Last Saturday was a strange day to be working outdoors. London, in its typical, indecisive way, couldn’t make up its mind about what sort of weather it wanted to give its inhabitants. Apparently, the volunteers in the Oasis park and our good friends, the outdoor swimmers, aren’t a very demanding bunch; so when London decided to gift us a fantastic mixture of drizzle, hail, sunshine, cold wind, post-hail-sunshine and some final rain, we greeted all those changes in the manner of some smiling, swimming, creative, Buddhas.
The Oasis project is as dynamic as London’s weather in many ways. Over the course of just a few weeks, the space has evolved from the empty grey concrete rectangle we were first introduced to, to a bustling space full of wooden beds, dreamy pergolas, and compost bins that we constructed.
We spent the morning filling all the beds with bags of soil. Conversation was kept to a minimum. For a while, we were happy with just the feel of earth on our hands, watching the dark brown soil fill up our wooden beds, slitting open and watching a bag of soil as it became empty, running to get another bag. Run, slit, spread, stare, run. On repeat.
Seeds were sown and more soil was put in. I think we edged closer to the end of that desperate chase for green.
But in the meantime, we had the opportunity to splash some magnolia on the walls and there was no way we were missing that.
It was my first time painting walls. With a bin-liner based costume to protect my clothes, some trusting tools – an old paint brush and a tin of magnolia coloured paint – and some friendly advice from fellow volunteers – ‘You have seen Karate Kid, haven’t you? Just paint up…down. Up…down. You see? Up… down’- I felt confident of painting any wall in my way.
There were three of us painting the wall around the project space that afternoon and each one of us pointed out how relaxed we were.
Turning something from dull to bright. Accentuating a space. Marking boundaries. It could have been any or all of those things. But I think the reason that we enjoyed painting so much was simpler.
Perhaps the unpredictable weather had set the tone for the day from the start for it was a day of appreciating small pleasures; a day that enlightened me about two new, important things:
- Appreciate green and the chase for it – it takes a while.
- Remember, when you paint, to think about nothing much but going up… down.