A while ago I visited an old colleague. Before I left he invited me into his garden which was spacious and bright. The patio area was swept and clean, the grass was mown and all the plants well tended. In a brick planter he had some garlic growing, their stalks reaching up to the sky in regular rows. Would that I could keep my few unruly pots so tidy. He pulled a bulb from the earth as a gift for me, carefully winding a plastic bag around it so that I wouldn’t get earth in my car…not that anyone would notice a bit of extra gunk.
It sat in my fridge for a few weeks while I used up my other garlic. In truth I was reluctant to break up my gift not just because of the giver but because of its rich fullness and the life and character that seemed to burst from it.
When I finally took it out last week, still mosaiced with earth, one of the cloves, streaked magenta under the clinging scabs of soil, had pushed out a pale green sprout and the stalks were yellow and green dreadlocks, crinkled and crisp. I decided to plant the cloves and grow my own neat(unruly) rows of garlic. But first I would draw it in all its earthy fecundity and tangled stalkiness which put its anaemic, clipped supermarket cousins to shame.
“Look at yer wan,”
…I imagined them whispering as they jealously jostled in their netted packs.
“…who does she think she is?”
As I drew it I thought of my friend and telling him about my new tiny, neat (unruly) garden in waiting and the coffee myself and another colleague were planning to have with him.
‘I must organise that this week…’
But tomorrow, as happens, never came. The night before last I heard the news. Whoever would be easing the remaining bulbs of garlic from their earthy bed, it would not be him.
Rest well friend. You were more precious than I knew.