10 years ago, I would never have imagined I'd be sat on the grass, with bees checking out this peculiar creature in their clover patch, without flinching, and imagining little encouraging cheers from them as I jot notes for my project. The image of pollen loaded confetti showers from them humours me while I doodle them in the corner of my planting notes for my community planting project, which, after shuffling through many names (Bee Drive, Pollinators Project, Invertebrate Crates among them) we went for Pots Of Love. Because right now, we need to give and take all the love we can get.
One thing has always been consistent; projects. Since i was a child, I loved to plan special things that brought people together, or at least, fulfilled my imagination creatively and kept me busy. As a kid, they'd rarely carry. As an adult, these projects have come in the guise of youtubing, earning a boost of cash for a holiday with one skill or another, putting together birthday parties for Squirrel, or home educating.
One other thing that has been consistent until Squirrels arrival on the scene, was that I was fearful.
I was frightened of a lot of stuff. A lot of this stems from navigating a world as an unrecognised autistic, a lot from anxiety, but the biggy in this case, was my illness keeping me inside and providing a zone that became agoraphobia, and my life long arachnophobia spawned an irrational fear of touching anything outside of my front door for fear of it being a choice hiding space for something of natural decent waiting to ambush me.
On the whole, I've masked a lot of my fear through my life, as I tell you what, it's no fun feeling like the baby in a group of adults. But masking isn't the same as coping. It's exhausting. I love animals, but being close to them is hard. I tried to work on a farm attraction for a while, and aside from the toil it wrecked on my already weak chronically sick body, I was constantly exhausted from being in barns, in fields, etc trying to contend with fear. I didn't last long.
When I had Leo, it was immediately clear, that I would need to transform and do so fast. I needed to be out more. I needed to fulfil his world. The more that I went out and visited my mum and grandparents in their homes in the countryside, the more I felt the pull to not just quietly cope, but to quietly try.
When Leo showed a great love for animals incredibly early, I knew I'd have to commit and find strategies. I worked on it every spring and summer. We still didn't have much in the way of a garden at this point, but I was beginning to admire flowers and I wanted more. So did he. We dabbled best we could...
Anyway, he's now 7. And I'm no longer frightened. Don't get me wrong, if a spider bigger that my pinky finger thumbnail presents itself without invitation I'm not happy and i'm out of there.
But these days, I am in love with my garden. I've even brought the garden inside. I have a great number of house plants, all of which are named because, you know, it's me we're talking about here, and people always know reliably what to get me for my birthday.
But my garden has become a world of chaotic colour, and whats more, I'm sharing it, willingly.
The transformation of my garden is a picture of my transformed mind.
Friends and family will easily remember our gravelly tall grass meadow which we ignored for a very long time. Now, it's a riot of colour. But i've learned so much along the way.
The more you learn about the crises of our times, climate change, police brutality, political and judicial manipulation, child trafficking, racism, to name but a handful, it's easy to feel swamped by the fear. To feel helpless so much of the time, is hard. But it turns out, that there is a little we can do individually. In racism, we learn how to become positive allies, and to unpack our learned racism even if we're not already aware of it. We can protest, and we can learn, and we can support.
In climate change, we can try to make changes to our living, to lessen our use of single use plastics, to reuse and reduce, to make better choices.
And in the case of our dramatic and terrifying decline in flying pollinators which we rely on for a great deal more than we might initially think, it is as easy as quitting pesticide, and planting more supportive plants.
It's easy to say, and technically, it's a very doable action, but it's not always at the fore front of some peoples minds.
Having seen yet another piece on Gardeners World, among the many we see a lot, including Down To Earth With Zac Efron, Planet Earth, Countryfile, and any number of childrens programmes and documentaries on farming and climate change, about our plummeting bee, butterfly and pollinator population, I felt I wanted to do something. I have a garden full of pollinator plants now. We dont use pesticides, in actual fact, we dont net our cabbages and allow butterflies to use them too (we really don't mind if our veggies are a bit holey as long as they survive long enough to actually grow and our veg beds are surrounded by gravel which keep away the snails and slugs) but I know a lot of people who plant while not being all that invested in our critters. I would have previously been among them, certainly.
So, how can we encourage people?
We could deliver, for those who couldn't drive to garden centres. We could make them free, for those who couldn't afford them, or perhaps would spend their money on their own choices (totally fair!), and sometimes, doing the research, the thinking part, the initiative for the cause simply isn't present. And sometimes, the support does come from thoughtful people who are probably already on top of this effort personally, and a gift is a blessing all the same.
So, I just turn up with a gift. Then they're in peoples hands, and they can plant them, leave them in pots, put them outside and all they have to do is water them and care a little for perennials. I could even include simple instructions to do so.
I could grow them myself to reduce costs. Technically, I could do that. I don't have a green house, but i have a clear roofed shed. I have windowsills. I have hope.
So this is now born.
The creatures I feared, I see brand new (I'm not looking at you spiders, you can job right on, tah) but I've got a lot of planning to do, but plenty of interest already.
The hope is go gift 'one for you, one for a friend' to get them in the hands of people who are seeing what i'm doing with interest, and then another for someone they know who might need a nudge.
It begins now. I'm glad I tried to change my fears.
I'm glad I never stopped feeling as busy as a bee for projects.
If you'd like to receive a crate full of Pots Of Love (Exeter based) in the spring, I'll be setting up a list soon! If you'd like to help me afford this project, you can paypal me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a sum to help cover good quality seed compost and seeds, or you can gift us seeds, pots and resources through our amazon wishlist.