Walking back over cleared ground I wished to admire my handiwork of some weeks ago. Aghast, I discovered that the green shoots of recovery even apply to briars, brambles and bushes. There they were, in all their brazen glory, standing to attention, reaching towards the sun.
Shocked, I stood in amazement. Despite a rough hacking (hand clippers) these little fellows were no shrinking violets. Clustered in small groups they were like Ógra Fianna Fáilers or Young Fine Gaelers at an Ard Fheis. No matter what the outcome of an election, or how humiliating the results, they still turn up for more.
Briars and their bramble ilk consume the world they live in. Indiscriminately. They have no shame. In the best existential example of Descartes’ ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ (‘I think, therefore I am’), these young wans are not backward about coming forward!
I wonder could Descartes have worked on something like ‘I do not like gardening, therefore I am not a gardener.’ Perhaps 17th-century French philosophers never experienced the audacious manner of briars.
There is no cure for the pained up fingers, wrists and elbows. They are worse than the twice-daily milking duties on Blackie the cow after she calved, when we lived in 1 St Mary’s Crescent. Or the morning after the first day on the bog in Tawneyslinaun, Derrymore, when your hand would be wringing off you.
That’s not to forget the pain in the back. All the hauling and heaping takes a severe toll on the back and shoulders. Far from Leonard Cohen’s ‘aching in the places where I used to play’ you end up aching in places that you didn’t know you had.
Some days end up complete write-offs. You daren’t even go outside the door, fine weather or not. You’d be afraid that the garden would have some ethereal draw that would suck you into its grasp even if you weren’t fit to put one foot in front of the other.
You spend time praying for rain. You also spend time praying that the rain doesn’t encourage the bold and brash briars to propagate, consummate or do whatever briars do to make it unbearable for those of us who have had enough of them.
It’s not that I feel like a landlord wishing to evict them or anything like that. It’s worse. They are like colonisers – unwanted, unbearable and ungrateful. I feel more like a rebel, a touch of the ancestral whims coming to the surface.
They are using indiscriminate methods to consolidate their hold so all means are acceptable to get rid of them. A War Council approach is not a bad way to plan the battles against these belligerent aggressors, but there are limits, no nuclear glyphosate option. We will not stoop that low. The collateral damage is way too great. It impacts so heavily on our pollinator friends like bees, hover flies, butterflies and their clans.
There are still times for the walks down the country lanes of Sheeaune and Cogaula. It’s amazing how much beauty abounds in close proximity to where one lives. The birds are in mighty form – from the orchestral dawn chorus to the high-up blackbirds every 100 metres singing their hearts out throughout the day. Fido the pheasant comes daily, squawking his presence and demanding porridge oats. The thrush reserves his energy mainly for evening time and dusk, serenading us into darkness.
It’s then time for Rua the fox to make her presence felt. Bypassing the fowl in the locality she heads for the supper takeaways left for her in back porches and gardens. Night steals down quietly as, one by one, lights are turned off and we all head for slumber land during bat flight.
The end of the day reflection has Julian of Norwich as flavour of the lockdown. The medieval English anchoress author of ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ concentrated on the love of God, not retribution – most unusual in the 14th and 15th centuries. She experienced the feminine attributes of God, always loving, merciful and forgiving. Sleep slides with “All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”