Of Beetroot and Trying to Underachieve


Posted by in August's Magazine

I am not sure about green fingers, but I am getting used to purple ones. And I seem to have stained most of my clothes now. And my pee is pretty permanently pink too.

Beetroot, you see. You might remember last year I wrote about how, in my maiden voyage as captain of my own vegetably ship down on my shared square of Leith croft, I had planted my beetroot too close together and they were all tiny – tasty, in fairness, but tiny, and their peeling to eating ratio laboriously high. I’ll know better next year, I told myself philosophically, and this spring set my small daughter to work, generously spacing seeds in the mulched earth.

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And then I didn’t think too much more about them for a while. But when I came back from my summer holiday I had a very vivid dream that I had grown some very large vegetables. So when I woke up I was keen to go and check, just in case. And there they were, veritably crowning, bursting forth from their dark and fertile home. Whoppers. Delivering a vitamin-rich deliciousness that feels almost medicinal. And I thought, it’s like a metaphor for life, isn’t it, you make space and things grow.

I’ll tell you what else is a metaphor for life. The wave pool at Dunbar leisure pool, where I was yesterday. Or Burntisland leisure pool, if you are so inclined. Maybe its wave pools everywhere in fact, as a novice in such matters I don’t feel qualified to say. But the issue is, if you try and stay in the shallows you get bashed all over the place and hammered by the waves, whereas if you go deeper, if you wade out a little, you can peacefully bob around end enjoy the ride.

Of course, we are not encouraged to go deep or make space are we? We are encouraged to jam as much in as possible, to crowd ourselves out until we lose confidence and hover at the shallow end, getting pummelled by everything and feeling increasingly overwhelmed.
On a knife edge, knowing that one wave too many and our swimming costumes will finally give way and all of East Lothian (or Fife) will see far too much of our cleavages. Ok, so I continued that metaphor a bit too far, but you get the idea.

Not me though. Not anymore. I won’t play. I started this year with the resolution I was going to give up trying. I figured one way or another I had been trying to hard for too long and it hadn’t really gotten me anywhere. My default position was a fighting one, but there are always so many battles, and so many walls keen to offer themselves for you to bang your head against.

It was time to lay down my sword and shield. And so my only aims for 2016 were to see a podiatrist and a psychotherapist. After all, no one can be expected to save the world with badly supported arches and skeletons in their shadow (I know it’s supposed to be in their cupboard, but grant me a bit of Jungian leeway here, if you will).

However it’s currently July and so far I have got a job, written most of one whole book, learned how to work my dehumidifier and done some hoovering with the attachment. That can’t all be the othotic insoles, or the enhanced understanding of my relationship with my father, at work, can it? Although he did give me the money for the insoles I suppose so it could all be more interconnected than we think… No, it must be the not trying, the laying down of weapons, the making space. It frees something up I suppose.

And we all, I think, have so much to free up. Energy, to put roots deeper, so as to be less dependant on the fickle whims of the rains. Roots holding nourishment in depth and dark and silence, not reliant on the flattery of sun and showers. Deep roots that can become lengthy anchors too, strong enough to greet the bigger waves with anticipation, excitement even, rather than fear, but long enough to let us float around with the tides a little too. And time. Time to enjoy the ride. But also to savour our own deliciousness, the sweetness of our own good medicine, well earned by soily hands and purple fingers, and well rested too.

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