Apple Tree Cottage
14 February 1978
Happy Valentine’s Day to all young lovers! And to all old lovers! In fact, to all lovers who are celebrating today!
I have a young rose in a large pot by the porch, and I am trying to train it up the wall of the porch and then over the roof. In my gardening book it says that this variety is a climber, and I feel that it would enhance the porch as it blossoms, but the rose has other ideas. It insists on growing downwards. Every stem I fix to go up continues to grow vertically for another inch or two just to humour me and then turns and points resolutely down in a determined search for the ground. Finally, I am beginning to feel that this is, after all, good. God bless all wayward things!
Why should everything be trained and trimmed, classified and sorted, organised and told what to do? Aren’t the most interesting things in life in the miscellaneous file? We need the rose which sends out its shoots the wrong way, the child in class who doesn’t worry about always being top of the class, the shopper who is not deceived by the empty promises of advertising, the pavement artist and the street musician, the lonely man who hands out leaflets in Red Square, the young traveller who has resigned from a steady job in order to see the world, and the aging traveller who refuses to spend their retirement sitting in front of the TV. We need all those who will not toe the line, or knuckle under. Now, more than ever, we need you all.
Here’s to anyone who brightens the uniformity of these times, when Chicago, Tokyo and Istanbul are all turning into the same thing. We need people who dare to go forward when all the others are turning back. We need people who decide to accept no more. We need people who do not laugh at the shortcomings of the last generation and can see a little further into the shortcomings of their own. We need those who resist conformity for no other reason than that the flame of being human burns more brightly in them than in the rest. We need the people who say they have had enough and walk off on their own. In these days of bowing to fashion and of kowtowing to vogues, of global companies, customs and language, they are, without being aware of it, the one true hope we have.
“All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled…”
Gerard Manley Hopkins praised them a hundred years ago. They are worth even more today.
I am sitting in my porch and have just read this letter aloud. Perhaps my rose has heard me. Perhaps, having inwardly digested what I’ve written, it will decide to grow straight up! Just to be contrary! Well, I’ll soon see!
Don’t follow the crowd!
Goodbye and good luck!