Driving to a friend’s property recently, jolting over gravel roads and rutted country tracks, I recalled his youthful desire to ‘live in a house at the end of a long dirt track, at the end of a long dirt road’.
Good for him, I thought. Because although his choice wouldn’t be mine, he’d managed to satisfy a decades-old, primal urge and achieve his dream. It’s not a bad idea to decide what you really want in life and go for it.
#65 Fulfil Youthful Desires
Of course, reality and the compromises of adulthood means these desires sometimes have to be achieved in less straightforward ways, and often take longer than planned.
I grew up, as many of us probably did, thinking that if we could just sneak back into our bedrooms quietly enough, we’d discover our toys had sprung to life and were all playing together. Not unlike Andy’s assorted pals in Toy Story.
I remember desperately wanting my beloved Teddy, in particular, to come to life.
but alas, my footfall must have been too heavy
Even today, Teddy sits next to my sister’s bear for company in the hope that, one day when my back is turned….
But it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties, that I discovered the next best thing to teddy bears.
They really are like your favourite soft toy come to life.
First there was Molly, the black spaniel, who I inherited accidentally. She seemed to love me instantly, but had no time for anyone else, apart from my mother. When we discovered in her latter years that she had shotgun pellets scattered throughout her body, her general lack of trust and dislike of men in particular, made complete sense.
Then there was Topsy, the short-haired border collie. She became so famous that my sister penned an ode about her, that began,
Topsy is our border collie
Chasing cars her greatest folly
Once she caught a pickup truck
A stroke of unexpected luck…
And now I have my quiet, somewhat independent whippet who scored an entire blog posting last October. All of them wonderful in their own better-than-a-teddy-bear way.
What impressionable child didn’t long for a Secret Garden after reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel of the same name? A walled-in, hidden garden known only to a robin (swoon), locked for years by a father with a broken heart (double swoon) that eventually unlocks the secret to good health and happiness for all who labour there.
Several years ago, when my house-block gained an extra little wing (like an upside down L), my green-thumbed neighbour, Anna, had a very clever idea.
Neglected and a bit bleak before Anna saw its potential.
Why not create a garden of fruit trees, and vegetables, and flowers for bees, hidden between the back of our houses? In an area so secret, it was visible and accessible to no-one but us.
While Anna has moved on to bigger and better gardens, her legacy remains.
And without a doubt, my secret garden opens the gates to contentment.
When I first visited the city I now live in, nearly forty years ago, I fell in love with its autumn colours and in particular, a tree whose leaves were of such vibrant intensity that they seemed to be on fire.
‘That’s the tree I’m going to plant one day,’ I promised myself, ‘when I have a garden of my own’.
So different to the colours of the city of my childhood, with its grey pall, bitter winds and horizontal rain. (Think Narnia, but without the charm of snow)
…the tree of my dreams, the rhus
Fast forward twenty years when I finally had my own home with the ability to plant anything, anywhere.
But in the intervening period, the desired tree of younger years had turned into the devil incarnate:
Thwarted, I meekly gave up.
Then someone mentioned that the crab apple tree had wonderful blossoms and great autumn colours, so I planted one and waited excitedly for the first year’s display. It was deeply disappointing, with leaves much more akin to pale yellow flames than a roaring furnace.
Next came the persimmon tree …
Attractive, yes, and definitely warmer than the crab apple, but still it didn’t meet the remembered beauty of the forever-out-of-reach rhus tree.
Why not plant a Japanese Maple, reputed to have flaming red foliage in autumn?
And lo! It came to pass that in the autumn of 2018, my long held desire sprang to life.
Take that, rhus tree!