I’m out in the front garden, sitting under a gum tree. Parakeets have a nest up high on the branches. The nest looks frail and yet solid, swaying with the wind. Clouds whisper across the sky, thin trails of conversations that become portals to other worlds of understanding, premonitions and omens, story lines that tremor like old memories from a once forgotten childhood.
Clouds, I realise, have kept me alive, feeding my imagination with their choreography. As a boy in Hong Kong I’d lie on the ground, look up at the clouds scudding above our apartment, my fingers digging into the turf, the earth holding me so that I didn’t fall off the edge off the world.
Spinning days, days of shadow and sun, the unforgiving grind of growing up, the moods of my parents, their arguments hanging heavy in the humidity, my mother’s lonely, angry refrains, building up with each cigarette and sip of wine, my father thumping another table, sister disappearing to her friends, me seeking invisibility.
Today blackbirds dart in and out of the shrubs and trees, wattle birds too, larks and sparrows, magpies as well. We’ve put in more native trees, especially callistemons with their long-fingered, scarlet bottlebrushes. They’ll attract more native birds, lorikeets and bright green, yellow and red feathered parrots that, we hope, will help keep the garden healthy. We’ve planted vegetables and herbs in pots and old wine barrels, the easier to water and maintain moisture levels in the summer. Some plants the birds themselves have brought – aromatic, wild splashes of coriander especially. Others, like the Devon violets with their insistent, comforting spread and purple flowers, grow unaided.
The scent of the violets reminds me of my grandmother’s home in North Devon, violets and pansies as cheeky smiling borders, the apple tree at the back, the cat and I sitting on one of the branches, enfolded by dreams. A bottle of perfume I brought back from England, a gift for my mother, her older, more mellow days.
Edges, boundaries, swirls in-between. The old and the very new, heartache and heartiness, the mesh of life.