Friday, July 11, 2003


forest All morning I have been clearing ivy, digging and raking and pulling out tendrils that threaten to choke the confetti bushes, the young myrtle and the Westringia, sometimes called the Australian rosemary, a bush with light grey leaves and pale blue flowers. Now the agapanthus and a frail pomegranate are free of ivy. I have another problem which has to do with the bare soil and drying winds, the danger of frost. I did a brisk little rain ritual but without too much optimism. Blue cloudless skies as far as I can see.

Even though working in the garden is such a satisfying activity, there is not much pleasure in it these days. I am enduring a very slow and troubled grieving process and inattentive to what matters in my immediate surroundings. The garden looks blasted by frost and lack of rain. All across the valley farmers are spraying new growth on trees to retard the appearance of blossom and prevent bug infestations. It isn’t a process I understand well. I have written letters of protest and complained. I feel powerless and useless and unable to protect my landbase. I fear for the local birds. I despise my own ignorance but there is no information available and the farms are fenced and gated. The labourers are underpaid and will not risk their jobs by refusing to handle dangerous chemicals.

I need to connect more deeply and creatively. My relational context here is the land, the seasons, the people who live and work so close to the land. And the need to resist that alienating destructive force of industry and commercial enterprise that disrupts what has been here, what needs to endure.

My faith, my spirituality, is what I am, what I am able to do. To resist, to nurture, to protect. This too: I will plant three more indigenous trees in the back garden in September, creating and furthering the dream of a light-leaved forest. A forest I shall know firsthand and study as it grows. That I will propagate seedlings and take cuttings and watch over safe places for chameleons and lizards and spiders. That I will watch the skies for rain and mulch the dry sandy soil under young bushes and saplings, get to know the seeds scattered on the earth, gradually slip into the rhythms of growth and struggle and ripeness and decay echoed all around me. That I am no more and no less and no different from any wild creature eking out its living here in this valley of granite and igneous rock and shallow pockets of soil. Listening to wind blowing through blond and silver and tawny grasses, hearing the crackle of frost on stilled leaves, hoping for soaking spring rains to halt the dust devils.

So I work on between seasons, mulching and weeding and pruning. Moving back and forth between invisible worlds and chilled by the shadow of death, the barren spaces of drought, the loneliness that no company seems to assuage these days. My hands stained with grass and dirt and tree sap, the fragrance of sunwarmed grasses in my nostrils, the great heartless blue sky above me that does not know itself as heartless. I feel I am digging a grave for my father. I feel I am making a garden to celebrate wildness. I feel I am just marking time until the rain comes down again".