As if they had been waiting for the starter’s pistol, plants have sprung up in the cracked concrete, in the car parks and along the walls and pathways behind the promenade. All of a sudden everything man-made looks precarious, the full force of nature bursting through the chinks in a green profusion.
Not just green; springtime seems particularly fond of yellows and purples. As I reach the end of the paved paseo, the wooden walkway that wends along the graffiti-covered wall of the football ground looks as if it’s floating on a multi-coloured carpet. The ground-hugging coastal shrubs are beginning to curl over the edge of the wooden slats, turgid with renewed vigour. Spring has been a long time coming; they’ll have less time this year to go through their little life-cycles and they look like they know it.
A plethora of beautiful weeds climb higher, daisy varieties mostly – yellow-on-white, white-on-yellow, yellow-on-yellow and yellow-on-green – but also buttery, bell-like blooms, drooping gracefully from their stems. Whole patches of yellow made up of these and a particularly regal-looking daisy – swathes of cup and coronet the insects buzz over. Thistles abound in purple, as do flowering bushes in violet, vermilion and dusty, lazy lilac.
Up in the bird reserve the tufts of beach grass ripple in the seaward-blowing levante. The greens up here glow, almost, as big red cattle graze. The river is lively with fish until an old man throws a dog toy into it for his labrador to fetch for him while he calls encouragement from the rickety footbridge. The dog can’t get the toy back to his master fast enough; it’s a matter of the utmost urgency for the awkward swimmer, who eventually emerges from the water bone in mouth and bounding with pride.
Urgency. Another year is opening up like a flower to go through the brightest phase of its cycle and I’m feeling the imperative to make use of the time, to match the abundant energy all around me with my own. Apart from any wish I might have to “live life to the full” and what have you, there are genuine, pressing matters at hand, the obligation to make a living being uppermost. As an underemployed teacher, each summer is a gaping fiscal hole.
This year, I have a plan. Something I wanted to be ready for a full year ago but am only just ready for now. I’ve been trying to get a fine art product together for many, many months – tracking down suppliers, getting rid of them, replacing them, going over ideas with K, coming up with a look, a brand. It has been a slow, tortuous exercise in frustration but I’m just about good to go. When the idea came about I envisaged an online birth – a site launch and the associated social networking. I know better than that now; I’ll be starting in the street, down at the alameda where the tourists eat and promenade. From there, we’ll see.
On the one hand I’m excited about selling my own wares – it’s something I’ve been working towards; ‘dream’ is probably not too strong a word and who knows where the enterprise might take us? On the other, if Summer is on its way then so, inevitably, is Winter and come October when another season will have wound down, I will need to be looking back on some success, something to build on. I will need to have made a good start. What they call a ‘window of opportunity’ – I don’t want to let this one slip by. It’s a concrete example of what these few transitional years have been about: doing my own thing, using my own talents, making my own way.
And getting paid for it. The tricky bit. This isn’t a good time to be a writer, from a paycheck point of view, so while I continue to pitch non-responsive editors and hack away at the gnarly, deformed creature that is my fiction, I’m allocating the responsibility of earning a crust to my photography. It’s something I can control, from beginning to end. The only thing I can’t control is whether anyone will buy. So, nervous.
I’m no athlete but I imagine this is how it feels to be waiting for the starter pistol – a knotted stomach and a strangely empty head. I suppose this is the (late) springtime of my life. I’m at a ridiculous age for it but that’s not something I can change. A third metaphor to suggest itself is that of ‘thin ice’. My God, I’ve made some singular decisions to get here and so has K. We’re skating on them now. We haven’t convinced everyone that we’ve done the right thing. Some have yet to be convinced and some have already decided they never will be. It has been an issue for K especially and I feel for her.
When you choose such a path, you fall back on your own resources whether you like it or not; it becomes untenable to rely on the validation of others as so many of us so often do. Some will dismiss you as irresponsible, selfish, perhaps even crazy while others will dismiss your life as a cliché. What both dismissals have in common is mean-spiritedness, and that they originate in people who lack the courage to do something similar for themselves.
So tomorrow I’ll hoik my pictures down to the alameda and try to flog a few of them, and it might go well and it might not, and if it doesn’t I’ll do it again until it works, and if it never works I’ll do something else until that works, and through it all I’ll be doing my own thing, relying on my own resources and the support of my love, and that is wealth. That is life.
Time to blossom.
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