Growing Space

succulent plant growing in ceramic plant pot on sunny windowsill
Photo by Tina Simakova on
all words and images by Kate Kennington SteerBetween April and August 2021 Creative Response Arts was working with performance poet Justin Coe and the Space2Grow community garden project from Farnham, Surrey to make a site-specific art installation and to publish a book of written responses to the garden, its users, and volunteers.
As part of the writing group, I was hoping to spend several long summer days in the Space2Grow acre, by the pond, maybe helping pick fruit or hoe a row of veg, in between working on various writing exercises with a small-yet-wonderful group of other writers (who had never occupied the same physical space and time together).
Sadly, it became apparent that the Space2Grow garden wasn’t yet fully wheelchair accessible and so I would be unable to join the group on these Garden days, getting to know the space to which we were to respond. Instead, I decided to shift my focus slightly and base my own work on what I could experience in my beloved Mum’s ‘greenhouse garden.’ What emerged was a sequence of thirty poems entitled ‘growing space.’   Some of these finally found their way into the group anthology ‘Where Seeds Are Planted Poems Grow’.
This book was due to be launched during the Farnham Literary festival in early March, and since I was unable to be physically at the launch, I made several (really basic) short films, each no longer than three minutes, of me reading a selection of my poems included in the anthology.


As part of the celebrations and demonstrations around Earth Day/Earth Hour, I offer a couple of these short films to the Godspace community. For me, each word, photo and painting that together constitutes my ‘growing space’ sequence, is a miracle of grace: a disabled, isolating moment of potential exclusion was transformed into an opportunity for learning, expansion and community.

It feels like my own personal parable of just one instance where beauty has emerged from ashes – again – to surprise and stagger me into remembering the Presence of the One who continues to Grow is beside me throughout … 

growing space xviii

come into the garden of colour dig down through the undercroft of number be dappled below sun filtered ilmenite weave between smoked rounds of plum and orange-zest edged in iridescent pink breathe in lungfuls of a rose for rest, then, wander through the meadow of waving white daisies turned pointillist painting by cornflower, nigella and canterbury bell blue highlights of red campion, mauve foreshadows of dusky lavender leaning into indigo sit amongst the sunflower solar seekers

let your face reflect buttercup gold warm yourself beside the spiced flames of marigold, nasturtium and yarrow wade through waters that become sky windows duck-egg-shell wash under the cream-centred lilies as they float, fill, tip, empty, float, fill, tip, empty their rainbowed balm over your feet seek your palette here where shades display all their hues, shuffling in intensity as the light falls, conjuring new dynamics and harmonics at the moon’s rise you who know your colour, come, rejoice, you who can only feel alien in your skin come, explore, and let the comfort of colour find you, here, where each tone has its tune, come, bring your voice to add its riches the garden of colour welcomes all-comers.

growing space vi

to become human again make your own ritual: before you dance,  sit quiet, breathe into this place,

receive its’ breath into you; be your own education: hear the ant scurrying concrete, watch the blackbird scuffing soil, follow the petal’s unfurling attune to the arc of the sun;

find your own purpose: soak yourself in wind and rain, saturate yourself in the orange 

the warmth of peeling brick, shelter yourself in the shivering blue shadows under the eaves,

let the eyes of your heart sink deep into the scent, inward and outward be opened,

listen to your own knowledge take deep roots, awake to the pulsations of connecting

and permit them to propel you to where you are most needed;

accept your own responsibility:

bend your head and allow this benediction of green to flow over you, blow through you, and then,

only then, find your means to pass on such a blessing

to another.

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to see more of our author Kate Kennington Steer’s poetry read, you can check out her YouTube channel here!

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