By Vita Forest
Scarlet, cherry, ruby, burgundy… there are so many words that call themselves red. And my world is festooned with it. In the garden, the tomatoes swell and hang heavy on the vine. Ripening from green to red in the hot summer sun. The chillies are little streaks of scarlet too, concentrating their fire inside each tiny cone. The capsicums positively glow, and underneath drooping leaves, the prickly skins of magenta strawberries hide.
And flowers! Nasturtiums send their snaking tendrils across the gravel path, gold and orange and cherry red. At the centre of each petal, the colour deepens to burgundy. I hold a flower up to the sky and watch how the light glows through the fluted skin of each bloom and pick a bunch for my bedside. Each morning, the nasturtiums have colonised the path even more, stretching, reaching, flinging across the gap, trying to get to the other side. Occasionally, a wheelbarrow will slice through a strand and end its progress, but I will not have them cut back. Ramsey sighs and presses his lips together at this instruction.
“They will trip you Madam,” he predicts pessimistically.
“They will not,” I retort from deep within my vortex of happiness. I need the colour, I need the wildness, I do not want it tamed.
Rory noticed my fondness for these radiant jewels and passed me one of their speckled, round leaves.
“Eat it,” he ordered.
“Truly?” I frowned. Sometimes I feel I know nothing.
He folded one up and crammed it between his teeth chewing slowly.
I followed his example, my eyes widening at the peppery heat in my mouth.
He laughed and handed me mint to cool my insides down.
I can practically see the garden growing, practically hear it. The sun sending beams of light and heat down to the upstretched greenery, until seed pods pop – insides bursting free, fruit swells and strains against its tightly stretching skin, buds are peeled open, petal, by papery petal. And insects hover and swoop and suck and drown.
Each fallen peach is crawling with drunken wasps and bees, drawing up the nectar, fighting the birds for each precious drop. (Have you ever eaten a warm peach fresh from the tree? It would send you wild with desire too.)
All my senses are heightened. My eyes are drawn to every bead of red amongst the cooling green of the leaves, the colours singing against each other. There is even a bird that carries this contrast with it – the king parrot. Green and red, red and green, they fly in pairs and chime to each other through the trees. The sound seems to ring through my head. And who can walk through the garden without sniffing the rising scents in the air, dizzying me as much as the insects that zigzag ecstatically amongst the fruit trees. And eating! I hardly need dinner after sampling the harvest, the cornucopia we work amongst, a warm red tomato here, a streaky-skinned capsicum there, biting into it, crunching into it, juice dripping off my chin.
If I close my eyes and sit very still, I can feel the sun working its magic on me too. Coaxing out new shoots, unclenching all the knots and tightness in my back, expanding my chest.
I am a seed carried on the wind. I am a fruit splitting in the sun. I am a tendril uncoiling.