From an initial degree in economics to an eventual career in education, a casual comment from a friend made me seek out an introduction to counselling course four years ago. However, something about my college’s open day propelled me straight to Level 2 and from there I haven’t looked back. Working with children seems to call me as my placements have been in both primary and secondary schools. I also work with some school staff, having switched to online when the pandemic struck.

I am fortunate enough to have a little garden, even with a small space at the front of my house for a few plants. I am also lucky to have a country park close by. Buffeted by the ongoing uncertainty and anxiety, nature has provided me with little moments of reassurance. I tend to take many pictures using my phone, Google Photos regularly reminding me of what I took last year, so I find myself documenting nature through the ever changing seasons. The abundance of cherry blossoms on the streets, the tall white walls of the blackthorn in the country park, the re-emergence of the blackberry bushes, as I remember last August when returned home laden and T-shirt stained with more blackberries than I could carry. Some unsuccessful attempts at jam making followed.

In my own garden I watch each morning for subtle changes in my plants. How my clematis, sad and woody just a month ago has burst into a green mass with pink buds. I am starting to prepare hanging baskets yet feeling over protective of those little green plant plugs, the night frosts not having fully disappeared. Having placed some various bird feeders in my garden, I have noticed a variety of birds returning usually in pairs. Two robins built a nest in my palm tree. I loved watching their busyness and especially delighted in spotting a baby robin waiting patiently yet vulnerably on a low branch to be fed.

A hanging basket in Gisella's garden

One of my very first clients, when I was a trainee, spoke of how sustained and grounded she felt tending to her plants, the exquisite joy she felt from discovering new shoots. Growing and nurturing recharged her and gave meaning to her life despite her many challenges. That really stayed with me.

When life feels chaotic and when I start to feel overwhelmed, nature’s impermanence provides me with a sense of stability, its rhythms somewhat soothing. And when I plant seeds or prepare borders and baskets, my mind stills a little as yesterday and tomorrow are briefly forgotten and I feel the soil crumble between my fingers. It can be such a slow yet beautiful process like my relationships with clients, of tending to and nurturing and of watching them flower and thrive through small, subtle changes. And when I risk being swept away by the tide of my anxiety, when I wake up worried, I can stand at my kitchen window with a cup of tea and literally watch my garden grow.