Seasons Change, a little context.
In his ‘daydream College for Bards’, WH Auden insisted each of his students cultivate a garden plot, while Wendell Berry writes that ‘A person who undertakes to grow a garden plot at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the soil, has set his mind decisively against what is wrong with us.’ Not withstanding the obvious pressure being applied to these statements by the implication of who exactly might have access to gardens, allotments and the like, I think there’s something in what two thinkers of Berry and Auden’s caliber have said. We seem to exist more and more separately from our soil. Our lives in the cities weigh heavy.
Last winter I was lucky enough to take on a small allotment on the plot in our town. Five poles of our own, a small shed, and a chunk of the earth to improve and to use. It is a transaction entirely at odds with late capitalism. Our use of the land is not simply the consumption of commodity, but a strange and satisfying balance of offering and extraction.
At some point in the winter, in the midst of that immersion that comes with the start of some new obsession, I got sent some photos of a large unruly plot in the Kent countryside from some friends, the artists Crispin Finn. They had taken the same step towards the soil, towards the growing of things.
That summer we swapped seeds, stories of successes and failures (plenty of failures…),
photos of those first green shoots, of big old beetroots, bags of spuds, bowls of salad leaves.
We also found we talked in a new way about time. We were watching for time in a new way, a way that had something to do with the seasons, with the long changes of the sun. When the growing season ended, and winter came on, Crispin Finn sent over some pictures they’d made that seemed to tell the story of these conversations, and the story of how we’d broken up the year.
I had kept a journal with me all year in the garden and on the plot, taking notes and making little gestures towards what might become lines of poetry. At some point we wondered what would happen if the two things were put together somehow, these images of a year past, and passed through, and of the things we use, the objects that come to suggest time spent in this way, yoked to the words that time might cultivate.
So that’s what’s here—the words and images that we grew in our first hot summer of trying, along with all those bloody courgettes…
Will Burns March 2019
Seasons Change by Will Burns and Crispin Finn will run from April 1st to May 31st