In the night garden ~ musings by starlight
The grass has cooled now and feels pleasantly moist against the soles of my feet. During the heat of the day I could not walk here, barefoot or otherwise, for fear of treading on the many bees that buzz among the thousands of clover flowers. The texture of the grass is scratchy, reminding me how dry it has become. The flower heads are soft white, and even they are beginning to wither.
There are flowers that have become magically altered by the darkness; blue and white Canterbury Bells seem luminous, the blue ones almost fluorescing in the limited light. The sky has still streaks of pink and gold at the far horizon, but otherwise is deepening to indigo very fast. The last of the swifts flew over some time ago and I am watching now for the arrival of the first bats, as the night shift takes over.
The pond is now dark, the golden globes of the water soldier flowers shut tight, and the hum of bees collecting water is silenced. If I stand here a while, a goldfish will surface for a moment, then disappear into the depths again. The first water lily flower is still closed, screwed up like a puzzle, but it will perhaps open tomorrow.
The sky is now deep blue, and has a clarity about its darkness that is surprising. The first of the stars glimmers and then twinkles; within a few moments there are more visible than I can count, diamond white against the velvet backdrop like gemstones being shown off by a jeweller.
A soft breeze shakes the leaves of the trees, still warm from a hot day, and with it comes an intoxicating scent. It’s the fragrance of the summer nights I remember from twenty years ago in our first garden, crushed grass, roses and night-scented stocks that I sowed in every gap amid perennials and between paving slabs. Rich, but ethereal, the perfume transports me back to another hot night, when I was still young and full of hope and life seemed a little simpler than it does now. I was not happier then but I had poured much of my energy into creating a garden that held magic.
At the end of the garden I have put a bench, beneath the sheltering canopy of leave of a cherry plum tree. There’s a trellis near on each side, up which grow well established old roses. One is named Alchemist and this pleases me. The scent is comforting, and mixes with that of the jasmine and honeysuckles we have planted to complement the roses. The border near my seat has other scented plants too that give up their aroma at night. Night-phlox, which my brother grows for me each year, has starry white flowers touched with deep blood-red maroon markings, and its scent is powerful. It smells like a mixture of Refresher sweets from childhood and expensive French perfume.
I sit on the bench, feeling a few dried leaves crunch beneath me and I look up. I have a line of plain fairy-lights, solar powered, that like tiny globes of white fire, like stars strung out on a line like beads, and these are trailed through the lower branches. The sounds of the town go on around me but I don’t hear them much. I feel insulated from it all, I feel a million miles from here.
Somewhere close by, the hedgehog is beginning her nightly rounds, and will stop at our garden for a supper of dog food and a drink of water from the birdbath. I wait, feeling the first bite of a mosquito, and wishing I had brought citronella oil out with me to fend them off.
There is a moment where everything is held in perfect expectation, a breath away from realisation; the transformation of a mundane suburban garden into a world where beings from beyond this reality might step blithely into this world and I into theirs and where it’s eminently possible that a unicorn might begin cropping the starlit clover.
A cloud passes over the stars and the moment is lost, and I get up to go inside. At the back door I pause and the scent of the night garden washes over me and with it, the hopes and the dreams I once had flicker like fireflies around me. The past and its memories are here, too; they’ve never gone away, but have been waiting, like dormant seeds buried deep, for the right conditions and the right time to start to sprout.
What will these forgotten seeds grow into?