I have been looking out onto the gardens outside the apothecary and I have realised that the future has arrived! You know what, the marker of this moment is the patch of hollyhocks coming into flower in the garden.
I love hollyhocks for their statuesque beauty: the generous curves and lines of their leaves, the quite sexual way the petals start to burst through the buds, the silky shimmer of the scarlet petals unfolding like butterfly wings. For me they speak of an England of country lanes and thatched cottages. And they are a line back through time to past generations of abundant gardens of gifts grown by wise healers.
But now what I love about hollyhocks most is that they are showing me that I have arrived at the future I painted in my mind many years ago.
You see, for years I lived in London. London is a fabulous city, a complex mix of history and zeitgeist; tradition and reinvention. Like any place it can be as wonderful or as awful as you make it. The first eight years or so of my life there, I was deeply involved in the arts as I ran a small cultural communications agency. We had carved out a successful niche and had wonderful clients ranging from major cultural institutions like the Barbican and the Southbank Centre, to governments wanting their cultures promoted in the UK, to individual artists – those creative geniuses and mavericks of our time. I was very privileged to be entrusted with telling all their stories. I loved it. But, after a while I realised that I still needed Nature. It was then that I changed direction and worked for Kew Gardens, judged an international environmental prize and went on to work for the United Nations Environment Programme.
In London, my gorgeous friend Anne and I would get together and talk about the lives we wished for ourselves. Like me she was not from there. We had both travelled for so long that we seemed to belong everywhere but nowhere. Because of this I think that we each dreamed of a future that could help anchor us to a place and, in that anchorage, we would somehow be made whole. We imagined each of us in our houses with hollyhocks growing at the door. After many of these sorts of conversations, hollyhocks became the shorthand for the lives we dreamed for ourselves.
In my dream I saw myself living in (and deeply connected to) the countryside. I saw myself in a room with a sink under a window and a comfy armchair in the corner. In this dream I am looking out the window at a garden of beautiful flowers and plants and I am smiling and thinking about how I had planted all those plants and how I knew their names, their folklore and their healing properties. There is a contented dog lying on a rug on the floor and the presence of a man who loves me. The place is filled with love. The hollyhocks are thriving.
It is funny but I have only just recognised that the exact picture in my mind has happened. The hollyhocks are flowering in my garden right now, and they have made me recognise that the future I wished for is here. And not just here a little bit - all the details are here: the gardens, the sink under the window, the armchair, the dog, the man and the love. So much love.
Of course, there are always challenges in the present. In my case those challenges lie around how I build Archeus, how it can use and involve all the aspects of me, how I can create something that helps people feel good about themselves and connect more closely with nature, while also supporting the lives of me and my family. It is true that the challenges in our life can make us worry about the future; but for me today it is like the hollyhocks are saying, ‘hey you, look around you and see how what you wished for has manifested. Enjoy it, love it and work with it to continue to create the future you want’.
This has got me thinking about what we wish for ourselves and how an aspect of Nature can become the symbol of our happiness and fulfilment. Maybe part of your dream is a view of the sea, or a house in the hills, or the sound of a bird, or the phosphorescence on the water as you sail through a night sea?
What do you wish for? Is there an aspect of Nature that has become a symbol for what you are wishing for? And if you really look around yourself now, can you recognise any parts of the path of your dreaming? If so, perhaps that Nature symbol is also reminding you/us/me that life is to be lived right here – right now.