Tuesday, 16 December 2014
It is plain to see that my mother's garden once bordered land unclaimed by urban development; at the foot of a neighbouring garden are two trees of the woodland, a sweet chestnut, and a walnut, both mature plants of majestic aspect. Every Autumn, amongst the prodigious fall of outsize papery leaves are to be found the fruits of each, glossy, bristle tufted chestnuts clad in spiny, floss lined jackets, gnarled and brittle walnuts. The crop represents a bountiful annual harvest for the resident squirrels, who bury both chestnut and walnut all over my mother's garden, frequently casting plants from flowerpots to hide their cache beneath the soft soil.
Emptied of their chewy, bitter kernal, the spent walnut shells resemble little boats, fashioned for the tiniest of passengers. Searching for a pastry cutter in the kitchen drawer of the rented house in Somerset, I unexpectedly come across a brown paper bag of these fragile craft, and remember gathering them in my mother's garden on a glowing Autumn evening, turning the fallen leaves with eager hand, guided by the last rays of a blood red sunset.
It was my intent to attach mast and sail to each, and set them afloat on the stilly waters of the pond, or launch them in my mother's bath tub, documenting the event with camera, but, my confidence having failed, instead thrust the paper bag to the back of the kitchen drawer, the idea to the back of my mind.
Dried earth from my mother's garden still clings to the shells; dust rains from the paper bag when I empty it. Sentimental, I cannot bear to sweep the dust away, returnng it to the bag with the shells, folding the bag over, and placing it atop the old piano, my repository for found and broken objects, abandoned birds nests, dried flowerpetals contained within sheets of tissue, paper fans, fragments of garden ornaments.
I remain unsure about the destiny of the sculptural walnut cases, feeling certain that there is potential for a piece of work, however modest, yet anxious that I may not have the ability necessary to realise it. The shells are lovely in their own right; perhaps a mast and tiny sail would appear amiss, as would a coat of paint. In my minds eye I envisage them bobbing amidst the glistening bubbles of a foam bath, motionless upon the crystal depths of the garden pond, marooned on a sea of creamy paper. Perhaps I should take a practical approach rather than a purely cerebral one; experiment, afix a mast and sail to one, at least, float them in sink, bath and pond, see what they look like. Or perhaps I should arrange them on the earth of my mother's garden, where I found them, setting them upright amid the rustling ocean of leaves, grouping them like a diminutive armada awaiting the command for battle.