Thursday, 26 March 2009

the power of love

It’s strange to admit this: I feel like I’m learning to receive love for the first time in my life.

I’ve had a rough week, with poisons, and then more poisons to counter their side effects, leaving my body feeling like it’s been hit by a bus. My animal, instinctive, spirit seems to be crying out: ‘let me out of here!’ And yet, I am discovering a strange cocoon of love, not deliberate love in reaction to my distress but the background level of love that we take for granted every day of our lives. Not a day passes without a gesture of kindness – an invite to a cup of tea, a postcard from a cousin, a friend dropping in with another book by Barbara Kingsolver, a bunch of liberated daffodils 'liberated' from the park, someone crossing the road to hug me when I’m feeling my most unlovable. It’s an inescapable tidal wave of love!

Last week, Matthew, a teacher from Lewes New School, which I put a lot of my own heart into some years ago, did a sponsored 100-mile bike ride to raise money for our family to spend on ourselves, a holiday perhaps. They pooled £1000! Yes, I am in awe of the power of love, a tangible spiritual force that is so much more powerful than any of the transient concerns of my body or what the politicians and news creators would have us believe.

And love is what’s going to get us through this time of great change. I’m convinced of that now. It’s time to stand up for what we love, and I am planning to contribute to the shindig (it’s not really a protest is it when you’re having so much fun?) on 1 April highlighting the problem of the G20 so-called leaders trying to keep the show on the road at all costs. The wonderful Marina Pepper - above - who is leading the Black Horsemen of the Apocalypse (meeting at Cannon St at 11 - see you on the 9.17 from Lewes with flowers or a pillow – don’t ask), sent this video, One Love. Cos that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? That’s the real agenda.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

hair today...

I woke up on Monday and decided to shave my head. So I took myself to Andy and Marvin’s barber shop on Fisher Street and asked for a Kojak. Andy explained that they only cut very close to the head and after asking me three times if I really wanted a Number One, he took out his electric cutter and started. You might want to close your eyes, he warned me; this might not be easy for you.

I’d started to think about this decision the night before, when, as I was combing my hair using my fingers, it was coming out in whole handfuls. The chemotherapy was finally taking its toll and though the sight was rather entertaining to my son, it was starting to creep me out. In fact, the whole hair loss thing had been far harder than I’d expected. The lion in me was starting to feel rather mangy.

Andy meanwhile was being very funny, and kindly keeping my mind busy as he shaved: ‘So, how’s the chemotherapy going? Are you seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet? And I don’t mean the kind of near-death light…’ When he had done and I opened my eyes, I felt a thrill of delight and freedom. I put on my beret and cycled home, waving goodbye to all the blokes in the barbers shop – I felt we’d made each others’ day.

At home the reception was mixed. Dirk commented rather Dirkingly that I looked like I’d come from a prisoner of war camp; I think it’s a rather visual reminder that I am ill, even though I feel well and the cancer is regressing. But within hours I had support: Nimmy taught me how to create African head-dresses; Julia brought a fetching bonnet for going shopping in; my daughter Rose helped me accept that a wig under a beret looks pretty natural. And Vivianna’s massage lotion has kept my scalp fresh and oiled. I keep wanting to go outside naked-headed but when I have, to collect logs or wave a friend off, I sense that people have found it rather disconcerting. Am I brave enough to help educate the public about the effects of chemotherapy or shall I just keep this new sense of carefreedom to myself?

Thursday, 12 March 2009

the other Lewes pound

I spent Saturday on my friends Robin and Tuti’s new land near Cooksbridge broadcasting green manure over a 1 acre field that had been ploughed and tilled. The four of us walked up and down the field in a group, spread out 2 metres apart, broadcasting the seed in a horizontal figure of 8 pattern, adjusting it to the wind. After a picnic lunch, Robin and Edward pulled a hand made harrow (Robin is developing AppropriateTechnology) over the ground to cover the seed. The whole operation was efficient and hugely pleasurable. Probably not as fast as a machine could do it, but far more - appropriate.

On Sunday I planted a forest garden in the patch of land opposite St John’s Sub Castro. It used to be the town pound, where stray sheep were brought to be claimed. Last spring a few of us Transition Towners, with Ruth O’ Keeffe of Lewes Little Gardens, sheet mulched the weedy ground (cardboard then compost then straw, overplanting it with a prolific crop of marrows, courgettes and nasturtiums). When I dug into the soil it was writhing with worms and soft and crumbly, with an intact weed-free structure ready for planting in. In a couple of hours, I planted blackcurrants, raspberries, grape, tayberry, rhubarbs, alpine strawberries, Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish, and a range of herbs including chives, garlic chives, sorrel, sage, rosemary, salad burnett and lovage. Marrows for my neighbor and self-seeding herbs are to come. The permaculture concept of a forest garden is that it mimics nature, with plants taking up space in different levels and, by using perennials and self-seeders in a straw mulch, to minimize the amount of maintenance needed, including weeding and watering. Probably the most work I will do this year is to harvest the crops and share them with my neighbour, who owns this tiny garden.

Here is the inspiring 90 minute film Farm for the Future, that I mentioned last week, and here is a very funny 9 minute film about Transition Towns.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

outgrowing the growth

I’ve discovered that it’s possible to simply outgrow problems. And that I am at last growing up. These last couple of years I’ve felt like a child, powerless in the face of humanity’s cancerous Kamakazi suicide mission. Yet also knowing also that this is the perfect world, a kind of warts and all Garden of Eden. Cancer happened because I forgot to laugh at the joke, and grief settled in like a cool corrosive mist. But now it’s different. I can read the news without pangs of fear of what’s ahead. I can listen to people talk about their flying holidays without feeling like going AAARGH! I’m not in denial, but neither am I suffering.

I also know, first hand, that you can’t tell an addict to change; all you can do is wait with compassion till they hit rock bottom. There’s no point in trying to help humanity to change in advance; we are going to outgrow the problem, even if we die out in the process. This is going to be a rear-view mirror job, just like the economy. All we can do is love what we love, and permaculture is one of the best ways I know of doing this.
While planning to plant a small forest garden on St Johns Terrace this weekend I watched this wonderful BBC documentary about the future of food and farming, and came across this quote by Carl Yung:‘I always worked with the temperamental conviction that in the last analysis there are no insoluble problems, and experience has so far justified me in that I have often seen individuals who simply outgrew a problem which had destroyed others. This ‘outgrowing’ revealed itself on further experience to be the raising of the level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through this widening of his view, the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not repressed and made unconscious, but merely appeared in a different light and so became different itself. What, on a lower level, had led to the wildest conflicts and to emotions full of panic, viewed from the higher level of the personality, now seemed like a storm in the valley seen from a high mountain top. This does not mean that the thunderstorm is robbed of its reality; it means that, instead of being in it, one is now above it.'