A teenage oasis
My piece of paradise, by Ethan Peacock
I hope you’re all enjoying, or at least surviving, the summer. The garden here is parched but the established ornamentals are all faring well enough, though I can’t say the same for some of the edibles I attempted this season. I’ve been thinking so much of all the food growers struggling with this weather, seeing their work and produce going to waste. If you’ve been wondering what these climate changes might mean for us and our gardens going forward and how we might need to adjust our approach to them, I have shared some interesting recent posts and saved them to a story highlight here under “Climate crisis” on the @decolonisethegarden IG account. And if you don’t have access to Instagram, here is a recent article in the Guardian by Alys Fowler on ways to heatproof your garden, which is well worth a read.
I’m pleased to be introducing the youngest contributor to this newsletter so far today. Ethan has taken some time in his summer holiday to write a short piece for Radicle from his back garden. I love hearing different perspectives of how gardens are viewed, the different ways they can function and the myriad ways in which they can provide a sanctuary and refuge of various kinds depending on who is using them and how. I can’t say that a garden featured much for me in my teenage and early adult years. I wonder about how I might have been nourished, calmed and comforted by one if it had. This piece a reminder once again how valuable it is to ensure all have access to safe green spaces, and how this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone right now.
My piece of paradise, by Ethan Peacock
A soft, summer breeze gently tugs at the back of my neck, rippling through the bushes and tree tops which surround our lengthy garden. The green grass underfoot, from which emanates a sweet petrichor that fills my nostrils, appears to sway in unison as it is caressed by the hiss and hum of the wind's outstretched fingers. These luscious layers of sound and smell and touch are joined by the melodic chatter of birdsong, the sudden snap of twig, and the soothing splash of the nearby water feature, providing an illusion of cool in the cloying heat of the noonday sun.
Though I cannot see any of this garden's beautiful greenery or rich plant life, for I am totally without sight in both eyes, I am still hooked by the magic of it as I sit on the wooden decking at the far end, taking in a much-needed breath of fresh air in this strangely hot English summer. When I was younger and lucky enough to still possess at least some vision, I would gambol up the garden on a day like today, passing through the gate which leads to a rectangular area covered by stones. I would stand on the small bench which faces the railway line beyond our fence, eyes wide with wonder at the passenger and freight trains that regularly roared past. It is regretful that such a simple activity is, for me, no longer possible. However, over these last few years, I have been able to make use of this precious space differently. One of the most significant changes was when, aged thirteen, I used my long-saved birthday money to install a compact, inflatable hot tub towards the back of the garden, which has since proved a source of great joy and fun for me personally, us as a family and those who come to visit. Not only did the arrival of the hot tub fill me with glee and contentment every time I clambered inside, as it continues to do to this day, but it also reshaped my image of what a garden could actually be to me. No longer was this environment simply something to be looked at, which I could no longer do; it was now somewhere I could go to feel immersed and truly relaxed, and where a genuinely enjoyable form of recreation was available to me.
During much of 2020 our garden acted as a haven and a respite from the stresses and strains of lockdown, home-learning and the endless sedentary lifestyle. In the spring of 2021, during a long period of GCSE examinations, I would often escape the repetition and monotony of studying by sinking into my beloved hot tub; sometimes to revise for whichever exam I had the following day, but sometimes just to forget about insignificant worries and to experience the calming sensation of being in the water surrounded by nature. In the recent hot weather which has both cursed and blessed this area, the garden has repeatedly refreshed and calmed me in the oppressive heat. The garden provides me with an immense feeling of safety; whatever is happening in the outside world, and whatever fears or concerns I may have, can be easily forgotten as I slowly walk along the path of stepping stones which edges its way up the length of the uneven lawn. These fears and concerns, be it the prospect of upcoming exams, setbacks due to my medical condition, the ongoing catalogue of worries and frustrations concerning school, friendships and the like, can temporarily vanish in this penny-sized piece of paradise - a perhaps bold description and certainly an exaggeration, but to me, to have this place to come to when things may not be going so well, is a true blessing indeed.
Our garden is a trustworthy and reliable constant which, although ever-changing, has always been there throughout the various highs and lows of my life so far. I hope it will continue to thrive and provide me with a cherished source of serenity.
After a while the brutal, boiling hours of noon give way to sunset, as a dim, yellow light seems to flicker, dance and shimmer over the rooftops of our Essex village. Although I am unable to see this marvellous display myself, I am aware of its majesty in the cooling air; indeed, I witness it with all my other senses as I sit here in our beautiful back garden…
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Ethan Peacock is a seventeen-year-old currently studying A-levels in four humanities subjects, and is hoping to progress to university in 2023. Outside the garden, his main interests lie in languages, travel, politics and music, having formed a band, Thunderbolts, with his younger brother. Ethan has a rare genetic condition known as Norrie Disease, meaning he is totally blind, and uses Braille in order to read and write.
Ethan is being paid for this article.
Photo credit: Ethan Peacock