Healing green

mine I manage to earn some extra pesos from the true pleasure that is teaching English conversation to a wonderfully motivated businessman with a talent and love for British English, and so ‘me and C.’ treat ourselves to a steak in the ‘parilla’ across the road. It is yummy: over an inch thick and plenty enough for the two of us.

While we eat, we talk and C. asks me what I miss about England. This is not a subject I think about often. I find that it is easier to get on with life if I do not allow my mind to linger with nostalgia on what I do not have, that I once did. He qualifies his question by adding, ‘Not people, only things.’

For once I don’t make jokes, or go on about Galaxy chocolate. Instead, I notice how my mind turns over before I answer: my thought path reminds me of a ray of weak sunlight dissolving a blanket of mist. I feel my own power in allowing it to happen: a conscience choice to remember. I have been away from an English life for eighteen months, and away from what I feel (put positively) was my ‘life before my major transitions began’, for over two years. I allow the illumination of the past: images appear gradually, and one leads to another. I observe myself go back in time. I actually feel my heart and my voice softening as I start to speak, ‘Green,’ I begin. I wonder if I will cry.

I talk about plants, fields with hedges around them, standing in a garden where I have grown the hundreds of plants myself, all English gardens of the lush kind. Mostly though I just talk about green. As my words collect between us, I am remembering a beautiful space that I left behind for others to enjoy. I know that Carlos senses I am on dodgy ground: he hears my voice change and become small. We look into each others eyes for a few seconds and I feel the tears prick.

Into the silence that follows he says, ‘Mi amor, if you left Argentina now what would you miss?’

I’m not ready to force myself back to the present even though I know it will make me feel better and so I say, ‘No, what would you?’

Immediately he starts with,

‘The sky.’ I think of  blue and the green fades softly and safely. We talk about the blueness that rarely turns to grey, how when you see the Argentine flag against it, the match is perfect and your heart soars (or ours do).

‘Asado, choripán,’ he interrupts. I laugh and I feel my passion leap,

‘The cafés, how you can sit for hours with one coffee on any street corner, read the paper, watch the world, and we don’t have to resort to expensive chains like Starbucks, and Costa where coffees are served in buckets even if you say small. At least here there is such a thing as a good small coffee, or medium small or more or less any size of small you like… and I love that you can share food without the waiter looking at you as if you are broke or barking.’  (Of course I don’t actually say barking because I don’t know if it has a direct translation. I probably stick to ‘loco’).

We discuss how we never buy two meals anywhere, and that even in places like La Cabrera sharing is almost mandatory: I remember their menu actually suggests that you share… and quite right too because the ‘bife de lomo’ arrives on a wooden platter and includes four separate steaks and a whole load of accompaniments. Then we start laughing about the things we wouldn’t miss, like the appalling TV that neither of us like much, though that prompts C. to remember that he would miss the Boca games. I realise that I don’t miss English footie although for years I never missed a home match, screamed and sang within a sea of red and white, and even played ‘Fantasy Football’ for hours on end.

‘I would miss the buses,’ I decide. ‘I don’t want a car anymore… and all the walking, all the things I see. Hey, listen to me! I love walking! Bet you never thought I would say that!’ My voice is strong now. In minutes, I have replaced the things I loved that I don’t have, by the things I love that I do have, and I’ve got my equilibrium back.

But even though I sleep peacefully, the memories of green stay awake into the morning, and the next day I dare to take a look at some photographs of my English garden: the haven I designed, the soil where I grew green leaves and flowers and food for our table, the heaven where I spent maybe ten hours a day in summer for many years… at peace with my hands in the dirt. At my laptop, I scan fairly fast through the pictures and don’t dwell. I find I still can’t look too long. I am a bit shocked that I feel so much sadness even after all this time, and after the joy I have found in change and in moving on. I am happy with where I am, yet I still feel some grief: for that time, for the woman that I was, for that life. But I am glad that I look, that I grieve, and that I do believe I will heal.

Reflecting, I realise that in general I stay away from gardens here: parks I can do, but gardens no. Of course there are some in Buenos Aires, and I visited a beautiful one last summer. But, I found it painful to be surrounded by green that looked a bit British, or a little Italian or designed at all. I didn’t like seeing plants that I had once grown, pergolas like those that I had walked beneath in the gardens of Britain’s stately homes, grasses loved by my favourite designers. Perhaps this all sounds far fetched, but I cannot possibly tell you how much I had invested in ‘green’, once upon a time, or how important gardens were to me in the days when everything began to fall apart, and walking around the gravel paths between clipped box hedges just dragged too much up, too much loss. I have run from green: I live in a city; I have bought two flats without gardens; I still do not have one plant on my balcony; I won’t even look at the glossy ‘taken by someone else’ shots in the Clarín Sunday supplement. I realise now that somewhere along the line, ‘the garden’ that I once loved, became the symbol that I associate with a time in my life when I wanted to die. I once found peace in gardens, and now I only find disquiet.

But on the upside, and there always is one, I am pleased I am thinking all this through as spring begins, and truthfully it makes me pensive rather than miserable. For now that is progress. In two weeks my parents will be with me in my new land, Argentina. There are going to be lots of conversations (and hugs and love), so maybe it is right that things are popping up and reminding me that life cannot be compartmentalised and tidied neatly away. My past affects my today and my tomorrow because it is part of me. And I do not want to bury or shut mine out, especially not the things I once loved.

So, I think I will go back to the beautiful walled garden in Belgrano one afternoon soon when the sun shines strong. I will sit on stone and hear the water that moves. I will smell the dampness of hidden corners. I will touch the leaves of box, and the bark of trees. I will feel the cool kiss of the pergola’s shade. I will give my soul the green that I begin to think it needs, and see how it goes.

I have discovered already that to walk the path of my heart, I have to be prepared to heal the past, or it will block my way into the present moment, never mind the future. Now something about ‘green’ is pulling me towards action. And I am listening and I am prepared to face what comes. Perhaps I will find that the love I had for English green has truly been replaced with a passion for Argentine blue. Or maybe in time I can learn to love Argentine green too. And maybe one day I will be able to sit comfortably on an English lawn once more. Who knows? But at least I am getting to a point where I want to find out. For now that is enough.


14 Responses

  1. This post is beautiful and really touched me. It made me appreciate what I have out my window, and made me long for adventures that make me take stock, and made me truly appreciate your wisdom and generosity in sharing.

    Thank you.

  2. Dear Mtnhighmama

    And thank you for sharing back with me. I feel quite tired after writing this post today. It took me a while. I nearly stopped several times. It would be easier not to write my truths, but somehow I am learning that writing them helps me in the end.
    And it is always a great comfort when someone shares back.

    Please know that I am regularly checking in with your blog at the moment and following your journey.


  3. Sal –

    moved to tears by this post, and by memories of the space you created and loved so much and which – to me at least – will always remain a magical place of green architecture and comfort, warm afternoons shared with you and my kids sitting beside you at your back door.
    And then I go and look out of my own back doors at a garden that you have designed for our family, which is taking shape and is already beautiful even as an outline, and in the green weeds and the brown mud I can see a place in which, in time, the memories of your own piece of green will shape the future of ours. Thanks for inspiration and honesty on a cold Saturday afternoon when England’s skies are iron grey and I envy your Argentine blue!

    All love big sister –

    Jo x

  4. Jo,

    I know you understand. In order to survive, I buried so much and now it is beginning to surface again. If I am honest, seeing the pictures of your garden taking shape into the form that I imagined and drew on paper reminded me of a part of me that I had forgotten, and perhaps it kicked all this off weeks ago.
    I am just so glad that before I left I was able to pull myself together enough to leave you those drawings, and that your garden turns into reality today will always bring me great joy. I hope that next summer I get to sit in it with your children playing around me, and Carlos by my side. That will be a moment of healing, and perhaps some tears.
    But it is a moment that needs to come.
    And because you guys will be there, all will be well.

    Always loving you little sis, SC

  5. Sally,
    A garden is a healing place, but it need not be one’s own, or large. I love mine, but now look to the day in a few years when I will only have a small patio or courtyard, and I look to it with both sadness and relief of a sort. I will not feel so bad to see the weeds I used to pull in the early hours, when now I sleep after late tango nights…
    The thing for me is to look ahead, and then those things being left behind do not haunt me as much. Living new dreams. But you already know this.
    P.S. let me know if you hear from my friends?

  6. Hi Elizabeth,
    I do. I do. And I too felt much relief at the time to let mine, and many other things besides, go.
    And absolutely I know that I have lived new dreams and will continue to do so, and there is no ‘going back’ for me.
    I have no regrets.

    It just popped up and affected me a bit, so I thought I would write about it and see what happened. I thought of you a bit as I wrote, because of your posts about your garden.

    Time will heal all I know.
    It is lovely that you share your thoughts with me.

    And yes of course I will let you know if your friends get in touch.
    Hug, SC

  7. Today I went to Tigre. Took a boat and then walked in the green lanes between the gardens.
    I saw roses, irises, and wild flowers of spring. I smelt their fragrance. I looked at lawns.
    Carlos said, ‘It’s lovely to have a garden but so much work. It never ends.’
    I thought of what you said Elizabeth, and I remembered the truth of it.
    But at least today I felt comfortable looking.
    That was nice.


  8. […] Iaies, in five days and five nights to enjoy this annual encounter wi… Friday, 03 October Healing green[Sallycat’s Adventures] I manage to earn some extra pesos from the true pleasure that is teaching […]

  9. Sallycat,

    I found your blog through another site just today and truly enjoyed reading this post. It seems I have been in BsAs just about the same amount of time (since Feb 07), and you described some of your feelings in a beautiful way that I would have never dreamed someone else could share so vividly. In fact, I sent the link to my family, because I know they never really understand my life down here. I hope it enlightens them a little, as it did me. Thank you.

  10. Hi Allison

    Thank you for reading and sharing me with your family.
    And thank you for connecting.
    We have indeed been here about the same length of time.
    I try to write my truth about my journey, something of my tango experience in Buenos Aires but also the wider picture: how it really is to start a life in a new land, and how it really is to try to follow my heart and live a different way… with all its challenges and joys!

    I send you a warm hug across the city tonight.


  11. Dear sallycat,

    I know your love of the garden and growing things. I remember when you made a comment to me about it. I think what is so special about you and how you see the world is that your sweet memories are just one part of your appreciation of life. You are a beautiful patchwork of many places and lots of love, and I think that no matter where you are in the world, you will find something to admire.

    When I was in BA, it was winter and the sky was never really blue. But now when you describe it as the same bold blue of the Argentine flag, I can see it through your eyes. Enjoy the lovely food, the coffee and I know you’ll find your green gardens too.


  12. As I sit at home wishing I was back in Buenos Aires, I can now at least reflect on my garden and perhaps things are not so bad.
    Maybe I have to spend most of my days in work and Tango is non existant here,but at still I have my garden.
    Your blog usually has me longing to be back at the milongas and with my argentine friends, I found this entry refreshingly different. Thanks.

  13. Tangobaby, Yes I will find my green gardens. Coming here has turned my life from back and white into colour. I see colour everywhere and celebrate it everyday. Your encouragement injects orange: energy, creativity and motivation. Your beautiful photo of the wind is right in front of me as I type and inspires me every day.

    Thank you for everything, SC

  14. Bob, thank you. From time to time I push the tango aside on this blog, and write what I feel. It helps sort my head out and it hints at the truth of starting over: it ain’t always easy.
    I know that wherever we are in place or time there is something to celebrate and to keep us going until the next place or time.
    We have to enjoy the now don’t we? It’s all we really have.


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