I’ve written in recent blogs about the metaphors relating to the square – that have impinged on me while I’ve been tending to the blocks of squares in which I’m growing veggies at my allotment.
Following on from my previous post, in which I wrote about how I’d discovered the importance of tending the areas surrounding the squares, it came to me that I was facing a situation at home about untended areas of my life. Yes, it’s that awful stuff we refer to as paperwork. Yes, it’s fallen into chaos; such chaos that it has – almost on its own – overwhelmed and smothered the square that is my creative life.
Since the realisation, I’ve begun the process of handling this crisis. And I came across Landscaping Your Life, a process developed by Alison Smith which uses the metaphors that can be found in Nature to help folks get back on track. I thought it might be useful to reproduce LYL’s compilation of short You Tube videos. As always, take what is useful and discard the rest.
Pondering these videos, it occurred to me that what I was doing was putting my house in order. I looked up the expression. It comes from 2 Kings 20:1-6:
“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
King Hezekiah didn’t die, just then. He recovered to become known as a religious reformer. His father had turned the kingdom back to idolatry. Hezekiah undid his father’s work and restored it to the faith. He put his house in order. In The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Hezekiah is defined as an ” …expression of spiritualstrength in the executive power of the mind.”
Curiously, my husband spotted a pigeon sitting in front of one of the flower pots in our parking space when he came home from work yesterday evening. It was raining hard and the bird was absolutely drenched, freezing cold and very light in weight. We took it indoors. I wrapped it in a warm towel, made a snug house for it in the cat’s carrying basket, in which I placed a bowl of warm sugared water and bread, and set it in the airing cupboard with the door open. I warmed a pad of wheat grains in the microwave and placed this along one side of its body as a hot water bottle. Sadly, it did not survive the night. I was glad that we’d been able to put its little house in order and give it as comfortable death as was possible.
Was this event a portent, omen? At the very least, it was, according to Jung when defining Synchronicity: an acausal meaningful coincidence.
Sorting out my utility bills has suddenly taken on a much higher meaning! And makes the task more palatable. Wish me luck.
Do you have a workable method of keeping life in balance? I’d like to know.
I took the photo on the left a few days ago. Had I taken it the day before, you’d not have been able to see the squares of veggies (the wooden frames) for the height of the grass surrounding them. We went away for a couple of weeks and like Time and Tide, Nature (and grass) waits neither for man nor woman.
Since I took this photo the grass has been further trimmed, using a petrol-fuelled trimmer. It still took all day to restore order and control.
The spaces around the squares make it easier to move around the plot and weed inside the squares. Without these negative spaces around the wooden-framed squares – their boundary-markers – chaos would reign, resulting in fewer veggies. Less food. And our survival relies on food production, it’s not just nice to have these squares and spaces, but necessary.
The greater world is an arrangement of activated spaces contained within boundaries. I recall my first assigned project in my first year at university, when I was doing my fine art degree. I was to go out into the town and make some drawings. The project sheet referred to the process as activating a space; the briefing made mention of the urge one gets, standing on the edge of a cliff, of wanting to throw oneself off. I’d not experienced this desire, as far as I knew and I wondered at that point whether I had what it takes to be an artist. I ventured out into the town, however and by the end of the week I had a decent charcoal drawing of a set of winding stone stairs belonging to what remained of the town’s castle; this, despite the fact I hadn’t felt the urge to throw myself down them. I think the drawing was mysterious. I guess I was drawn more to mystery than suicide.
It was not until a few years after finishing my degree that I had my first artistic insight. We had bought a terraced house – one of 16 erstwhile miners’ cottages set in the moors in the region of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. I was doing a drawing from an upstairs window of the terrace’s gardens below, strips for growing food each fenced from the other and the whole fenced off from moor. I found myself pondering fences and boundaries and how breaches of these caused so much trouble; of the relationship between humankind and boundaries. And it came to me that all of the world’s wars stem from boundary disputes in one form or another. Wars cause death on a grand scale, so boundaries are important.
I have a One World view. There’s only one planet available to humankind for its sustenance. Yet millions starve to death each year. I am well-fed. I’m very unhappy indeed with that inequality. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in boundaries. On the contrary, like the boundaries in place at the allotment, it was the collapse of the management of the boundaries that caused the chaos. And threatened the food production line.
There are always boundaries to tend. Even if there are no fences, the boundary is there. I seem to be forever defending mine from folks who are not aware of them (even where there are fences and walls) or don’t care beyond their own wants (as opposed to needs). There have been, there are and there will always be, boundary wars in my life. I’m weary of them. But they have made me sensitive to the importance of boundaries and I take great pains to respect the boundaries of my neighbours, in every sense of the word, so as not to start a war. The compliment is not always returned and so I must act in one way or another, to protect the spaces I have the right to activate.
The second photo here is of a bench in a park I pass through. This bench is invariably surrounded by litter. I had my thumb partly over the lens (doh!) when I took the photo so I made the scene more picturesque than it is with the aid of my new friend, Adobe Photoshop Elements 14. There’s irony in that, somewhere. Teenage schoolkids congregate at this bench most evenings. They are the source of the litter, mostly empty pop bottles, and the wrappings from other junk foods. It is clear they have no notion of boundary, are blind and deaf to their environment and the other folks and critters who share it. They don’t know where they are.
Knowing where we are requires a knowledge of who we are. That’s an important part of education. Or should be. If education, both at home and in school, doesn’t address who and where we are, we can’t know where we are going. The result is the breakdown of boundaries; wars ensue and food production decreases; so people are killed or starve.
P S Britain recently voted to leave the EU, largely because of a perceived problem of uncontrolled immigration. The real problem is ill-managed boundaries. The boundaries are still there. Still mismanaged. Barricading oneself in doesn’t work and gave birth to the development of Total War. Arising fromthe philosophy of Total War, is Scorch Earth policy – leave nothing behind that can be of use to the enemy, which includes food and the ability to grow it.
The grass around my food production squares is scorched, but that’s by the sun. And I’m including a few other photos of what’s growing at the lottie right now, just to raise the tone of my conversation.
We just ate half of the first marrow of the season. Stuffed. It’s actually the first marrow I’ve ever grown. The other half has been stuffed, cooked and frozen for consumption in the autumn.
“A painting [work of art] is a layering of thoughts and visual impressions piling up history and sensations. An open ended experience where the viewer adds his or her own notions to those of the artist.” Richard Diebenkorn
I particularly like: ” … where the viewer adds his or her own notions to those of the artist.” The artist can further develop from the notions of the viewer. In this, the artwork has triggered dialogue.
Great art throughout the ages has always invited the viewer into the cycle of communication. When today’s art fails, it is not because it is non-objective, but because it fails to attract the viewer into communication with the work.
Attract, attraction, attractiveness. Aesthetics is part and parcel of art because it is part and parcel of the communication cycle.
Well, I’m not saying anything new here. I think it needs repeating, though, because some art today fails to attract, is not thus, communication and thus is not art.
Allotment: nine-square with carrots, beans, celeriac, squash, courgettes and leeks. June 2016
There is a lot of weather going round at the moment, physically and metaphysically. Since I’m talking about squares, forgive the play on words, though the round in my first sentence ought really to be around. Poetic licence. There is a deal of unpredictability, highs followed quickly by lows of pressures; peaks and troughs. I’m having to do a lot of running for shelter.
I like the concept of round weather. Suns are round. There are cycles; these are round. And around. Being out-of-doors, dependent on weather, round or otherwise, reveals, reminds, how much we occupants of the human form are dependent on weather for our food and general well-being. And fertile ground. Unlike the wild creatures, however, we have created a society that has distanced us from the fundamental significance of weather and the importance of fertile earth.
Allotment: 16-square with sweetcorn, squash, courgettes, and mangetout, June 2016
We’ve constructed all these squares – houses, factories, churches even, over the top of the soil on which we were meant to grow food. And we continue to do this at the proverbial alarming rate and let’s not forget all the felling of trees – for meat production – lumping great squares of them, ignoring wilfully that we need trees to produce our oxygen. Food production – I’m talking grains and veggies – is being squeezed into ever-dwindling spaces, resulting in a flood of biblical proportions of fast-food factory farming industries. The earth in these dwindling spaces becoming stressed and exhausted, we stir-in (there’s another round) artificial fertilisers and then plant artificial fast-food seeds which we shower with anti-pest poisons, which infiltrate the plants and the plants in their turn, poison us human form inhabitants.
Farmers have become little more than employees of big agricultural monopolies, as they are contractually obliged to use the seed given to them by the companies. They are not to collect seed for future use (and are fined heavily if they are caught doing so). Eventually, the breakdown of natural diversity has resulted in the breakdown of resistance to pests and diseases and then further resulted in resistance to the pesticides developed to control these. And so we are poisoning ourselves for nothing. To solve the problem of diminishing food supplies, we develop GM foods, further imbalancing nature’s cycles (another round). And we navigate through our square lives blind deaf and dumb to our destruction of the planet by default and thus the very stuff we have to have for our very existence.
Allotment: Pumpkin: Turk’s Head Turban, June 2016
So there I was, a couple of days ago, pondering all this gloomy stuff while weeding out a little square of fertile earth in which I’m growing food sans any poisons. My square is miniscule in proportion to the size of the planet. I’ve divided this square further into nine squares and each has a different veggie growing in it. In one square there are five celeriac; the middle square has a square raised bed on top in which I’m growing carrots (the additional height and central position is to protect the carrots from the pesky carrot fly – they are low-flying pests – and I seem to have succeeded as the carrots are flourishing) and in the other squares I’m growing courgettes, squash (pumpkin) of different kinds, leeks and aubergines. It’s kind-of my root vegetable square.
I have an identical big square adjacent, in which I’m growing several different varieties of potato, beetroot and radishes. Between the two squares there’s a metal arch over which I’m growing French beans (blue, purple and yellow ones). I’ve two other squares, in which I’m growing sweetcorn and more courgettes and pumpkins; and mangetout peas. Elsewhere are squares in which I’m cultivating asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, salad veggies, onions and shallots, cabbages of several varieties and shapes, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, marrow, cucumber and more beans and on my square veranda-turned-greenhouse there are half a dozen tomato plants, from cherry to beef and everything in-between.
Each square has some kind of blossom to attract bees so they help pollination, and also to help the bees recover from the viral and other diseases that are killing them off globally. Here’s an extract from a February 2016 article in the journal Science, via the web site Take Part.
“The transportation of European honeybees that pollinate a third of the food supply is driving a deadly disease infecting beehives around the world, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.
“What we can say in our research is that the spread of this deadly virus across continents would not have been possible without the human-aided transmission of the European honeybee,” said Lena Wilfert, the study’s lead author and an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
The disease is called deformed wing virus, and it’s just one of a number of culprits impacting the health of pollinators. Researchers have also linked parasitic mites, viruses, bacteria, fungal diseases, and intensifying pesticide use to the overall decline in bee populations worldwide.”
“The common Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) bears among rustics in the midland counties the vulgar name of “Crazy,” for which, until lately, I could never account; but it would appear that this meadow plant is considered an “insane herb” by country people, for I heard lately, from a trustworthy source, that the smell of the flowers was considered to produce madness. “Throw those nasty flowers away,” said a country woman to some children, who had gathered their handful of buttercups, “for the smell of them will make you mad.” This must be the origin of the term “crazy” applied to the plant, but biting as the leaf is when chewed, what should have given an ill-reputation to the golden flowers@ We are reminded of the name Drunkard, as applied by the Devonshire lads and lasses to the Horse Buttercups or Bull’s eyes, as Marsh Marigolds are called in the West of England. Let no one after this despise our common flowers, or think lightly of their vulgar names, for much treasure may sometimes be found hidden under a rough expression or name.” Chapter X, Superstitions about Flowers; Flowers & Flower Lore; Revd Hilderic Friend.
“Coles tells us respecting the Eyebright how “Divers authors write that goldfinches, linnets, and some other birds make use of this herb, for the repairing of their own and their young ones’ sight. The purple and yellow spots and stripes which are upon the flowers of Eyebright, doth very much resemble the diseases of the eyes, as blood-shot, etc. By which signature it hath been found out that this herb is very effectual for the curing of the same.” In similar fashion the eagle brightens its eye with the Wild Lettuce; and the Hawk-bit or Hawk-weed was used by the hawk for the same purpose. “– from Flowers & Flower Lore, by Revd Hilderic Friend, Chapter X, Superstitions about Flowers.
“Against another wall were white apple blossoms on branches cut into sharp crucifixes and forced to lie flat against the stone. Below, the huge frilled lips of giant tulips in shades of white and cream nodded in their beds. They were almost finished now, spread open too far, splayed, exposing obscene black centers. I’ve never had my own garden but I suddenly recognized something in the tangle of this one that wasn’t beauty. Passion, maybe. And something else. Rage. ” Meg Rosoff: How I Live Now
“The second reason is, that imperfection is in some sort essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal body, that is to say, of a state of progress and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent. The foxglove blossom,–a third part bud, a third part past, a third part in full bloom,–is a type of the life of this world. And in all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty. All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyse vitality.” John Ruskin, ‘The Stones of Venice’