Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stone Thumbs

They say it's going to rain today.  Finally.  For the first time since Thanksgiving Day almost two months ago.  And so I decided to get my little bit of necessary gardening done first, before writing.

Some real gardening - pruning and moving some roses, taking some pelargonium cuttings and putting the parent pelargoniums in the open ground.  The cuttings are insurance: I still don't really believe in the concept of overwintering pelargoniums outside.  I've got some cheat gardening to do too: potting up the primroses and daffs I bought at the garden centre. 

Anyway, when my hands were nipping, covered with cold mud, I suddenly found myself saying what I always used to find myself saying, gardening in winter in Galloway.  "Oh, I am stone thumbs, feet of glass", a line from one of my favourite poems: "Pruning in Frost" by Alice Oswald from The Thing in the Gap-stone Stile. (OUP,1996). 

A wave of pure happiness broke over me.  Here - let me slosh some of it over you:

Pruning in Frost

                                                          Last night, without a sound,
                                                          a ghost of a world lay down on a world,

                                                          trees like dreamwrecks
                                                          coralled with increments of frost.

                                                          Found crevices
                                                          and wound and wound
                                                          the clock-spring cobwebs.

                                                          All life's ribbon frozen mid-fling.

                                                          Oh I am
                                                          stone thumbs,
                                                          feet of glass.

                                                          Work knocks in me the winter's nail.

                                                           I can imagine
                                                           Pain, turned heron,
                                                           could fly off in a creak of wings.

                                                          And I'd be staring, like one of those
                                                          cold-holy and granite kings
                                                          getting carved into this effigy of orchard.

And the reasons the roses are moving?  The flower bed where I planted them last spring is making way for a fruit orchard.  Maybe one day next winter, I'll have trees like dreamwrecks, coralled with increments of frost.  But for now . . .

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