Wednesday, 31 October 2012

More on storms and seasons Monty

Dear Monty,

Today on this last day of October I have been reading 'New Eyes for Plants' , it is all about looking, observing - seeing beyond the obvious. It is on loan from a good friend who also sees beyond the obvious.

Sometimes when I look at myself I see things which I know are potentially as damaging to myself and others as storms would be, then I look out at the stand of trees in the park and take in a deep breath.

I believe God does place us in deep places as well as on high places, in the dark as well as the light, this is reflected in our cycles of night and day and of season. We choose yes, but also we are allowed to become melancholic, and I know that we are not meant to stay there. Self belief can be just as damaging as self doubt. Perhaps most of us are somewhere in the middle sometimes tipping over to one or the other. The rock remains stable like the deep rooted trees while we sway about - this is the way it is. The way is found through our stumbling - we find the way and we find it remains constant. Sometimes I am swayed by the mantra that we need to change, but there is something to be said for The Ancient of Days.

The restlessness and storms are down to this constant drive to change, to move forward to have better to be better, when in fact we is what we is and always will be. I have tried the noise and the calling down of fire.

The pillar and the ground of truth.

The huge forces of God - the dynamic of nature. We watched glaciers being 'calved' on bbc2 last night. H2O locked in ice, tons of it cascading cliffs and mini tsunamis, and amazing deep blue watery caverns. It reminded me of the caves locally carved out of solid limestone by the power of water.

I suppose the depths relate to who I am.

The forces of the storm and the earthquake, the melting of ice, the uplifting and erosion of mountains all sculpt and shape the earth, and in a way these forces are at work in me too. Perhaps this is why we respond in shaping music, gardens, words and paint ?


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Yet another letter to Monty

Dear Monty,

On light, dark, hot, cold and pruning.

19/10/12 Today after reading about future rest - I suffer from a terrible rage. I just do not know where it comes from. It seems I just believe I am in control of one weak point in my life only for another to re - emerge. It is an horrific thing this rage when it appears. Perhaps it is about control - a rage against control and seeming injustice and offence. I am just a fool.

A healing thought for my rage was Kerith Williams's analogy of the children's pop up toy - you bash down one 'sin' only for another one to pop up somewhere else. That is me.

Love is the opposite to offence and rage - it is gentle and kind, it does not boast - is not easily angered. I need to love.
Tonight on GW you said that pruning is one of the most important things in creating a garden, perhaps the same is so in life.

23/10/12 The way of the flesh. My flesh is corrupted by a driving force of such great strength. My place is the cold place - the depths with shafts of light and shoals of silvered fish invisible from above. I dream and dreams are not always good. Jeremiah was pure, his mouth touched by God. My mouth is far from pure. I live too much on the earth, the spiritual life crushed by earthy thoughts, yet even the earth is the Lord's and everything in it.


'The journey of getting to know someone or something is often like this. (watching a plant flower) Again and again we reach a moment of recognition of the other for what it or he or she is which flowers in us again and again until at a certain moment there is the experience of inner union, of being at one with. It is a state of being, of intimate union, known and described by artists, lovers and mystics - no less by scientists.'
Dr Brian Godwin.

26/10/12 Mean spirited - even though watching you harvest pumpkins and re potting. Cold again because the thermostat is broken, and unable to light a fire because of honey bees hunkered down in our chimney.

27/10/12 A deep sadness from within surged up to the surface whilst clearing up crisp fallen leaves in the cold morning sun - I almost wept. It was the thought of  the loss of light that comes with the change of the clocks and the season - but then from the same dark place came a voice - there will be just enough light in the days ahead .

I don't know where I came from. Why do I love piano music when I was always in the sound of pop music - why do I love the natural world ? The power of trees the root and canopy - where does this voice come from ?

' Our understanding of the Earth is patchy and prejudiced. We don't know how herrings school or how birds fly in vast synchronised flocks. We no sooner figured out competition than we used it to explain everything, and then we turned out to be wrong. We don't even understand sheep and we have lived with them and off them for thousands of years '
Germaine Greer

Great is the mystery of Godliness.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Letter to Monty


Dear Monty,

Pillars, stones and mountains.

There is an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure as the billows roll,
fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the saviours love.

So much about the thing I believe the most in life is being tested and shaken, this is a good thing. Walls crumble, grand statuary topples and falls, not one stone will be left on another...'all that we treasured lies in ruins'

Plas Brodanw is haunting me at the moment. I tried to sketch the house, to capture something of the strength of it, and of the mountains beyond. But I have yet to get hold of it.

Someone said to me this week that we have to make plans, otherwise there would be nothing to live for. This is a statement that I agree with. This is what drives most of us (if not all of us if we are honest) into the unknown days ahead.

There are few certainties in life. Perhaps we avoid the emptiness by filling our days with plans.
Perhaps Brodanw was CWE's way of carving out a sanctuary, a place which would last in an impermanent ever changing natural world. We just have to do these things.

Anyone who makes a garden is doing something fundamentally good for their own soul. It means they are creating a space for themselves in which to breathe. Planning, having a vision or a spark of an idea is what drives us forward into the next day or week, and is in stark contrast to our workplaces which are now so over regulated that there is no room for freedom of expression.

Peace can be found in sunlight, in shadows cast on a wall, in the light back lighting autumn leaves. We are so rich.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Letter to Monty Don

Dear Monty,

'O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted.
I will build you with stones of turquoise '

I have just returned from visiting Plas Brodanw and Plas yn Rhiw. Both gardens gave me hope for my own small plot, more than that, the vistas and portals gave a view beyond time to a place of comfort. Not that we are supposed to be comforted these days.

Comfort came in the form of the welcome we received at Brodanw, and the apple and fudge cake. It was Charles Hawes who recommended a visit, and as we were staying in Beddgelert, it was on our doorstep. I have read comments by others who have visited this garden and the accurate assessment by Stephen Anderton in the book 'Discovering Welsh Gardens' but there is no substitute for experiencing the place for yourself.

Clough Williams-Ellis it seems loved turquoise and vistas. The garden is architectural, which is what you would expect, but this man had a gift in carving out niches and constructing human proportioned spaces which have an air of fun and are truly life enhancing. He plays visual jokes, but they are not pompous or overbearing.

I agree that the surrounding trees are beginning to encroach, but they also frame the views like portals to another world. The same can be said for the tower in the landscape garden, with its small windows and arched doors framing the golden mountains.

Sadly the fabric of the garden, the walls and the sculptural elements are crumbling, and some of the wooden benches are rotting, I think this is a garden worth conserving and protecting.

I agree with many people who have said that plant labels in this garden are unnecessary, this is a garden about the sense of place, about the whole, the plant labels are an unwelcome distraction.

We then had an arduous drive on the second day along the Llyn Peninsula - arduous because Toff our whippet did not want to be in the car and whined all the way. I didn't help by getting the directions wrong for Plas yn Rhiw - the sign so small we overshot the turning, my head cold made map reading difficult with drips threatening to turn the page soggy, and sneezes coming as suddenly as the turnings.

Eventually we found the house and garden, and it was worth the whippety whines. Once he had been walked in the woods we walked up to the house perched on the hill. The lovely thing about this house and garden is that it is domestic in scale, and so I could relate to it. My favourite part of the whole experience was the small 'yellow bedroom' a bright room overlooking the bay below. Of the three sisters, Honora Keating was an artist, and judging by the fading watercolours on the stairs she was accomplished.

The garden is a bit harder to see than at Plas Brodanw, it is stuffed full of plants and gets a bit lost in all its hedging, not as much visible structure to see - the eye is distracted by the abundance of planting, but it has its own beauty.

Standing in the Keating house, seeing the belongings - ghosts of the past - slowly fading with the fabric, again made me think about what is of value, and I believe it is all about the now, about the beauty of each season. Being here back at the old band hall in this suddenly colourful autumn, I appreciate being alive now, it is good to be here while I am here.


Saturday, 6 October 2012

Letter to Monty

Dear Monty,


'When a farmer ploughs for planting, does he plough continually ?
does he keep breaking up and harrowing the soil?'

I have been given an authentic original watercolour by the botanical artist Ann Shelley-Lloyd - in exchange for one of my fresco paintings of a Red Admiral. This exchange means more to me than the hundreds of pounds artists seem to charge for their work. Perhaps I have lost my sense of value in the world ?

Authenticity was brought to mind by your reply to me about the fact that there is nothing false about the gardening we see on GW. I believe that this is true especially because you show us your failures. We see so much on TV that  feels inauthentic. I have at times lost hope.

We have politicians, reporters and presenters trying to sound sincere. Financial institutions unmoved by corruption trying to sound moved. The soundbites make me nauseous. So many empty words, so much ploughing up and threshing of the same old tired ground with its harvest getting smaller and smaller.

There is no satisfaction - no rest - little in the way of honesty - of being truly authentic - we are not allowed to fear, to be quiet - to be stilled - to be held in awe.

I replied to you with a deep sigh - I miss the authentic - I miss it in my own soul - I keep searching.

I am sorry if I am adding empty words to words and empty hopes to hope. Hope for me is in the tested stone, tested not by man but by God.

So much for my promise to not be melancholy!