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Och Aye. Scotland and Freedom.

I have had a decade long love affair with Scotland that is about to come to an end.  I have sat on the edge of her St. Andrew's Cross, Adapted Gallery Page_editedentangled politics whilst trying to make one tiny portion of the country better, through my company Thistle & Broom, T&B, to perpetuate her traditional hand skills and unique culture and in providing economic benefit to the talented artisans and craftspeople that make their home within her geopolitical boundaries. My decision comes following the duplicity of an English customer and one of the 80+ year old Fair Isle hand-knitters whose work has only been available through T&B – my disappointment was immense.

My Scots blood is seven generations removed (and like most Americans I am a mutt joined with French, English, Irish, German and Polish heritage).  My maternal forebear, carrying the last name of Johnson was a mere scrolling signature of entry into Canada who later migrated to the United States, and who like so many in the 19th kiltcentury was forced from his Highland lands by greed and famine.  I do not self-identify with a specific clan, so I have also never worn a tartan or learned to properly dance a Highland reel (oh, but I do love a man in a kilt). I took my first sips of single malt early in December 2002 when I first stepped upon the sacred ground of ‘home’ and ate haggis six months later on a return to Scottish soil. I once sat with an officer of the Bank of Scotland spouting statistics about loss of jobs, the Diaspora, income disparities between the central belt (running between Edinburgh and Glasgow) and the Highlands, Islands and Borders whereupon he said “why do you know so much about my country?” to which I replied “why do you not?”.

I have ached over nepotism and patronage, smiled sweetly in the face of ridiculous levels of naiveté and been crazy angry over outright lies and swindle perpetuated by people who claimed to support Scotland.

I have been mightily frustrated by the “not-invented-here” Scotland comicmindset, the territorialism of middle level bureaucrats and the mind-numbing aspects of how 1000 years of subjugation can make a population of talented, intelligent people collectively feel like the utterly incompetent bastard cousin (Shaun Moore’s epic Wha’s Like Us? is perfect, do watch the video) – part of the family but looked down upon.  What happened to the people who affixed their signatures to the most important piece of diplomatic language ever written, The Declaration of Arbroath?

I have watched as Whitehall consolidated Scottish regiments just as the English banned wearing tartan in 1746, and wept. I have been welcomed into homes across the country, and toasted in pubs where I knew not a soul on entering and left richer with friendships that are as solid as Ben Nevis.  I have had a Scottish lover many years my junior who I still cherish and with whom I remain Glencoefriends. I have enjoyed eating fish and seafood hours out of her clear waters, and drunken my fill from ice cold cascades issued from chasms in solid rock. I have sunk up to my hip in a couple of peat bogs and been grateful for not ever encountering the quick sands found on her Outer Hebrides. I traversed her breadth, and width, logging tens of thousands of miles upon never previously traveled roads and made the last ferries on time in all kinds of weather.

Scotland is a home I didn’t know I had, until after 17 years of subtle messages made it damn clear she was calling me to her.  I have invested time, energy and financial resources I was ill equipped to make – and regret not one aspect of having done so. I have learn much – which I now take forward to the benefit of other countries and regions of countries and apply the T&B model. New beginnings. And so, on the eve of the Scottish Referendum where the country I have loved faces new challenges and opportunities herself I have a few things as an outsider that I have refrained from previously expressing.

DSCN9250First, a question to pose – if British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama are so certain that Scotland will fail why plead for her to remain part of the union? Why does her independence so threaten the state of the global economy as to expound on this? Why not just let the little country fail? I have a short list of whys and they have nothing to do DSCN9253with altruism toward Scotland’s population and everything to do with greed – Timber, Oil, Natural Gas, Fishing, Wind Power, Tourism, Whisky and Innovation (scroll down, there are astronomical values at stake here). There’s one more thing, when you perpetuate meddling in global affairs using the military for the benefit of “interests abroad” the Trident nuclear missile silos of the United Kingdom are located on the west coast of Scotland at Clyde – the Scots have wanted them gone away for a very long time, and England doesn’t have a place to put the armaments.

At least some of you reading this will understand the history, how Scotland came to be part of the United Kingdom. For those that really don’t understand – allow me.

DSCN0275 As for believing a word the English promise the Scots we need only to look to history; earlier today I Tweeted this image, at left, and

Let’s take a lesson from ‪#‎history on ‪#‎English ‘promises’ to ‪#‎Scotlandhttp://www.thistleandbroom.com/scotland/glen-coe.htm

For those who appreciate a bit of humour with their hard facts I commend John Oliver (Englishman though he may be) for his explanation of the Scottish Independence vote.

Scotland is where she is today because, very short history lesson, in the 17th century Scots founded the Darien Company to conduct trade – which would have been in competition with England’s East India Company. Aside from the various disasters which befell Darien, from the beginning England was keen to protect its trade monopoly, global expansion and world dominance.  With DSCN9259the failure of Darien the bankrupt Scottish aristocracy was offered a bailout – The 1707 Treaty of Union allowed the 1% to maintain their status and lands and essentially sold Scotland cheaply giving over her population and sovereignty to England to the considerable benefit of the latter’s trade, colonialism and war efforts. With that unlikely and largely unwelcome marriage the British monarchy realised 10% of all revenues from Scotland – go back to the Timber, Oil, Natural Gas et al link above and calculate the monies involved on an annual basis to fully comprehend that Scotland has been propping up the UK economy for a great many years (not the other way around as Cameron and company would have the world believe).

Now, least you, dear reader, think that I am a fan of Alex Salmond and the SNP – I am not. I also do not agree with most Scots as they wish (incredibly enough given that the Windsors are not actually the legitimate heirs to the British throne) to have HM Queen Elizabeth continue as their monarch (maybe it’s my being an American?) but it’s particularly frustrating to me given how much land surrounds Balmoral and the other properties owned by the royal family in Scotland and how these would better serve the Scots. Again, an outsiders view.

So, YES (a thousand times yes) I believe that Scotland should be a free and independent nation. I believe that the time of the British Empire is long over yet many upper class English men cling to the DSCN0401vestiges of the historic glory days where trade was really a pretext for pillage and meddling in the sovereignty of other nations (you really must read William Dalrymple to truly understand the history of British classicism, racism, bigotry, entitlement and arrogance that we continue to witness on the global political stage daily).  Yes, the ‘natives’ are restless, no doubt that the significant changes (should a Yes vote be realised) will be daunting to overcome (and I have doubts about the managerial, negotiation and diplomatic skills of the SNP), but if you tell people that they will fail there is no greater rallying cry to success (the heist of the Stone of Destiny being a wonderful example, another is Michael Forbes who has tied up Donald Trump for so long). New research shows there is a lot more under the North Sea than the “Better Together” folks would have Scots believe. And yes, it is getting vocal and ugly on the streets of her beautiful cities – this is a divisive, life altering decision for nearly 5 million people.

On the eve of a historic vote for Scottish Independence I am ready to sell Thistle & Broom. To let someone Scottish, I hope, grow the business in ways that truly give Scots the considerable bragging rights they should own because Scotland and her people are truly remarkable.  Step out of the shadow and own your destiny Scotland.

Sláinte mhath.

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pink

Walk softly, wear pink, and carry a big bamboo stick

Nikita and MadhuThis blog post is dedicated to the memory of Madhu and Nikita, friends age 16 and 17, who took their own lives in India this last week.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise but women really do make up half of the world’s population. And with that the solid density of sheer numbers it would be logical to assume we would be better represented – in everything (and safer). Yesterday morning a gentleman friend in Croatia posted an article to his Facebook wall which included a photo of the NATO gathering in Wales. He offered a comment to the affect that the photo clearly spoke to why our world is in such a state of dis-ease, decline, dysfunction. You would have to be a total idiot not to see that we are on the verge of outright global war as a result of civil wars in the Middle East, the rise of IS (Islamic State) and Vladimir Putin’s testosterone being just a little too high for any of our collective good (and unable to be treated medically); only four women are in that elite group of global leaders. nato wales

Servane Mouzan, brilliant champion of empowering women through her London based effort Ogunte also had a comment about the status of women yesterday; being underrepresented in high tech. Servane’s was an article in Inc. magazine which covered a study conducted by Kieran Snyder (who holds a PhD in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and has worked in tech at very senior levels for more than a decade) about the disparities in performance reviews between men and women – it’s worth the read. And sadly, in the United States – not even one of the top ten countries in the world for gender equality (2012) – a woman will still earn a mere 77 cents to every dollar a man earns doing exactly the same job.

I (still) don’t tend to think of myself as a feminist, but increasingly I am completely disillusioned as to the humanity of a great percentage of men and certainly some women (the ridiculous and the outright mean anti-feminists who deny their gender equal pay while raking in salaries that make their net worth $12million USD basically by being a bimbo) who deny equality.

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Fruit of Thy Womb by Cathy Hayes

We are all, without exception, born of the “fruit of thy womb” so when women actually ‘need’ to have a day dedicated to the prevention of violence against them – 25 November – it should be an embarrassment to every single human being on this planet.  I am fortunate. Only once in my life has a man even threatened to hit me (my father) and I have never known the violence of rape but all too many women (and girls) know this terror, live with it daily, suffer needlessly from it.

Against all this I am inspired to the point of near awe at two separate groups of women in India (which ranks 20th out of the G20 countries for women’s rights) and whose paternalistic society breeds rampant misogyny, violence against women, perpetuates child marriages and denial of education for girls and women – the scope of which is heartbreaking and played out daily on both traditional and social media platforms.

First, let me state I don’t condone violence – of any kind. But these Indian women, the current ranks 400,000 of them and growing, walk dressed in flowing hot pink saris like gorgeous butterflies wafting across 11 districts in Uttar Pradesh (a Northern Province bordering Nepal with a pinkpopulation of some 204 million people) carrying long bamboo sticks exacting retribution on men for violence against women; these are the women of the Gulabi, or Pink, Gang. A woman taking on the role as a warrior is not new; recent forensic analysis by the archaeology team at University of Western Australia determined that historic Viking raiding parties were actually made up of 50% women. But those were side-by-side efforts with men, a model of civilization which our whole world would certainly benefit from embracing once again, whereas the Gulabi women are police, jury and judge all in one cohesive unit in a country that tends to turn a blind eye to meting out justice for women.

And now, girls. Amazing young women whose passion and determination to get an education, to avoid becoming a child bride, by owning something of their own and not only increasing their value within their families and communities but more especially to Girls Projectthemselves. I had been aware (in those fleeting moments of social media that slip through our psyches) of girls being taught to garden because of this Sundance Film “After My Garden Grows” by Megan Mylan (for those too lazy to do the math around the dowry conversation 20,000 rupees is the equivalent of $332 USD. Let that tiny amount sink into your brain. I just rediscovered the Girls Project because of this image, at left, the supporting article, of five girls who avoided child marriage by learning to garden.  As a gardener, this made my HEART SOAR! So I dropped the Landesa Organisation a note – and promised to include them in a blog. I cannot encourage your financial support enough. This not simply about young women in India, it’s making our whole world better by empowering our girls, giving them the tools to value themselves and create economic value for their communities. It’s about our respecting that “Half the Sky” is still largely underrepresented, devalued and debased and it’s in all of our best interests to fix this – now.

Do something, anything, in memory of Madhu and Nikita. Namaste. 

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How Doctor Who made me see something, more

This post is for all those who wonder, doubt, and diminish the impact their lives have on the world (and I will own that is also me sometimes) but especially for those who are about to give up hope and who succumb to the pain that society thrusts upon the fragility of the creative.  In our world of ‘lowest common denominator’ it is truly time we stand firm and own our magnificence – no matter how uncomfortable it might be for ‘the others’.

My dearest girlfriend in the world, Jennifer Sertl, posted a video for some artists that she knows in the expanse of the world – both in person directly and through her vast, interconnected social media sphere to thank them, to encourage them, to shout out their presence to a larger audience that ‘follows her’.  Her message, and the video itself, were not directed toward me, but as I viewed it the importance of the pebble thrown into the pond rippling outward – in wonder and impact demanding to be shared.

Please watch this two minute video excerpt from the BBC’s long running Doctor Who. 

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Les Iris, 1889, Vincent Van Gogh

As I have been reminded quite a few times recently that I ‘make a difference’ and that my gifts are considerable. I tend to discount some more rigorously than others but I am learning that in devaluing any portion of myself I diminish the whole of my being, and most importantly my integrity and what impact I might have (tiny, imperceptible though it might be). We are a flower garden, a bed of iris sharing nourishment, dependent upon conditions seemingly out of our control in which we thrive – or die.

If you only could pull a Doctor Who after your death; to return to the living for a few finite, spectacular moments if only to understand the lasting impact of your words, kindnesses, deeds and creativity. NEVER, EVER, give up on the fulfillment of your passions – with, or without, recompense. Root yourself in the soil, turn your face toward the sun, drink in life in all its glory, pain, and beauty and give that nourishment back in the impermanence which is common to all things.  Live with grace at your elbow gently guiding you (and sometimes violently pulling you) to create a masterpiece that is uniquely yours to give. Reside in mindfulness and passion, read (and perhaps write) poetry, create moments of magic for yourself and others.

“He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray. To use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world…”

The words might be from the video clip as Vincent Van Gogh is being spoken of, but I believe it is the pain of our experiences which allow each of us to create beauty in our own very specific way. All too often we fail to see ourselves as others do. And so, when I watched this, twice, I cried tears of gratitude in exactly the same place in which Vincent is overwhelmed. I am so fortunate to be reminded on a regular basis that my presence in this world makes a difference to others.

Starry Night over the Rhone 1888

Starry Night over the Rhône, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh didn’t cease to inspire, and not just those of us who have ever stood transfixed before one of his canvases.  In this homage, Don Mclean’s “Vincent” (Starry, Starry Night) – itself a masterpiece – is set against outtakes from the same episode of Doctor Who; the result is breathtaking.   So I am now telling you, each who might read this, you are important. You – yes, YOU – make a difference by your presence on Earth (and in the heavens) every single day.

I am conveying love and passing blessings over you for all that you do, for simply being, and encouraging you to go on despite your pain and the pain we witness around us to create ecstatic beauty. And I am thanking every single person who this week (and many other days and times throughout my life) who has made me see what you see about myself.
OX’s – Te.

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The ferment of genius in a broken world.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”
― Anaïs Nin

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Photograph by Massimo Sestini, accompanying the Italian navy in rescue June 2014

According to (nearly) universally held scientific beliefs human beings have traversed the breath of the Earth for over 60,000 years. Migration is not a new phenomenon, neither, sadly, is the terror of being a refugee, but the epic proportions of displacement are all too familiar across the globe certainly are new.

Somalis in Ethiopia

Somalis in Ethiopia

There can be nothing more de-humanising than to have your community scattered, the traditions of your culture destroyed, to experience the brutality of violence directed toward you because of your geographic location (and the covetousness for what lies beneath your feet) or your faith. That we, who are all ‘of one’, could do this to another and not understand that we are doing this to ourselves (for eventually we always reap what we sow) is beyond my capacity to comprehend.  Being assigned refugee status and then being forced to live in an encampment with tens of thousands of others who likewise are forced to accept this fate and ‘live’ on the handouts of NGOs is beneath human dignity. And yet, according to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, UNHCR, there are more than fifty (50) million people living this way. FIFTY MILLION PEOPLE living in tent cities and if you can read this from the comfort of a home, where water runs in your tap and flushes your toilet, where you can bathe, and cook, and sleep anytime you wish, a piece of you – in our common existence – is living this other life.

I believe in the ferment of genius.  That there are ideas floating all around us, destined to be pulled down because at a precise moment in time we see a problem and know with every fiber of our being that there is a solution to it that ‘we’ have been called upon by the universe to fix.  Goethe understood it too.

Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.
                                                                                                     ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Because of her Lexus Design Award winning “Weaving a Home” project, I discovered the extraordinary work of Abeer Seikaly a couple of weeks ago. I have worked with artisans and Abeer_Seikaly_woven_tent_2craftspeople for more than a decade to find a way of taking their traditional skills and making them contemporary and commercially viable so, you can imagine how Seikaly’s efforts took my breath away. The conjunction of honoring the traditional housing of nomadic peoples everywhere, seeing in handwoven baskets a possibility for something more, and her training as an architect have created something truly innovative and worthy of the (all too often loosely assigned) appellation of genius.

In combination with “ovens made from old bath tubs” we might be able to fix some bathtub ovenpressing problems and build communities (and all the healing, dynamic energy which accompanies such) within refugee camps to restore a level of human dignity.

I have facilitated introduction between Ms. Seikaly and a friend of mine who is the CEO of Glen Raven (Sunbrella) fabrics.  I suggested that the integration of a rain collection and cooling system into the functionality of her design and they have now taken the conversation into the business development core of Glen Raven for direct conversations. I can’t know the outcome, but I see NO REASON why something couldn’t be developed for those living near salt water but within an arid environment to cope with increasingly demands on water resources. I am so very hopeful of something smart, and cost effective, will come of the connections I saw and acted upon.

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Love the skin you are in

asmaA long distance girlfriend of mine, Asma, and I were on Skype earlier today.  We’re developing a business together and were going through samples. We were also discussing her wedding in January in the UAE and her desire for me to attend and then come back to Pakistan for a couple of months – to visit, to explore, to immerse and get her life pulled together for making the UAE her permanent home come March.  I know her well enough to know she wouldn’t flatter for the sake of it, at 29 she’s clearly young enough to (technically anyway) be my daughter, but she said she thinks of me as her older sister and asked (given the upcoming wedding ceremonies) about my skin – specifically how I look so young, and with some issues related to her own she’d like to correct.  And since I just had a similar conversation last weekend with my girlfriends Jennifer (45, at right) and Nancy (60, at left) – below – it seems that I should share secrets. Maybe they are useful to a bunch of you – or your lovers.

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First, much as I hate to admit this, there are times when I have done without other ‘more practical’ concerns to ensure I have my heavily ladened collection of potions, lotions and masks; I do not regret one penny spent over the years on such.  A male friend (who once helped me move house) tells a riotous version of such. Thinking that the contents of the vanity was all that needed to be transported he discovered that it would take two more trips with a laundry basket to move all my “girl stuff”.  I am unabashed. That one of my girlfriends just went on a date with a man who possessed 7 different kinds of facial masques might be equality manifest but for the record I don’t dig metro-sexual men and one that has more toiletries than I do wouldn’t last 12 hours with me.

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I do not resemble Shay Mitchell even when wearing my pair of Ray Bans exactly like this.

As the expression goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, that expressed I have avoiding the sun like the plague since my teen years. (And no, I have never put sunscreens on, no, not ever.)  It’s not to say that I don’t go out in the sun, I do, but if I can avoid it not between 10-3 and if then always with Ray-Ban’s on.

Second, understand that caring for yourself – tenderly, passionately – is not an indulgence or frivolous.  Self care is paramount in a world that takes too much, is too polluted, assaults every fibre of our being.  If you don’t do this how can you possibly cope with the wear and tear and stress to your body from the environment around us – as the expression goes, #JustDoIt !  My current arsenal is not what I started with as an 11 year old – for one thing I drink a lot more water and herbal teas (iced) loaded with potent antioxidants – but the mud masque (in geishasome variation) once a week remains.  When I am fortunate enough to find myself swimming in salt water I will sit in the surf and rub the sand over my legs and arms. If kelp is nearby then I will mash this up my hands with sand and rub it all over me as well.

Unlike the old Ivory commercials of my youth, I am not a soap and water girl; if I use ‘soap’ it is vegetable glycerin infused with organic botanicals from the oldest soaperie in the Celtic world.  I had read a couple years back a tantalizing preview to a new skincare line developed from a 200 year old book of Geisha beauty secrets – the Miyakofuzoku Kewaisden - painstakingly translated and then applied to the initial product launch of Tatcha. Needless to say the rice enzyme polishing powder is a godsend! The texture of my skin has never been better and any age spots that I might have faded like bad memories.

As someone who has oily skin (I inherited my father’s complexion) from pre-puberty life (age 11) forward to today (age 53) if anyone would ever suggest that I would be putting oil on my face (or the rest of my body) I would have told them they were out of their mind. BUT! About three years ago I started suffering from winter dry skin and normal moisturizers (no matter how expensive) weren’t doing anything beyond smelling nice. As contrary as it might seem various ‘dry oils’ are fabulous for protection, rejuvenation and healing (try a few of these).

Post bathing or face washing I have been using Evening Primrose oil around my eyes – morning and night – dot, then pat inward; never rub the tissue around your eyes (I learned that at 19 and have used some kind of an eye cream ever since). Sometimes I use grapeTatcha’s Camilla Oil (not as intended) as a moisturizer after the rice powder and generally slather it on my arms and legs while still damp after bathing. The eponymous French firm L’Occitane used to offer this incredible grape and grapeseed oil body spray that I used to use the same way – sadly it has been discontinued.

A friend knowing my affinity for ‘girl stuff’ just sent me a bottle of Tom Ford’s glorious Neroli Portofino Body Oil and the matching body lotion.  This intoxicating blend (check out the benefits of each of the following from both an aroma therapy perspective as well as for topical use) of bergamot, lemon, mandarin, lavender, myrtle, rosemary, Bitter orange, Egyptian jasmine, neroli, orange blossom water, pittosporum, woody amber accord, ambrette seeds, angelica root is marketed as a masculine scent but with my body chemistry (tracing back to my dad?) I am swooning over the way my skin smells right now (and I guarantee that I would not be the least bit interested in a man that smelled this way).

You should be drawn and quartered for using ANYTHING with micro-beads in it for exfoliating!  PLEASE DO NOT F*CK UP OUR WATER SUPPLY by using these products. If you must exfoliate use something with crushed walnut shells or apricot kernels.

One final point – ice water rinses.  Sometime around 14 I read an article about maintaining the elasticity in skin (like the Scandinavians and Icelanders) of hot, cold, hot, icecold.  Ice Ice Baby, called “avantouinti” by the Finns, for far ranging health benefits – yes, it does take some stamina to embrace the regime.

Ultimately I think that self care is also about comfort with our sensuality. There is absolutely nothing wrong in taking time and doing for ourselves (even in the absence of a partner) because we value who we are and recognise that if we don’t do these things for ourselves no one else will.  

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Grégoire Cachemaille Photography Mirror mirror on the wall 2013

Remains

dexterity

Grégoire Cachemaille Photography Mirror mirror on the wall 2013

Mirror mirror on the wall, 2013, Grégoire Cachemaille

chilling dispatch

what remains of sex

roué

flaccid vessel

mirrors your empty soul

 a thousand regrets

forsaken heart

my cup drains onto linen

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To tend.

tend “to incline, to move in a certain direction,” c.1350, from O.Fr. tendre “stretch, hold forth, offer” (11c.), from L. tendere “to aim, stretch, extend”

tend “attend to,” early 14c., aphetic of M.E. atenden (see attend).

I am a gardener.  I am this moniker perhaps before I am anything else, before I am a woman. Before I am an aunt.  Before I am a friend.  For those who are not gardeners ‘tend’ will mean something slightly different (or altogether different).  For gardeners the contemporary French (transitive) verb attendre is perhaps more fitting – To wait for, to await. To expect.

The Man Who Planted Trees, Montreal Botanical Garden

The Man Who Planted Trees, Montreal Botanical Garden

Familiar with The Man Who Planted Trees – written 100 years ago – as well as The Secret Garden (originally published in serial format in 1910)?, I hope so.

A gardener understands possibilities, embracing patience and possessing both a strategic vision as well as the tactical wherewithal to execute and to be undaunted by the scope of making something real out of nothing.  For a gardener all things are also impermanent, the vagaries of weather, soil, sun – finicky plants, and hardly ones all may thrive or die without reason, explanation or intent. The larger world, I think, is harder on gardeners because we do not take, nor can we comprehend the ‘need’ of others to do so, and this causes us enormous pain.

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SE to NW, 7 August 2014

This is my love’s labor (soon to be lost with uprooting myself).  Five and half years of effort; of buying dirt, humus, peat moss, collecting coffee grounds and manure, sifting debris out of a back-filled, disused, courtyard, causing myself physical pain over and over and over again to nurture, to love the Earth and to tend my own soul, all of these in combination to create this.  The mindset of a gardener is to give and our fleeting reward is found in butterflies and bees demanding more, of bird song and the beauty found in a friends’ smile at gifting the bounty from our attentions and labor.

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My girlfriend Amy with a bouquet from my garden.

Our skills are honed in solitude – there is no world stage to command, no film crew, no paparazzi, no reporters with probing questions or talking heads spewing hate. A gardener only understands unconditional love and finding a path to integration and tolerance and, even as we attend, in the end we know we control absolutely nothing.

I think about the disastrous records and current actions of global leaders played out as the rest of humanity waits to exhale; so clear to so many of us that the machinations of a handful will bring forth doom upon the rest of humankind. Where, beyond a healthy ego is narcissism and sociopathic behaviors that destroy because of indifference and avarice.  Where even the nearly 2000 year old words attributed to the Caledonian Calgacus, and recorded by Tacitus in his Agricola, cannot adequately express  the destruction we now bear witness to – largely because there is no peace, anywhere.

“Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans Gazawere resisted, still left in us a last hope of succor, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery. To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvelous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.”

Regardless of its intimacy all things are not perfect in my garden – but it is free of warfare.  I refuse to use the arsenal available which would root out the evil of garden slugs and grubs alike (much as I loathe them).  And that is the difference between a gardener and men such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Bashar Hafez al-Assad, of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, of the militants (or CIA and Mossad as some believe) of ISIS (or ISI as they are taking to now call themselves) and Vladimir Putin, and, disappointingly as I actually voted for him twice, Barack Obama with his double set of standards over offering airstrikes to protect the Yazidi while the instruments of diplomacy, equanimity and aid are denied Palestinians because of an omnipotent Jewish lobby. The tacit denial of war crimes being committed because it impacts trade relations and now further lobbying with the United States Congress to keep the ICC from pressing charges (I know, I want to be sick too).

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‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ by artist Paul Cummins, 888,246 ceramic poppies each representing an allied victim of the First World War, in the moat of the Tower of London. http://poppies.hrp.org.uk/

We have just marked the 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War I; we’ve learned absolutely nothing. Blood still soaks the streets and fields as it did in Flanders it is not soldiers as cannon fodder this time (not yet) but innocent children and women living in the wrong place.

With an online search of the French transitive verb Attendre the use in a sentence sums up – perfectly.  On attendait mieux de toi. We expected more from you. Perhaps being a gardener should be a prerequisite for all world leaders.

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