Garden notes: Speed magnification

Yesterday the anemones were just tight-furled buds atop their gangly stems; today the first have spread their petals wide. Courgette cigars swell to marrows the moment I turn my back. The mange-tout peas are ready, the raspberries a-ripen, the strawberries are reddening our lips. Every day, it seems, something new appears, or grows, or reaches its fruition. Already July, humid and heavy. Already the round of plays and performances. Already the harvest has begun.

There was a moment, hanging out the washing, when I caught sight of those anemones, and a crackly, imperfect cinema reel began to play in the back of my mind. Not a metaphor for memory, you understand, but a memory itself of a trip to the pictures when I must have been fifteen. There was a new film out by Percy Smith – a short, shown as part of the Saturday programme – but not flies lifting dumbbells or nursing baby dolls. No, this was something new: The Birth of a Flower. Long after it was over, and the feature – Jane Eyre, perhaps? – was reaching its denouement, those flowers burst open in my mind’s eye. Tulips and lilies, roses and snowdrops, sped up so that what should have lasted a few hours or even days took less than a minute to portray.

I don’t know what prompted Smith to photograph flowers in this way. Was it a sense of life going so slowly that we couldn’t see the changes taking place? Or was it an embodiment of this feeling I have now – of time rushing by, relentless, glorious and cruel. Already the evenings are noticeably shorter. Already the summer clothes are fading on the line. I only know one way to stop the rush: to join it, and be carried along in its current. It’s into the garden today, to plant and pick and weed. To take careful note of each new leaf, each inch the beans have climbed. I don’t want to miss another moment.

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