Category Archives: Trees

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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Adventures

Like many bloggers this year, I am looking at Christmas through the lens of Advent.  For me,  it  is a way to salvage some of the sweetness of the holy season, as well as a way to ease the despair which often engulfs me at this time of year.

For daily Advent reading, I am following  Kerry’s Advent My Way https://lovethosehandsathome.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/advent-my-way-10/.  My own Advent story happens each Sunday. It involves fresh flowers and a reading.

Here’s how it looks so far.

For the first Sunday in Advent, the reading was a quote from

“Into the Darkest Hour,” by Madeleine L’Engle

‘It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss —
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.’

First Sunday in Advent

First Sunday in Advent

The second Sunday in Advent went like this

“After Annunciation”

‘This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.’
—Madeleine L’Engle

Second Sunday in Advent

Second Sunday in Advent

For this third Sunday in Advent  I chose an excerpt from “Christmas Bells”, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the American Civil War.

‘  And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” ‘http://www.potw.org/archive/potw118.html

 

Third Sunday in Advent

Third Sunday in Advent

After the second Sunday in Advent, I felt spirited enough to set up a nativity scene, and make a Christmas tree with favourite books and ornaments. I had fun.

Oh Christmas Tree

Oh Christmas Tree

© silkannthreades

 

 

The Colour of Spring

In my mind’s eye the colour of spring is tender:  pink and white and violet, and dimpled daffodil yellow; diaphanous blue; soft, lush green; all steeped in  warm, lemon honey sunshine.  But that is not often the reality of spring,  particularly  in Christchurch where, in September, the average sunshine hours per day number 5.5.

No, the colour of spring is more nuanced than my mind’s eye would have it. It is frequently overcast with grey,

Spring Grey

Spring Grey

and dim drizzle,  (skip to the end of the video if you  are interested in the cherry blossom)

and shaded skies.

Spring under shaded sky

Spring under shaded sky

But for all that  my spring is not mental picture-perfect, I still love it. And I will take it any way it comes.

I love spring however it is served.

I love spring however it is served;  but I don’t eat daffodils ~ they’re poisonous ~ just saying ;).

 

What is the balance?

In life, there are cruel disappointments.

Cruel disappointment

Cruel disappointment

Leaf tree curl is back again!

Leaf tree curl is back again! 😦 😦

 

And, then, there are serendipitous moments

 

of sweet bliss ~

Sweet bliss ~ my morning view of the Michelia.

Sweet bliss ~ my morning view of the Michelia.

Does one ever outweigh the other?  🙂

What is the balance?

What is the balance?

© silkannthreades

Unboxed

Spring opens like a long-lost jewellery box.
From its musty, darkened depths, spill
gems of every hue: sunshine topaz; dewy pearls;
sapphires, sunrise pink or celestial blue; amethyst
of heartsease.

In the lingering light, my smile returns,
my soul stretches from the shadows, warm
again.

I choose pearl strands.
Gentle blossoms to bejewel old bark.

 

© silkannthreades

Unexpected places

I have been absent from my blog, as well as your blogs, for some time.

I am spring cleaning heart and home~

oh, and the computer files, too, where I found the first WordPress post I wrote, almost three years ago. I did not publish it at the time  but, considering the topic, now seems the right moment to  give it an airing.

2012

“This year, in August 2012, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.  The weather was perfect and the magnolias were in full bloom. ”

Magnolia Time

Magnolia Time 2012

2015

Next week, we will mark our 33rd wedding anniversary. Hopefully the weather will be perfect again and the magnolias will be as beautiful as they were today.

Magnolia ` at home, August 2015

Magnolia, in soft focus, at home, August 2015

When I was a child I imagined  ( a little) what marriage might mean for me. However, even in my wildest, most outlandish imaginings, I did not foresee an hilariously unconventional wedding in Botswana,

Cutting the Cake, 1982

Cutting the Cake, 1982

and a future 33 years later in New Zealand.

Life and marriage take us to some odd and unexpected places, as some  millions of  users of Ashley Madison are suddenly figuring out. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/ashley-madison-life-on-the-internet-after-the-adultery-website-hack-will-never-be-the-same-10464950.html  Whilst the number of people searching for affairs is disturbing in itself, also disturbing ( to my mind) is the small group of email addresses linked to New Zealand Government agencies responsible for confidential, private files. If the addresses prove genuine, then I will be worried about our Government’s ability to employ people who are a) honest and b) sensible enough to protect the  personal data we, the citizens, are  constantly obliged to offer the Government.  ( And, of course, in addition  to my  concerns, I am feeling sad for all the innocent people and families caught up in this debacle. )

Whether in a relationship or not, may your days be blessed.

 

© silkannthreades

Differing Sensibilities

To state the obvious: when people of different cultures and differing sensibilities meet for the first time, there can be life-changing outcomes.

I am thinking here:

of the literary fame that followed  Flaubert’s romp through Egypt; of  Maxime du Camp’s ground breaking travel photography;

Stele at  Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

Stele at Karnak, Egypt, Calotype taken by Maxime Du Camp, French writer and photographer (1822-1894)

of  Edward Lear’s beautiful sketches of the Nile;

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

Edward Lear, near Malatieh, 1867.

and of the courage of New Zealander, Ettie Rout, who, though demonized in her own country, fought strenuously and eventually successfully for the issue of free prophylactic kits to our World War One troops.

On a quieter, more gentle scale, there is my own life-changing encounter. It goes like this: –  with music if you wish, by  Omar Khairat  https://youtu.be/re78QlR0rhI

                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 I once lived in an apartment complex in Cairo. At the front of the building there were two small, square gardens, separated by hedges, and a concrete slab path, leading to the five storey stairway, at the building’s entrance.  One of the gardens became MY garden. It actually belonged to all the apartment dwellers on our side of the building. No one seemed to mind that I supervised its care. The garden opposite ‘mine’ was claimed by the building’s caretaker and his family. It was their domain.

Our caretaker or Bowab, Ahmed*, was of a weather-worn, indeterminate age. Perhaps in his 60s,  perhaps not. He had lived in the city for many years, yet he remained a country man at heart.

"The Banks of the Nile" by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

“The Banks of the Nile” by Sayed Mahmoud http://www.wissa-wassef-arts.com/bm.html

He didn’t have much time for the refined and tidy rows of my city garden. Grudgingly, he would admire the salvia, the gazanias, or the begonias, or whatever was the flower of the season, but it was his own garden that held his heart.

He was very proud of his creation, and knew each plant within it. He delighted in introducing me to the new, and usually self-sown, arrivals in his garden. But Ahmed’s greatest pride was reserved for his small collection of ‘baladi’ roses.

He had a half-dozen of these ‘baladi’ rose bushes growing in the centre of his garden, under the partial shade of a small pine tree. I don’t know how to translate  ‘baladi’ precisely.  I like to think of it as meaning an ancient rose of Egypt, as opposed to the newer  varieties that grew in my garden.

Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau http://www.emaurescue.org/index.php

Not Roses but Baladi kittens with a touch of Egyptian Mau ? http://www.emaurescue.org/

 

Ahmed was rightfully proud of his ‘baladi’ roses. They were exquisite in their shape and colour, and scent. And, almost every morning, after I had walked my children to school, Ahmed would be waiting in his garden to give me the first rosebud, or buds, of the day.

Over time, this early morning meeting developed into our own special ‘baladi’ rose admiration society. In honour of the rose, and in the best tradition of meetings, our proceedings followed a protocol. Each meeting began with the presentation of the rose. I, then, gave a vote of thanks, after which the floor was opened to discussion. The words were almost always the same, but, to the utmost limits of my limited Arabic, we extolled the virtues of the ‘baladi’ rose. We exclaimed over its merits, and we expressed sorrow for the poorer relative who inhabited my garden.  We shook our heads over my outwardly lovely roses because they could never know the true joy of being a ‘baladi’ rose. In quiet accord on the overwhelming superiority of the ‘baladi’ rose, the meeting would end with another vote of thanks from me, accompanied by  an appreciative inhalation (aka a jolly good sniff) of the rose’s perfect perfume.

We loved those roses, Ahmed and I. We were devastated when the ‘baladi’ roses, perhaps tired of city living, decided to curl up their roots, and die. We talked about buying replacements, but, though Ahmed seemed to search everywhere, no new ‘baladi’ roses came home.

Strangely, the loss of the ‘baladi’ roses did not herald the end of our admiration society. Each early morning, as I returned from the school trip, Ahmed would present me with a rose or two picked from my own garden. The thanks would be the same, but we would wrinkle our noses over the paucity of the rose’s aroma, and we would commiserate over its deficiencies; its lack of integrity and stature, when measured against the one true standard of roses; the ‘baladi’ rose.

That same year of the death of the ‘baladi’ roses, my family and I left Egypt. It was hard to go; to leave my on-loan garden, our street,

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

Trash collection, our street, Cairo

our friends.

Shopping on our street. What's on Gallivanta's list?

Shopping on our street. What’s on Gallivanta’s list?

It was hard for them to let us go, too. The night we departed for the airport, Ahmed was there, by the taxi, waiting to say goodbye.  He first shook hands with my husband, and then crushed him in a bear hug. As he released my husband, I saw Ahmed surreptitiously wipe tears from his face. I turned away. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t know how to say goodbye to the giver of roses. As a woman, I couldn’t offer him the bear hug hiding shyly within me.   That was out of the question. I had not, in all our day-to-day contacts, even dared to offer a hand in greeting.  Perhaps a smile and a thousand thanks would have to do. But, before I could prepare my face and words, Ahmed stood in front of me, hand outstretched. Briefly, but firmly, we shook hands.  I didn’t hear his words. I didn’t hear mine.  I was conscious only of tears and the rough, earthiness of his palm.  There were no ‘baladi’ roses to give, yet, in that short, final meeting, we exchanged a priceless rose in a class of its own.

*Ahmed (real name not used )

© silkannthreades