Gardening is a wonderful, fulfilling and rewarding hobby and like most things, the more you put in, the more you get out of it. Having an allotment is a full time hobby and unfortunately when, like me, you work a busy full-time job far away from your plot, it’s difficult to always get time to visit the garden. There have been times when I haven’t visited the plot for weeks on end. Obviously, this hasn’t been ideal. My plot has suffered, particularly the polytunnel.
Two years ago, I lived a relatively happy life. I had a fantastic job, I lived in a lovely apartment near enough to my allotment (a bus journey away) and I had a long term boyfriend who, at the time, I was very much wrapped up in. I was visiting the allotment twice a week and was content with that. At the time, I was just beginning to garden, I was still taking baby steps and wasn’t taken over by the draw of the garden yet. I wasn’t yet obsessed by it, addicted to it yet. It hadn’t saved my life yet.
You see, two years ago, I had all of those things, until one day, I didn’t. I suffered a major trauma that summer. My life fell spectacularly to pieces when, following an assault that landed me in hospital, I decided to leave my then partner and had to move back to the safety of my family home. How lucky I was to have that wonderful safety net to retreat to, how lucky I was and am to have what so many people do not. So I will not go into detail about my mood at the time or the huge consequences that event had on my life; and I am not telling you this in order to garner sympathy but simply to tell you a small part of my story that led me to where I am now.
During that time, I only visited the allotment periodically, having being convinced by my Mam to keep it up. The garden began to become my haven, my escape from the reality of my life, it began to lift me up again. Then sadly, three months later, just as I was beginning to recover, my favourite person in the world, my Nana, passed away after a battle with lung cancer. I was completely and utterly devastated. I was bereft. The gone-ness of her nearly killed me. The complete and utter gone-ness of my life as I had known it left me in a state of bewilderment. It was October, the garden was barren, my life seemed barren and all my plans had gone to seed so to speak.
I would visit the plot during the winter months, sit there for hours and just cry and smoke cigarettes (I took up smoking again after my Nana died, the irony would not be lost on her, though she is probably haunting me for it). No digging, no weeding, no toiling, just crying and smoking, and then I’d go home. You see, loss like that can ruin you. Loss like that can’t be measured or articulated. It just is, and in the midst of it, that loss is all there is.
The weeks and months went on. I was living far away from my allotment, it was a two bus journey to get there. For a year, I made the effort every couple of weeks to get out, but my job was busy (I still have the fantastic job by the way, it helped keep me going) and I was busy learning how to live an entirely new life. Learning to navigate the world as a different woman. My garden however, had become more than a hobby, it had become my safe place, my best friend. It was the allotment that heard my cries, cushioned my fall. It was the soil that I dug all my frustration in to. It was the garden that began to give me hope. There’s something about planting a seed that is very much rooted in the idea that you are planting a future and that – if nothing else – there will be that produce to look forward to in the coming months.
At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to make more time for my garden and I faced that resolution head on and have achieved what I have set out to do. I have been making the long journey out to the plot as often as possible but have still been very limited due to where I was living. It was taking me over an hour on public transport to get to the garden, sometimes up to two hours, I’d have to drag home all the heavy produce home on the bus and it was becoming an unending chore. And while I have improved the garden immeasurably this year it just wasn’t enough. I had no spare time to write about it. I had no time to do the extra little things I wanted to do. I needed to be there everyday if possible. I wanted to be there every day.
Imagine the progress I could make if I was there every day. If you click on the first picture below, you can scroll through a few pictures all taken from one spot in the garden over the past three years. The last two photos are from this year, look at the difference that spending a bit more time on the plot can make! Imagine what I could do.
And so, after two years of long commutes to the plot. Two years of living in the home I grew up in. Two years healing and learning and letting my garden save me, I decided it was time to move on; and move, I have. I found a lovely house share in the fabulous area of Malahide in Dublin and two weeks ago, I moved in to my new house. Malahide is a really lovely, popular village with picturesque views over a marina. There’s a beautiful estuary with a hundred swans, there are about twenty pubs (heaven), restaurants, a tennis club, a cricket club, a church, a hotel, boutique shops and a gorgeous castle and park (yes, I am living in a super posh area now). The biggest draw for me however, is this: my house is approximately 400 metres from my allotment as the crow flies, i.e. a one minute walk from my front door.
I can go to my allotment every single day.
I have come full circle. I have fought very hard to be here. I haven’t done it alone. I have the best friends in the world and two parents who are unendingly kind and supportive. Their green fingers have tended to me well.
For just a glimpse of what I can do now, I dropped by the plot after work last night, watered the polytunnel, picked loads of fresh vegetables, brought them home and cooked myself dinner with them. Tonight I swung by after work, watered the tomatoes and munched on a few and still had time to come home and write this. Thanks for sticking with it, I know it’s a bit heavier than my usual tone but that shall resume tomorrow, I promise!
I am very happy.