reduced territories

by uzwi

The garden bench stands in an area two feet by four, with old brick edges on the short sides and the ivy-covered wall at the back. The surface so bounded is covered with unevenly-bedded squares of old tile (nine inches on a side) and paving slab (perhaps eighteen inches on a side), up through the joins of which grows a spongy little plant with yellow flowers. The tiles are eroded–spalled or blown-out–in shallow, layered oval patches. The paving slabs are coined with a dull yellow lichen. Vegetation–I think campanula–has leached the mortar from the bottom three courses of the wall, then died of starvation, leaving the London stock blanched and powdery-looking, as if some absolute substance–some virtue–has been drained from it. Above that the ivy begins, dense, thick of trunk & inhabited. Dead leaves are scattered over the stones. Warmth comes up from them. I look at this and think it’s the most perfect space I’ve ever known, a micro-place which, like Spencer’s The Blacksmith’s Yard, contains more than a hundred percent of itself. An altar. The old cat sleeps there in the sun, keeping a wary eye on us in case we decide to use the garden hose, or take it into our heads to clip his claws. Once, thirty-odd years old, running on the moor above Holmfirth, I lost my house keys and had to drop down the valley & into Huddersfield to collect a spare set. When I got there, I thought, Oh, fuck it, & ran back instead of getting the bus; I did around 20 miles that morning. Now–for now–my territory is Barnes Common & the river, & 20 minutes is my limit. But I can still get more than a hundred percent out of 20 yards of sandy heath, 20 yards of singletrack with intermittent sunshine spilling in over the head high gorse.

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