Saturday, 28 April 2012

Letter to Monty 31

Falling down mountains

Dear Montagu Don,

'The bows of the warriors are broken but those who stumbled are armed with strength '

Stumbling along from day to day. I tripped up again today - all concentration and one momentary lapse and a mistake is made.

Sacrifice - the prophet talked of sacrifice - I have to accept my stumbling and the stumbling of others.

I have just watched the incredible journey of those with dementia from lucidity to a closed down fragmentary world. The beauty was in the simple lucid moments - more intense for their rarity. That is love - that is being armed with strength.

27/4/12 I saw you wading in the pond on GW. I may not make the Hay Festival this year - but if I do I have a question. You mentioned in a recent article promoting your new book Gardening at Longmeadow - that your garden has now become like 'work' for you, so to escape you go to your hill farm. That must be difficult - because gardens are a place of refuge - does this mean you have another garden being birthed in your heart and mind somewhere else - or is there enough of Longmeadow that remains private ? You didn't seem tired of it last night, and I too loved the lime walk with the tulips and wallflowers, beautiful. And thank you for the encouragement of keeping your stumbling with the primula name for the final cut.

Back to stumbling - I am to walk the three peaks of Ben Nevis, Scaffel Pike and Snowdon in less than twenty four hours on the 23rd and 24th June. At this point it seems an impossible dream, what with my 51 years and dodgy right knee. But step by step I hope to get there. Before asking for any sponsorship for the Fishermen's Mission in Newlyn I will see how well I do on the preparation. Even if I stumble and fall I am armed with strength, and that applies to every area of life.


God bless Monty.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Letter to Monty 30


In response to reading your article in 'Country Living' May 2012

They say that life is a journey, I do not know where I am going. Am I looking for a city with foundations?

Abraham went even though he did not know where he was going. 'Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.'

Something ancient - this journey is something ancient. It is linked to things we cannot even remember, there is all but a faint trace of it in our genes - a genetic memory if you like, which links us to the earth, sea and sky even to beyond the molecular.

This is why perhaps we experience the rush of endorphins when we see with our fleshly eyes the beauty of a Spring morning - new leaves the new green of Spring, the scents of fresh growth after the rain, and the sight of traces of snow on the hill tops. Clouds racing, purple, grey and then sudden bright blue sky.

Yesterday we looked over your beloved country, the hills and valleys of Herefordshire, across to the Malverns right the way round to the Black Mountains in Wales. It was an awesome sight.

I get so drowned out by routine and cares of this life that I forget the journey. The journey is far above those cares of money , health and other peoples feelings.

I seem to have one foot on the earth (nearer to the grave now!) and one in heaven, where that is I still do not know. All I know is that it is future, present and past in one, and exists out of time. It existed for the ancients and will exist for future generations.

Perhaps you are trying to get there too.

Sorry if these letters are getting tedious,


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Letter to Monty 29


I am looking at a postcard of Woldgate Tree May 2006 by David Hockney, it is reminiscent of Van Gogh and early Mondrian.

Trees are such amazing life forms. People have used trees as centres for worship and have been as much a landmark and symbol of power as have standing stones. Cedars of Lebanon , Oaks of Sechem, Deborahs Palm and the trees at Mamre. Mysterious wisdom. There is no room for mystery or fable now.

I admit I have rambled too much about our increasing leaning to science as the only truth, and I would be a fool to suggest that science hasn't improved living standards beyond the dreams of many of our ancestors. Am I a fool ? (ok don't answer that ! ) but a life without faith and mystery means that the only truth is what is before our eyes.

Trees, yes trees speak to me of something mysterious...I have discovered that thinking like this means I have a medieval mind. I see nature as a reflection of the spiritual.

My garden even on 'National Gardening Week' is ordinary - it is what it is, it has no unusual features, it is not cutting edge. Perhaps I should invite an expert to come and cast a critical eye ? I have invited you Monty but with no response.

Finally, I have decided to use weeds in the garden, last autumn I saw 'milk thistles' growing on the coal tip behind us, they were beautiful, so I collected seed and now have some robust seedlings ready to plant out. The aim is to use what grows well. The strange shaped nursery bed is based on the shapes the hills make. Yes I think I am mad.

If you change your mind you are still welcome to come for tea.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Letter to Monty 28

Dear Monty,

Damien Hirst, my sin and the garden.

Damien Hirst : clever really this play on our mortality - life death life death - inescapable cycle. The green neon pharmacy cross - symbol of the salvation of our bodies, the preservation of function through the use of drugs. Brightly coloured pills brightly coloured dots - eye candy to brighten the souls journey.

There is a kind of vacuum. We cannot grasp life or death, it just happens.

Friends who we haven't seen for 10 years, artist friends, visited us last weekend. Ruth said that their lives had not turned out the way they thought they would, and this is the way life is, a struggle sometimes. Even when life is not a struggle in physical or financial terms - there is still a question mark. Damien with his great wealth (which is used not just for himself) cannot secure anything - he cannot guarantee life or escape death - and so wealth is in that sense meaningless. Meaningless meaningless everything is meaningless said the teacher, except that in the living we can with our eyes open see beauty in the simple things, in landscape in gardens in the kind acts of friends.

My sin. Achan hid away 'stuff ' in his tent, stuff was meant to be in his past - his new life didn't need stuff, this is why Achan's sin is my sin. I don't need idols but I still search them out, I don't need to cower down in the shadow of knowledge but I still do. I don't need to lust, but I still do. Stuff slows me down spiritually. There is a life which is deeper than all those superficial things.

The garden looks more Italian in my minds eye than ever with its shrubs repeated, pots in rows, the beech hedge as a baffle, a foil, and since cleaning the paving - a white terrace reminiscent of marble. (This is all in my fantasy world you understand) Cheap plastic pots hold the trees that form a line down to the arbour, as terracotta is too expensive for our small budget, they fracture anyway in this cold garden, cold and damp in winter - even when frost proof and stood on feet. Having said that the plastic pots are degrading in a pleasing terracotta like way.

Tonight my friend Myf, gave me a lovely gift of postcards of some of Hockney's paintings from his recent show...see what I mean about the small kind acts of friends.

See you soon Monty.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Letter to Monty 27

Dear Monty,

Please forgive my ignorant misspelling of your name in previous blog posts.(I still actually believe you read this stuff...sad really)

There is always something to do in a garden, this afternoon (an April shower afternoon with warmish sunny spells) - it is planting out hardened off seedlings.
Gardening gives me a sense of purpose to life that is in itself life-enhancing. Big or small, amateur or professional, gardens have the ability to make us feel more alive.

Yes some will be more to our taste than others, but our gardens are just that, our own intimate private space. I think people who open their gardens to public scrutiny are very brave. It must be like opening up your self to scrutiny much like when an artist presents her/his work in a gallery.

I would be terrified for you to see my garden Monty, but you are welcome to come and have a cup of tea anytime.

PS if anyone would like to have a cup of tea in my garden, let me know and I'll put the kettle on, but you must not point out my faults and failures because this is my fantasy don't forget.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Letter to Monty 26

Dear Montagu Don,

This is my 26th letter to you, this one is about Easter.

Easter : Chocolate rabbits, fluffy chicks and Easter eggs, maybe some new clothes, a 'run' in the car and some gardening. Oh and telly of course.

Easter used to mean something a bit more offensive, it was about the celebration of a death and resurrection. The festival is no longer celebrated by the majority of people in this country, but it is celebrated sometimes in gruesome ways in other parts of Europe and the Latin world. Are we missing something? In the aforementioned places the celebration is of Christ.

We have forgotten Christ Jesus, or he has become an embarrassment to our politically correct society which believes everything and nothing. Having said that, science is the new god, and 'evidence' is its new mantra.

So why do I bother at all with this Christ? What does this man's death, burial and ressurrection mean now in this evidence obsessed society, where is truth?

Pilate was a man for all generations, dogged by politics and governance, he asked of Christ ... WHAT IS TRUTH ?  It was asked with a sense of bitterness and cynicism. I ask the very same question, perhaps we all do at some point in our lives.

There are many versions of truth which can be argued and debated and fought over. Why does there have to be one truth? I ask this question in all sincerity....but in response to that - deep down in the heart of me - linked to something which is from everlasting to everlasting, is a desire, a yearning for one truth, for rest.

Surely if we could all live with the fact that there are many truths, the world would be a better place - but the 'evidence' would point to the fact that we do not seem capable of accepting it. Living with no truth it seems is impossible.

So why Christ ? For me it is for the simple reason he did not ask his followers to take up swords or lord it over others or oppress (not that you would believe that from history) He laid everything down, allowed the authorities political and religious to take him, he did not resist - and in yeilding himself - he gave us a gift.

I hate the word religion, I think he did too, I hate what it has come to represent, I recoil from it, but I cannot recoil from Christ.

I suppose eventually time will put most of us on the dusty shelf of learning to deal with my insignificance to the world now, saves me later. Our significance is not related to our achievements or how 'good' we are, but to our soul - our real being hidden from the world but not from God who (although misrepresented by me) is love.

You see Monty this is how to be unpopular in one quick blog.

Happy Easter !