I heard her footsteps long before I heard her voice. The sound of leather on concrete announced her arrival on the footpath. With each footstep, I could hear her getting closer, closer, closer. They echoed deep in my consciousness, swirling and whirling and consuming it. I was heady with excitement and captivated by the rhythm and resonance of each footfall. When I heard the sound of leather on stones, I knew she was at the entrance. She walked into the yard, confident, purposefully and accompanied. Although I was nestled amongst my own kind in the far corner, I sensed a change.
Each step was long, strong and without hesitation. As she drew closer, I could hear her thoughts. She was looking for something, something specific, and something special for their garden. When I heard the sound of leather on the sawdust, I knew she was upon me. Suddenly I was picked up and then cradled in her arms as she whispered Dougie there you are, come, we have work to do. And so I was named Dougie, not Doug, Douglas, Dooley or Dogoole.
It was a long trip to my new home. As we drove, my old life, the familiar sounds of congestion, buses and frustrated commuters and pedestrians and the city fell behind me. It was a silent trip, left to my own thoughts my excitement slowly turned to doubt. What is this work that we have to do? I had never been considered worthy enough to have a purpose. I was left to languish with my own kind in the furthermost corner in the landscaping yard.
Now, three years on, I spend my days nestled between the Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish and water chestnuts. Under the protection of the olive tree, I’m the sentinel of the kitchen garden. I see all that come and go, day and night.
I hear the snails as they slime and glide along their self- made trails. I see the possums that raid the fruit as it reaches perfection. I know where the earwigs, slaters and harlequin bugs hide, their mating habits and their preferred food. I see the spiders spin their webs, trap, wrap and consume their prey. I see Buddy and Jilly, the resident Jack Russell’s, leer with malicious intent, as the chooks scratch under the passionfruit vine. I smell the arrival of the chook eggs well before they cackle and squawk to announce their achievement and, I hear the music of bee's wings as they move deliberately from plant to plant to pollinate tomorrow’s harvest. I smell the September winds as they play havoc with the broad beans as they reach for the sky.
I hear the worms digesting the household waste as they turn it into castings that will bring new life to the soil. I sense the change in the air currents, the lengthening of the shadows and the explosion of seeds as they sprout deep within the soil. I hear the sap surging through the plants, the swelling of the fruit and then their blush. I feel the steel of the chooks eyes as they forage for tasty morsels amongst that garden litter. I mediate to the hum of the bees as they gather pollen from the callistemons and I chant to the birds modulating calls as they move nervously, purposely through the garden seeking nesting materials.
I see the interplay of the circadian rhythm, I can read the cycle of the moon and I know its power. I watch the changing seasons, the rotation of summer, autumn, winter and spring plantings and harvests. I hear the excitement of garden visitors as they marvel at natures work, the power of the Divine Proportion. Above all, I am reassured by the light and the tantalising aromas that emanate from the kitchen as darkness falls.
I have a place and contribute to the sense of place. I have a purpose and contribute to the purpose of others. I languish no more in the furthest corner of the yard. I can withstand the searing heat, prolonged cold and intense frosts, wild winds, hail and lightning because I am the kitchen garden sentinel and in harmony with the gardens’ web of life.