From my desk ~ Gandhi Jayanti

Today is a day for birthdays ~ my son’s; Anne-Christine’s; and Mahatma Gandhi’s. To celebrate, I am re-posting an article I wrote on this day four years ago. The original post and comments can be found here .  Enjoy.

In my garden there are native and exotic plants, long plants and short plants;

Choisya

Choisya

plants that are standard and non-standard; and some that are self-fertile and some that require cross-pollination. I have plants that are variegated, plants that are colourful

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

and plants that are plain. There are weeds, and refugees from other gardens, and some uninvited guests. Each plant has a unique history, a story to tell, and most contain, in their gene pool, the essence/quintessence of some far off land and ancient culture. There is no homogeneity in my garden, except at that most basic level of planthood; that  fundamental point, whatever it is, that makes them living, breathing plants and not living, breathing animals. Yet, despite the variety and complexity of my garden inhabitants, I find that, if I provide them with water and food and treat them equally with politeness and respect, mixed in with a little song and a few sweet nothings, they thrive. Yes,  even with the most basic of provisions, they thrive.  They don’t fight or squabble, put each other down, rip each other apart for competitive advantage or napalm each other.  They are a miracle of good neighbourliness and co-operative, companionable living, willing and eager to share their environment with birds and bees, wild life,  and humans, too.

The multi-dimensional, multi-cultural and peaceful nature of my garden, reminds me that this time, thirty-five years ago, I was preparing to start the Michaelmas Term at Oxford University. I was a  young seedling transplanted from a small island in the Pacific to one of the most wonderful cities in the world. I was about to flourish, and enjoy one of the best years of my life, within the nurturing environment of the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme.

For one academic year, I , along with several dozen others, from all curves of the world, lived and laughed and learned…. and, yes ,sometimes, drank too much and, sometimes, loved unwisely, and sometimes, cried.  We were a microcosm of the world; we were all faiths, all cultures, all social and political classes, all sizes and shapes and ages, and, as you can see from the photo, all hairstyles 🙂

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin (and I am very difficult to find in this photo)

Our common ground was in our education and our human-ness. We were nourished and cared for by the University, our daily needs provided for, and most of us were generously supported by that most British of  British institutions,   the British Council.  And, for  that, one, much too short, year, we were, despite our differences, the embodiment of good and peaceful co-existence; the way our world could be.

This post is written today in honour of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who was born on October 2nd, 1869.  Today is a national holiday in India. Worldwide, it is the UN International Day of Non-Violence.

http://www.un.org/en/events/nonviolenceday/index.shtml

to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak click here

Blossom in Peace

Blossom in Peace

For a good read on ‘things British Council’ and the mess of war and displacement, try Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Manning

Michaelmas 

is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and also denotes the first term of the academic year.

© silkannthreades

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108 thoughts on “From my desk ~ Gandhi Jayanti

  1. Russel Ray Photos

    Your mention of weeds reminds me of something my wise old grandmother told me back in 1966: “A weed is any plant that grows where you don’t want it to grow.” I had a weedy yellow rose for 7 years. It grew in my cactus garden and refused to die regardless of what I did to it. I chopped it down to the ground, I dug up the roots, I withheld water (it’s a rose in a cactus garden!), I Round-Upped it. Every time it came back stronger and more beautiful. Sigh.

    Reply
  2. Aquileana

    Each plant has a unique history, a story to tell, and most contain, in their gene pool, the essence/quintessence of some far off land and ancient culture…

    Those words truly resonated with me… It is curious and interesting to see how plants and flowers seem to appear in ancient myths, among different cultures. Probably something related to an Unconcious symbolism, I´d say… And it is great to know that homegeneity is not precisely the rule in your garden, dear Gallivanta… that seems to reinforce what I was saying about different mythologies: Variety is the spice of Life (and of The Universe!)… Love & best wishes to you 😀

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you Aquileana. I really enjoy seeing and learning about the plants which appear in different mythologies. I love all the floral links in our life and universe.

      Reply
  3. Tiny

    Wonderful read, Gallivanta. I loved the description of your garden…and the metaphor it offered for your study environment. Simply beautiful. And from my years in Africa, I am aware of the good work the British Council has done in many countries.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Tiny. Since I published this post, the weeds have been trying to stage a small coup d’état. So today I instigated some good governance measures aka weeding. 🙂 I am sure the plants would have sorted things out eventually but I thought a helping hand wouldn’t go amiss.

      Reply
  4. shoreacres

    It’s been interesting to read both your post and the comments, and to gain a larger perspective on your life and travels. Your comments about Oxford reminded me in some ways of my years in Liberia. At our hospital, Muslims and Christians worked together just fine, and accommodations were made in several ways. For example, Christians didn’t fuss about Muslim workers stopping for daily prayers, but on the other hand, Muslims who were working in places like the OR never stopped what they were doing in the midst of an operation. It worked.

    Even there, of course, the smaller violences of life existed. Tribal differences had real consequences; I once had the job of preparing a patient who had died for transport and burial because her tribe was despised by the workers who usually did the chore. Even among the Christian “tribes” there were differences, and some caused real trouble. There was at least one group who refused vaccinations to anyone who didn’t convert to their version of Christianity, and their aggressive prosyletizing — sometimes indistinguishable from fear-mongering — made other health workers’ jobs more difficult.

    It’s common enough, I suppose, to think of violence in terms of physical assault, but how much better would our world be if people on social media foreswore their violent words? It can be hard to hold my tongue sometimes, but there have been occasions when simply quietly fading away has profited everyone!

    In any event: than you for reminding me of Gandhi, and happy birthday to your son.

    There was one other little detail in your post that caught my attention: your reference to the “Michaelmas term” at Oxford. The first time I heard the word “Michaelmas” was in Madeleine L’Engle’s wonderful book, The Irrational Season. The last chapter in the book begins, “The Michaelmas daisies are purply blue in the fields; the goldenrod is tall. We come to Crosswicks only for weekends. The long weeks after Pentecost stretch out, and it seems odd that schools and colleges have started. The house is emptying, and there still are six weeks till Advent.”

    It’s such a peaceful paragraph, and such a peaceful scene she describes. Our goldenrod is blooming too, and the Michaelmas daisies may be blooming in their accustomed places. Soon, the roads will be open to the fields where I’ve found them in the past, and the season will be complete. In the meantime, here’s a Michaelmas daisy from my travels to Arkansas last year. This season, there will be no travel, but there are wonderful memories.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Well, WordPress and Akismet shenanigans are almost eliciting uncouth words from me. My comments on other bloggers’ post are not getting through, and you are the second one of my followers to end up in my spam box. Three bloggers have found my comments in their spam box/file, and have un-spammed me, but the basic problem has not been fixed yet even though I have alerted both Akismet and WordPress. I don’t think I have tried to comment on any of your posts in the last two days, but would you mind checking that I am not wasting away in your spam folder, please?
      Re Violence; I mentioned to my son that he and his cousins were the first in our family,in just over a 100 years, not to live under direct threat of being drafted or being involved in a war. He responded very quickly,”My generation are the first to live under the threat of cyberwar.” So, indeed, violence comes in many forms. On the whole, though, as you discovered in Liberia and I discovered in Oxford, most people genuinely want to get along and live peaceful, productive lives.
      Thanks for the excerpt from Madeleine L’Engle; a reminder of another book I would like to read.

      Reply
      1. shoreacres

        All’s well on this end. Only the usual Canadian pharmacies, SEO gurus, and unintelligible blatherings in the spam file. I’m sorry it’s your turn to experience the weirdness of WordPress. I went through it some months ago, and somehow it resolved. May it be so for you!

        L’Engle’s The Irrational Season is a regular re-read for me. It’s akin to Gift From the Sea in tone and content.

        Reply
  5. Art and Soul Space

    That is simply beautiful, Gallivanta. I so enjoy the flow of your writing, with your garden metaphor of cooperative, side-by-side living and the nurturing that all living beings require. Thoughts of Gandhi and non-violent practices seem particularly pertinent in the wake of Las Vegas killings. Love and gratitude to you. x

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad you enjoyed my post, Sally. I was hesitant to re-post at first, but then I decided we can never be reminded enough about the importance of non-violence. And did you know that at a place called Parihaka, in NZ, non-violence/civil disobedience was in practice two generations before Gandhi tried it? ” Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi are all well known as advocates of peace, but not many people, even in New Zealand, have heard of Te Whiti, a Maori leader who practised nonviolent resistance against the British Empire two generations before Gandhi. It is unclear whether Gandhi was inspired by Te Whiti’s philosophy and actions but there is evidence that he heard about him from two Irish visitors who had visited Parihaka, Te Whiti’s model community in New Zealand. This article is an attempt to acknowledge and honour Te Whiti’s life and achievements.” by Helena Nielson https://gandhifoundation.org/2009/05/28/te-whiti-o-rongomai-a-forerunner-of-gandhi/

      Reply
      1. Art and Soul Space

        Wow, Gallivanta. You are a font of knowledge and a dear-hearted being. I’d better go over to my blog-post-composition place and get tomorrow’s piece ready. Then I hope to come back and read the Te Whiti article. Thank you.

        Reply
  6. restlessjo

    I’m sighing for that world where we coexist peacefully, Ann. 😦 I’m sorry I’m a bit late here so I’ve missed the birthdays. Serve me right if the cake’s all gone. 🙂 🙂

    Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          There’s cream but no custard. So, yes please, bring the custard. If you are going to be piloting a plane over, it won’t be a difficult landing. There’s a nice flat runway only 8 minutes from my home. 😀 😀

  7. Cynthia Reyes

    How’s the mending coming along, partner? I am here to announce that I mended the sleeves of TWO shirts on the weekend. I cannot believe it. Mind you, I have more to do…..

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am progressing well with the mending. The big jobs are done. I am impressed by your sleeve mending. I am eyeing a few buttons that need to be stitched before they fall off completely! Gandhi would approve of our cooperation on these clothing tasks. 😉

      Reply
      1. Cynthia Reyes

        Indeed he would. I’m impressed that the big jobs are done in your case. Another white cotton shirt has a tear in one of its sleeves and I can’t remember how I used to mend those. I think, to cover the hole I ironed on a sticky patch of the same colour then gently cut around? Darn it – I don’t remember. (No pun intended here.)

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          LOL. I expect ironing on a sticky patch would be the best option. I have turned cuffs and collars on a shirt but I don’t think I have ever mended a tear in a sleeve. Darn it! I am not much help. 😀

  8. Clare Pooley

    Such a beautiful post, dear Ann! (I have seen that Liz calls you Mandy and I have always called you Ann!! I do hope I haven’t gaffed!) I used to work in a local government office in London with so many people all from different cultures and who had different beliefs. We got along well and learnt so much from each other.
    Belated happy birthday to your son! Such an un-peaceful day and sorrowful to remember Mahatma Ghandi on!
    I have read ‘The Fortunes of War’ trilogy and also remember watching the TV production with Emma Thompson. Great fun!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Clare. 2nd October wasn’t the most peaceful of days but I suspect if we researched 2 Oct over the decades we would scarcely be able to find one that was entirely peaceful anywhere in the world. 😦 It’s good to hear about your positive cultural experiences at your former place of work. Here’s another such experience which took place in rather strange circumstances many years ago http://www.leechtownhistory.ca/viee-biographies/ranald-macdonald/ As for my name; Anne is not a gaffe at all. I have several given names, which is fortunate because I can use a different one for different internet sites. Anne seems to have become my WordPress name, although I still really like my made up name, Gallivanta. 😀 Liz sometimes uses my Facebook/Pinterest name, which is a diminutive.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Funnily enough, the one name which hardly ever gets used by me or anyone else is Kathryn. If anyone does happen to call me Kathryn, which is actually my first name, I always look around to see who is being called! 😀

        2. Gallivanta Post author

          Just wondering if you will receive this. My ability to comment and respond to comments has vanished. I see your problem was solved. Any advice?

        3. Clare Pooley

          Yes I have received this. I contacted the WP helpline forum first of all and eventually got one of their ‘happiness engineers’ to look into it They thought it was something that Akismet should deal with and sent me a link which unfortunately I no longer seem to have! They were very helpful and the problem I had just disappeared Best of luck! Xx

        4. Gallivanta Post author

          Thanks for your other comment on An Apology. I am convinced now that I am having the same problem as you had. Akismet has me tagged as a spammer it would seem. Grrr…… I am going to try and answer you on An Apology. Could you check me in Spam again please?

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Wishing you a peaceful week, too, Letizia. Your post on the British Library sound exhibition was fascinating. Maybe this week you will find peace in recording some familiar sounds around you. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Iris@poetsmith

    Your garden has some lovely exotic plants… ah, must be the green thumb, Gallivanta! A wonderful message for all humanity on non violent ways… the video of Gandhi is a great example. So interesting to read of your days in Oxford and thank you for sharing this beautiful post! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      And thank you for reading, Iris. We are very fortunate in Christchurch to be able to grow so many different plants. I miss my tropical plants like frangipani and hibiscus but there’s lots of other plants to compensate. By the way, I loved the gardens in Oxford.

      Reply
      1. Iris@poetsmith

        Yes, the gardens in UK are lovely to visit … like you, I enjoyed them very much! The walks in the parks and seeing the beautiful flowers and colours of different varieties…. so delightful! Have a pleasant day. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          🙂 🙂 And the same to you, Iris. (Oh my irises are about to flower; beautiful blue ones. I am very excited, as I haven’t grown them before.)

  10. KerryCan

    I’m kind of glad I didn’t get to this post until now. After reading, this morning, about yet another mass shooting in the US and dozens dead and injured, I certainly needed a lift, a way to feel more positive. Thank you, dear!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      A push for non-violence ways was certainly needed for today. I am shaking my head over recent events in Las Vegas and Catalonia. But, as I have been answering comments, I have also been finding out more about Gandhi. Apparently a modern version of Gandhi’s way emerged just over 10 years ago. It is called Gandhigiri,” –’ the use of moral force to assert a point of view – instead of “dadagiri” – the use of brutal force. ‘https://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1003/p01s04-wosc.html
      Apparently a successful Gandhigiri style protest was organized in the US in 2007 against the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Would the Gandhigiri way work on no. 45 ? Teehee.

      Reply
  11. Liz

    What a wonderful post, Gallivanta – thank you so much for this beautiful and timely wisdom. And a very happy birthday to your son 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Liz. I feel so grateful that my son, unlike his grandfathers, great grandfathers, uncles, great uncles, and his father, has not had to live under threat/shadow of war, war service, or imprisonment. We have been able to give almost 30 years of relative peace.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I hope so but I don’t know if even my son realizes how fortunate he is. I must remember to mention it to him. As a family we have talked about the war stories but quite often children simply switch off during those ‘ancient stories’ times. To my everlasting regret, I know I did as a child.

        2. Gallivanta Post author

          Speaking of online resources, this doco is now online. http://spurredon.ca/ It is about the terrible events of October 1917, and particularly the loss of New Zealanders on Oct 4th and Oct 12th. Lest we forget….how important striving for, and maintaining, peace is.

  12. Mrs. P

    Not only a beautiful and thought provoking post…much needed in today’s international climate…but a celebration, too! Terrific! 😀 Happy birthday to all.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I have just been watching the news from Las Vegas. Non-violence is sorely needed everywhere. Thanks for the birthday wishes. Had a quick chat with my son this evening; a busy work day for him so no big celebrations. 🙂

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Troubled times, yes, but perhaps times are always troubled. On this day, 4 Oct, 1917, 320 New Zealanders died during the capture of Gravenstafel Spur, one of two spurs on the ridge above Passchendaele in Flanders, Belgium. 8 days later, at the failed attack on Bellevue Spur, 843 New Zealand men were officially listed as dying on 12 October, the blackest day in New Zealand’s post-1840 existence.https://nzhistory.govt.nz/new-zealands-blackest-day-at-passchendaele Sigh… Men and guns are not good companions. We’d all be better off if we stuck to spinning wheels like Gandhi. http://time.com/3639043/gandhi-and-his-spinning-wheel-the-story-behind-an-iconic-photo/

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oxford seems like a dream now, but I know it happened because I met my husband there! And, yes, sadly, it wasn’t a good start to a day of non-violence. Particularly sad to hear about the violence in Catalonia.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, GP. Funny about the green thumb; yesterday I attempted to clean green stains from some garden ornaments. For some reason , I failed to wear garden gloves to do this job. Result ~ green fingers. 😀

      Reply
  13. Clanmother

    Happy Happy Birthdays. I love venturing into your garden, Gallivanta. I have been reading a remarkable book about trees. I will experience gardens, trees, forests in a completely different way. Here is a quote that give you an insight into a world of which we know little. “We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trees pass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest community.”
    Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you, Lavinia. There will be so many who share this birthday. Every one of them important to someone. And, for me, it’s a special day for another reason….my maternal grandparents were married on this day 99 years ago. 🙂

      Reply
  14. YellowCable

    Happy Birthday to your son. It is funny you use “refugees from other gardens”. I like it. I think you are right among plants there are less fighting as far as we can tell. It seems we are the completely at the opposite end in the spectrum.

    Reply
  15. thecontentedcrafter

    This is such a beautiful post dear Gallivanta. Your garden fable and the story of your year at Oxford are wonderful reminders of how our world could and should be…… Wouldn’t it be something if we could celebrate and enjoy our differences, honour and respect them, learn from them and walk in a world where open hearts replace those that are closed and fear filled. We need another strong, wise, committed soul such as Gandhi today!!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Contented Crafter, Pauline, I learned so much
      during my Oxford year. We came from so many different places but we all got along very well, even when we discussed politics! We do need leaders, like Gandhi, but we also need to get on with what he advised so many years ago “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

      Reply
  16. jennyredhen

    Why were you living in New Delhi?? Do you think sharing a birthday with Gandhi has influenced your sons view of the world and his actions in it? The world needs the teachings of Gandhi now as much as when he walked among us..

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      We were in New Delhi because my husband used to work for UNICEF, and we were assigned there for 2 years. My son was just a baby/toddler when we were in New Delhi so I doubt the Gandhi connection has influenced him much at all. I am the one who thinks about it the most because I remember how everyone in the household made such a fuss over his sharing the same birthday as Gandhi.

      Reply
  17. utesmile

    Lovely to have a Birthday with an amazing man. Happy Birthday to all!… the pictures looks great, just so outdated. 🙂 (I looked like that too then)

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It was an extra special day for my son when we lived in New Delhi. He had a public holiday for his birthday. 🙂 His ayah used to dress him up for the occasion, complete with Gandhi glasses!

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          🙂 I have a real picture of him dressed up as a little Gandhi but he wouldn’t forgive me if I posted it, even though I think it’s ever so lovely.

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