crying like laughter heading north across the carmine streaked sky.

The runner beans are no good sliced any more, too tough and stringy, but are bulging with large beans that when boiled have the taste and texture of roast chestnuts. The fine weather ensuring this was to be a garden day all day until sunset, I periodically rose from my chair where I was reading Richard Brautigan’s short stories in Revenge of the lawn to do a few garden tasks, like snipping off a small palmful of chillies that had turned red to have with my potatoes and beans, or I’d water the tomatoes, or cut a little of the lawn with hand shears. I don’t like electrical power tools in the garden, prefer to use hand tools, so I use shears rather than a mower or strimmer. I just cut a small area before I returned to my book and cup of tea, do a bit more tomorrow if the weather holds, as they say it will. Not that I need to be assured by the radio, red sky at night after all.

The sunset is an hour earlier since I was last sitting in the garden, realised how much I’d missed it, with all the rain. Still a few pink sweetpeas flowering, though most firing off their seeds now from brittle brown pods that suddenly crack open, each side twisting in the opposite direction to the other like some fantastic device. The poppy-seed heads still rattle with seeds.

Sitting out in the garden one fine night some weeks back drinking a bottle of Hoegaarden white wheat beer, tall tomatoes illuminated by the light from the bathroom, I saw what I at first took to be a large moth suddenly drop from one tomato leaf to the leaf underneath it. On getting up from the chair to look more closely I saw it was a tiny field mouse, sitting on a leaf looking at me, it even allowed me to stroke its fur with a delicate finger.

I haven’t been doing much of anything else. Sometimes it doesn’t seem enough to make a life out of. Other times it seems plenty. One day though, I will leave all this behind, and probably look back on it with fondness, as I swelter under banana leaves swaying from side to side in a hammock, a dusky skinned maiden to keep me company, her hair washed in coconut milk. All I need really is a dusky skinned maiden with coconut hair right here. I could buy another £ 3.99 plastic chair and set it next to mine.

Overall though, I might have more luck going places where there’s plenty of dusky skinned maidens with coconut hair. And so I tell myself being alone, all alone, is something precious that I may not always have, so I should appreciate it while it’s here. I am researching the life of the loner for a novel, but one day I will need to research the life of the faraway person searching for where his life begins, and ends, the sound of logging on the other side of the river to remind him that Paradise on Earth is forever dwindling, and what is found that is everything is soon lost again and nothing. Something I have understood for a long time now. I may look back to this time in an English garden, though very simple and not consisting of a great deal, as a time when I attained more stability than is reasonable to expect.

And I think, what might this bedrock I have laid down in my heart be preparing me for? A journey, certainly, but an arduous one? Or will henceforth be plain sailing, as the invisible treasure I hold seems to want to tell me. Where, I have no idea, but the Far East does call me, like a life I once left behind that I have forgotten about that may shock me with the tears of unexpected homecoming. A dusty path, a mountain reaching the clouds, a riverboat, a barefoot girl in a bamboo teahouse buzzing with flies, who knows what may trigger a déjà vu that peels back the surface of life forever in intimate recognition? Like a child fitting his tiny feet apprehensively in the big man’s footprints, one day one must leave the little boy behind and find one’s destiny, or so I believe. It is easier to see it in a new and foreign place, but that is not to say it may not be close by.