On Winter Nasturtiums

nasturtiums in winter

I always look out to the garden (such as it is) when I’m having my breakfast (such as it is), even in the paling grey mornings of an Irish November* (such as they are).

Just joking. The garden is fine, and the breakfast finer. And mornings bring miracles and the hope of renewal.

And outside the window there is a patio area and a concrete retaining wall painted white by my own hand. And growing from the apparently barren pebbles on the shaded ground below a proud unlikely nasturtium flourishes each year.

It appears in early Summer, full of curiosity and hope (as perennials do) and crawls its tiptoe creep along the stones and the patio slabs. One, two, three, four stems grow and thicken and seek the purchase they need to go upwards, onward, towards the bounty of light. Like fingers feeling under the bed sheets for the promise of a warm body’s splendour just out of touch.

There steals the nasturtium, wondering what it can do, wondering how great it can be.

Once it is long enough I attach the ends of the tendrils to the metal sculpture that hangs on the wall. And off we go. The plant grabs the metal as if its life depends upon it – perhaps it does, I don’t know. And it climbs and colonises and flourishes and beauty of beauties, it flowers.

It flowers and blossoms and basks in the glories of heat and light, trumpeting to bees the sweet Gods-loved nectar of its core. And it flowers and it flowers and it flowers.

And now the bees have gone, and the swallows and the screaming swifts have gone. The Summer holidays are spent, the hay is saved, the corn is cut. All Irelands won and lost. Back to school, the days close in, and the spirit nights of The Hallows are upon us. Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. But the humble nasturtium is still in bloom.

And I am nourished more at my breakfast in this chilly early November pre-dawn gloom by these flowers, still pristine, still expectant, than the porridge and honey I spoon into myself.

The orange flowers on the green stems, on the white retaining wall of our back garden outside our window. My little tricolour, and an anthem for my soul. I sigh, finish my food, rise from the table and go to work.

* Written November 2014