It’s always exciting to come back from a long trip and discover that the garden has gone slightly feral and, in our absence, has continued to grow more wildly and extravagantly than if we were here tending to it.
It’s almost as if some of the plants, like exuberant teenagers, have taken the opportunity to throw a party and indulge in wild excesses while we were away – literally going through a growing phase. Now we’re back to tame it once more, to restore order and decorum. Already it feels as if the plants have stopped growing quite so robustly, have clamed down and become more subdued.
What is the source of this surprise? Perhaps it is the fact that we are not here every day, observing and monitoring but barely noticing the miniscule advances, so that when the cumulative effect is experienced after an absence, it is all the more remarkable.
Beyond the initial sense of wonder, however, there is also a tinge of regret and doubt, not so much a feeling of having ‘missed out’ but rather the realisation that even without our daily presence everything continues to flourish, perhaps more healthily and joyously than if we were here. Nature reveals its true colours and intentions in ways that inevitably feel like a personal snub.
In that moment, there is an inkling of mortality, a half-sensed awareness that Life without us may indeed continue to prosper and thrive even more successfully than while we are actually here. When we leave to go on a journey, our main fear is that everything will suffer and die without our intervention. How much more confronting, however, to discover that in fact the opposite is the case; we are completely superfluous and unnecessary, maybe even a hindrance.
The only consolation we have - luke-warm though it may be - is the realisation that we were the ones who actually planted the darn things in the first place.