Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A few minutes

Dear Monty,

Forgive me for writing again so soon.

It all happened within about 30 minutes but I wasn't really counting. I had decided to just sit and enjoy the early morning sun with its warmth and illumination of this small garden below the coal tip.

A ragged long tailed tit took a break from feeding the chicks to feed itself on the bird feeder, then in a sudden rush of air and wings and clicks, a carrion crow black shiny and heavy swooped low in front of me just skimming the 6' hedge  - chased by a pair of furious mistle thrush. He then curved upwards into the blue sky and landed atop the pine at the end of the garden still being mobbed by the mistle thrush. He must have found the nest concealed in the ivy clad sycamore. Then I worry that the peregrine falcons nesting on the cliff on the mountain opposite might become aware of the commotion. But calm returns when the carrion crow decides to give up. Within a few more seconds, a great spotted woodpecker causes an explosion of blue tit from the feeder as it lands to lay claim to it, his red rump flashing. A pair of dunnock take advantage of the crumbs below the feeder. Later in the day I see the red kite being mobbed by the carrion crow. Tooth and claw - wild goings on in this seemingly denuded landscape.

Living here causes me to move from almost despair to moments of pure joy. Despair because of the abuse of the environment through vandalism, fly tipping and illegal off roading which is gradually eroding and loosing the once stabilised tip. It is a land unloved by some of its people, God knows why.
The Brecon Beacons are on the doorstep, with their flat topped summits once used as look outs, places of ancient history formed by glaciers.

I recently discussed the issues of the abuse of the local environment with a neighbour who is a trustee of the local health and well being centre. Both Jodie and her partner love this mining village on the hill. We speculated on the lack of care of our surroundings. Jodie who is doing a masters degree in health promotion pinpointed the lack of a sense of unity and community, there is no longer a community focus to this place, which has several chapels, some of which have closed, a church and pubs. There are very few shops, and instead we have a large Tesco and Asda outside of the village itself. There is no longer any focus. Even though you can walk into the Beacons from here, there is virtually no catering for tourism, there is a palpable sense of disinvestment, but to our eyes it has so much potential.

Since the closure of the mines, the sense of purpose of the people and the place itself seemed to fade. Josef Herman the Polish artist who based himself in the next door village of Ystradgynlais captured something of the solidity of the place and the people, which has now all but gone. Those paintings depicted a physical reality, one of hard graft, comradeship and community.

I still see a kind of beauty here, perhaps I am dreaming. Come and see for yourself someday.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

A song in two parts

Dear Monty,

Part 1

'Why do you ask my name it is beyond understanding ? '

This was the response of the angel of God to Manoah  - the soon to be father of Samson.

Today starts with a warm and beautiful morning, some plants have died and some have survived the wet and windy winter.
Great tit pierce the air with staccato calls.
Blackbird, redstart, thrush and bullfinch all join in.

The bullfinch has eaten all the blossom buds off the apple tree, but I forgive him in exchange for his beauty.

Why do I look for answers ? Why do I examine the motives of my heart ? I already know them.
Why do I need a name to explain this sudden sense of peace ? It is beyond understanding but now made certain.

Part 2

Much form and little reality

This sums up how I feel about my life as a Christian, it is so difficult to communicate the reality of spiritual things, in truth it is foolishness.

The garden reflects my soul.
How does it do that ? How can gardens mirror our innermost being ?

I look at  the searching curves of branches on the Norway maple, its budded and blossoming tips. I see the almost ogee arch formed by the apple touching the maple.
I see the light illuminating the young leaves.
This form shaped by my hand and pruning saw and by the green force of spring is an example of  'reality' and 'artiface' - nature in its will to grow and spread, and man who is also nature - shaping in order to suggest structure and lead the eye, in other words to tell a story, to make some kind of sense out of the seeming randomness of wilderness.

Nature though, the force that drives reproduction, the longer warmer days the shift of the earth in its orbit - has the final say. But our nature is also linked with the vastness of the universe.

Much form and little reality ?

Very often it is the case in my life, but just every now and then, the eternal which is beyond words or understanding (for me it is Christ) - shouts we belong to each other and to God - we need not struggle for the struggle has already ceased.

The third actor intervened.

With thanks to Eleanor Flaherty eleanorflaherty.co.uk for her drawing of a chrysanthemum, and to veddw.com and Anne Wareham for her recent blog post on shadows, also Tristan Gregory for his post on thinkingardens.co.uk entitled The Three Actors. And finally an article in today's guardian weekend magazine by atheist Barbara Ehrenreich entitled 'Was that you,God?' I would answer yes it was and not worry about the huge and varying opinions of religion.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Steaming and greening

Dear Monty,

Strange how winter creates a fading of both plant life and the memory of it.

I am surprised each spring by the emergence of plants forgotten about in the cold (and this year - wet) winter.

This morning in the rain - I noticed how beautiful are the bursts of subtle colour in the new leaves, ranging from dark purple to yellows and acid greens.

There was only ever a roughed out plan for this garden, other than that it continues to change and develop year on year in an organic and sculptural way.

Yesterday I walked along the coastal path in North Wales with charleshawes .We followed the line of the Ffestiniog Railway with its evocative sights smells and sounds.

Our conversation ranged from discussing gardens, sex and God. We walked a hilly 9 miles from Maentwrog ....

... to Porthmadog where we found an eatery called : The Big Rock Cafe. It was immediately welcoming with an enticing array of baked goods, breads, cakes and savouries.

During the gardens discussion in the comfy cafe  I was fascinated to hear how Veddw came into being. Anne veddw.com had no design in her mind, but looked at the sloping fields, the surrounding landscape and researched the history of the place, and out of the land she crafted a series of garden rooms reflecting the sense of the place - a kind of 'slow sculpture' as Charles described it.

Gardens are very personal places.

Charles asked me which UK garden is my favourite. Having not visited many, of the few I have seen in Wales I would say more than one. The Veddw, Plas Brodanw (with reservations previously discussed in this blog) and shock of shocks....my own ! One garden I would very much like to visit is the garden of filmmaker, artist and poet Derek Jarman. From what I can see from his book about the garden, Jarman like Anne Wareham, Clough Willams Ellis and others created a garden which is an expression of the artists emotional and intellectual response to the physical place.

Frighteningly I have now been asked to sculpt a garden in Somerset and all I have is a gut feeling and a very rough sketch.