A few weeks ago I found myself spending a week around the apple orchards of Putley in Herefordshire. Although it was too early for much of the blossom to be out, one small orchard was in full flower, with neat rows of white daisies around the bottoms of the trees. It was a magnificant sight. As a child I would have seen this every year on our farm at Hanley Child, near Tenbury Wells, where we grew many acres of eating apples.
Just standing amongst the trees seemed a deep emotional time for me. A deep sense of presence that extended back to my formative years. Perhaps a sense of nostalgia and a feeling for something that I had lost and not now part of - a farming community. When Dan was, I suppose, forced to give it all up and bulldoze down the trees; and then seek a life as an artist in the wilds of Shropshire away from the family, perhaps a connection was broken. A connection with him, with my childhood, with the landscape, with creativity and with a strong male role-model to lead me. There was no doubt he was an idealist. He could talk about politics, ideas, farming, the countryside, wildlife...
Over the years, perhaps I have been striving to make a connection with him that I felt I couldn't quite do while he was alive. Since a year before he died in 2004 I know that I have been on a journey. A journey that I believe prepared me for his parting, that prepared me for facing redundancy, for finding my new job and that now carries me forwards in how I think and view my world.
After a weekend of hard gardening a couple of weeks ago I felt that I had achieved something. I had worked hard to build a success out of my vegetable patch, albeit only a small one. This year would be a good year - the best ever for the garden, and I will work hard to achieve it. Dan would have done that. I now feel that my personal artwork has at last reached a point where I am happy with it - I am painting and drawing every day in one way or another - just as Dan did. Also, I am developing ideas on how I view the world by way of philosophies and ideas - just as Dan did. He was a hero to me, I have to acknowledge that, though I fully accept that I am still perhaps naive in not really appreciating or knowing all about the more troubling parts of his life or how he treated my Mother. But I was too young when he left home to really be impacted by it in a way that I can really acknowledge. Have I tried to be like him in my life? Well yes, but perhaps subconciously, and I just seem to have mirrored his interests and what inspired him. I am, though, determined never to leave my family.
I now know that I am an idealist. I'm not a label person, but I have had this word described about me several times this year and I know that this word seems the word for this year.
In some way I can meet Dan in the apple orchards, in the garden and in my 'green' thinking. I wish I were able to share my ideas with him now, I think we would have so much to talk about and I am sure I would be closer to him and could learn so much more. But no, I am alone now. I am on my own path. I respect the past and I'll always carry the dream and hope of the springtime apple blossom with me.