This is our second summer in the Mustard Yellow House, and we’re nearly at our second Christmas and New Year here. But it doesn’t feel like we’re on much of a well-trodden path. Everything is a bit different the second time around, a bit new.
For one thing, this southern hemisphere summer bears little resemblance to the arid, fly-filled, soul-flattening scorcher that last summer was. Then, Paddock World was the colour and consistency of breakfast cereal before you add milk, and seemingly every day was 30C.
This year, rain has fallen more or less normally. Paddock World is lush (see photos at the bottom of this post). So far, days have peaked around that comfortable 24C mark where you can wear shorts but not have to keep still for six hours a day.
Last year I wrote about my flower garden and how big a part of my life it had become. Setting it up was a show of commitment and a willingness to learn new things — I had never before grown plants outdoors that actually took root and thrived.
Through that rainless spring and early summer I watered my garden daily and did all I could to build soil — compost, grass clippings, horse poo, coffee grounds, clipped-off flower heads, and firewood ash got added to the couple of inches of topsoil already there. I deadheaded every two days.
Nature rewarded my efforts with sturdy shrubs and a spectacular display of marigolds that dimmed only in autumn.
Over winter I nurtured ambitions for something even better: a garden full of colour, a multihued canopy of blooms. Because what’s more joyous and positive than colour?
The garden would probably be inexpert and unsophisticated from a design point of view, but I hoped it would lift the hearts not only of Tom and me, but of our visitors and our neighbours.
I plied local plant shops and bought promiscuously if cheaply, guided mainly by the promise of a new colour.
I planted, transplanted, split roots and learned not to fear pulling up something that wasn’t pleasing me. I kept on watering and building the soil.
Now, my little patch of flowers is blooming. And it suddenly occurred to me what it was: a Rainbow Garden.
In what feels like a previous life, I was a “gay activist”. I marched, wrote letters, stuffed envelopes and raised money for the campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in New Zealand. I used to volunteer for a gay newspaper called Pink Triangle. Here is me in 1985 helping carry the banner in a street march.
The pink triangle — as worn by homosexual inmates of Nazi concentration camps — was the only graphic symbol available to what we’d now call the LGBT cause. It was powerful, but hardly a positive symbol.
Then, brilliantly, someone created or co-opted the rainbow flag and from the 1990s it became the visual representation of a movement standing for joyous diversity and getting-along-together-despite-our-differences.
So I wondered if in making this Rainbow Garden, I was unconsciously stating my pride in myself and in Tom’s and my marriage and long relationship.
Maybe, and if so, why not?
But mainly, I just want something beautiful next to our beautiful house.
Tom and I will be at home on December 25. I predict we’ll swap presents in the morning and maybe take the dogs for a beach walk. We’ll share a lunch with our neighbours, and spend time in the afternoon with my mum, who lives 20 minutes’ drive away.
For the rest of the holiday break, there will be a pile of optimistically-and-ambitiously-chosen library books to browse through, beaches to visit, friends to catch up with.
On at least a couple of the days, by agreement Tom and I will turn all devices off and go into retreat mode. We will not think of the past or the future, but enjoy the present (and perhaps the presents).
To friends, family and blog followers, Merry Christmas, happy holidays!