Sunday, 31 August 2014

The garden is a path to enlightenment - and the washing line.

Dear Monty,

The first egg of the morning

The first grapes eaten by the chickens as a reward

The first red admiral

The first robin with his autumnal song.

The first motorbike off-roading on the coal tip

The first argument in the street

The first barking of dogs

The first vacuum cleaning of the day.

Champions -

Where are they ?

Are they at they at the NATO summit ?

Are politicians really the deciders of our fate ?

What is the beauty of the morning ?

Who is the bright and morning star ?

Lift up your heads o you gates.

I sit under my pagoda on my throne - surrounded by a drifting ethereal snow of willow herb seeds.
I look up at mackerel clouds drifting towards Obama and the heads of state.

John Kingdon once commented that the coal tip garden looks like a haven of peace. Yet unsilenced trial bikes fill the air with loud farts, and neighbours fire up electronic gardening tools and petrol driven mowers.
The dog breeders chiwawa's snap, gargle and foam in their cages and my hens loudly cluck.

So peaceful ? No not in sound, much like the chattering politicians and their blustering threats - their moral high ground.

What exactly do we stand on ?

Perhaps the high ground is already undermined and about to collapse.

Living on a mound undermined by coal mines I find that my garden becomes a useful metaphor.

It is peaceful.

The peace is in the robin and the clouds

In the peacock butterfly and the beauty of its wings

In the change of the season

The colours and scents.

The motor of the earth runs quietly on

While we continue to fume and splutter.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Weeds and weeping

Dear Monty,

23/8/14  Like a spoilt child; my mood was unbendingly fractious.
The root was selfishness - a hard weed to grub out - even if you tug - it snaps and regrows.

24/8/14  Inwardly I wept - deep sighing sobs for the simple beauty of glistening blue hydrangea florets randomly growing through the blue-green leaves of the hypericum, a blending not of conscious will but a small miracle of early light and dew, and a lack of pruning.

I like the slightly indistinct photos that my phone produces, but this does not capture the blue I was speaking of.

I am leaning towards blending rather than creating specimens in trophy cabinets, and anyway the garden seems to lend itself to this, just like the coal tip above.

Blending may seem on first glance to be a dangerous strategy - the distinctiveness of the plant lost, and indeed the risk of etiolation and the weakening of the plant making it more vulnerable to disease.
But 'It ain't necessarily so' as the song rightly says.

This song on this morning was made up of individual voices harmonising - and don't we need some harmony in our lives at this time ? I'm not talking saccharine global branding (remember the coke advert ?), but a blending of differences - avoiding violent clashes. Perhaps this is impossible in human relationships - but with plants like with the Creator - all things are possible.

I wept because such beauty is still possible in a largely ugly world created by us and our prejudices. How can I enjoy this when others have just dust and ashes ?

The struggle I have and maybe you have too - is to keep and treasure such beauty in our hearts. A fleeting moment perhaps - but a window onto greater possibilities.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Thinking autumnal thoughts

Dear Monty,


The year whips past at speed, taking time out of time I contemplate the coal tip garden and the upcoming Orchid Festival at : 6th and 7th Sept. This time I am not alone, I shall be in the company of the talented botanical artist  Polly O'Leary : I met Polly last year and she took time to have a chat and visit my stand, if you come along you are in for a treat.

Inspiration came this past week from watching a programme on BBC 4 about Chinese art. Watching that somehow connected me to heaven. The flow of a calligrapher's brush on the paper scroll - the sheer beauty of it - a humble and contemplative act carried out like a ballet - a visual dance. It seemed like a connection from spirit to hand and from hand to paper.

Unlike this laboured work - I can only see the cairn as a pimple now (thanks to Anne Wareham X)

I also sung a song of joy and melancholy reading one of my favourite books of the Bible - the book of Job. The book oozes with wisdom, it says to me in its simple and beautiful way - worldly piety - building up hedges for protection - worldly position, knowledge and fame are all meaningless. What counts for me is the connection to a truth beyond our reasoning - a truth which we cannot lay claim to creating - thank God, because we seem to think we know all :

We assume much
We know little
Judgement is now pronounced in a stream of decoded digits

I think we have forgotten how to rest, how to have a shabbat  - how to take our hands off for a while.

I breathe in autumn
It comes in the change of birdsong
Breath hangs in the air
Dew gathers
The gardens bones begin to be revealed
Growth slows
Boundaries need re-definition.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

What can I do ?

Dear Monty,

The reason my life as an artist and garden maker is really a fantasy, is because for 5 days a week I am a nurse. The title 'nurse' does not fit the traditional role of a man. To nurse implies to enfold, to take care of, to love and to feed ; these were always seen as female qualities.

I cannot feed or enfold physically, but nurses both male and female are now less and less able to love and care as 'systems' replace conversations, and procedures are dictated by prompts on computer programs. We bow to the almighty digit. If you want to see where it is all going wrong - look there.

Nurses, patients and doctors are human with emotions rational and irrational - with beliefs, passions, prejudices and even loathings - we are a soup - no-one is infallible. The best we can do is listen to one another, more important than that is to have the time to do so - which these days is seen as inefficiency.
The new diktats of monitoring and efficiency mean that to be efficient you have to process more information through the system giving less and less time for the peculiarities of being human.

The weekend, the garden is a haven of rest - it is a passion - a place where I can be the messy person I am. A place to take stock and reflect on my attitudes and behaviour.

The garden is sculpted by my hand and by the light. I cannot say it is of any merit as an artwork - but that is how I experience it. Likewise my painting.

I am not unique - wherein lies the hope.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Light - the great teacher.

Dear Monty,

2/8/14  It is 24 years since the birth of my daughter Rebecca on a warm bright Isle of Wight morning, the sun bouncing off the sea and light flooding the delivery room with a golden glow.

This morning in the coal tip garden I sit reflecting on the speed of life, whilst drinking in drops of sunlight in between the rain. How long it has been - this pursuit of happiness.

                                                      'Who is this that obscures my plans
                                                        with words without knowledge?'

Well it's me.

I know the plans, I feel them inside me, but I meddle too much.

The river flows but I try and swim upstream with tired arms. I should be amazed at my folly !

When the sunlight drips in the garden after the rain - I wake up. I am suddenly refreshed.

What the light teaches me is that true beauty, true fellowship, true connection costs me nothing. I cannot manufacture it, it flares into being like a divine spark. I cannot pay for it, no amount of earthly riches : the paper noted promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ...

I forget this truth so often, and when I forget there grows within me a gnawing sense of inferiority. Why am I so afraid of being inferior ? Why do I kick against the pricks ? What is it about society that breeds a sense of division according to wealth and power ?

If a garden, a painting, a novel, a poem or a piece of music has any integrity - it has to be born out of a struggle. That struggle is like Jacob struggling with the Angel, he comes out of it a different person, yes he has a limp but he also now has a sense of his smallness and consequently the joy of connection with a greater mystery that is God.

There is a flow to life, an undercurrent of deep truth - a beautiful river lined with trees for the healing of the nations, their leaves like glistening drops after the rain.

When I fight against the flow, when I strive to be someone - all becomes dark, mired, unclear. When I accept where I am, who I am - imperfect - untidy - prone to doubt and sometimes rage - and see the emptiness of chasing after what turns out to be wind, ungraspable, intangible - it reminds me that the best thing to do is follow the flow, drink in the light.

To illustrate this in action - one day the garden or one of my paintings can look to my clouded eyes (clouded by ambition and a search for reassuring praise from my fellows) - weak and pathetic. When I am reminded of the beauty outside of my mind full of negativity and complaint - suddenly the garden or the painting or the relationships I have with other swimmers in the river of life become light and love.

All I can say is there are jewels in the garden Monty, they are still there if I open my eyes. The jewels are created by light - a light not under our control.