Category Archives: animals

Turtle Diary

 

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So there I was imagining life as a turtle, conferring all sorts of qualities upon them I wish I had, enjoying sitting next to the laghetto where they swim and bask in Pisa Botanic Garden. These four turtles were practically enlightened by the time I was finished.

Later talking with Roberta, one of the botanists, I discovered the turtles were only there at all because they had been abandoned by the good people of Pisa when they grew bored or burdened by their duties as turtle keepers. And the turtles had responded by eating all the lotuses!

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The S Word

photo 3Our mild early Spring has tempted me into the garden – sadly neglected after my year of travelling.  I’m looking forward to giving it more attention this growing season.  What I got up to today was less gardening than restoring/tidying.  This past fortnight has seen regular incursions by the neighbouring sheep population.  Clumsy-hooved and fat-fleeced, they’ve trampled the already thin grass and snapped off lots of low branches.  One of the few shrubs that thrives up here, a climbing hydrangea has suffered the loss of many buds.  The garden’s been littered with broken stems and twigs, strands of wool trailing everywhere.

photo 2The two brightest sights are: the ivy, glossy and constellated with its strange sputnik flowers, and the small tête-à-tête daffodils, cheerful and resilient.  Both these seem to have escaped the depredations of the sheep and the ferocious breeding and tunnelling of the rabbits.

photo 4What I want to know is where does all the soil go when the rabbits dig their holes?  I spent half my time outside today ferrying soil from molehills in the field to the gaping chasms in what are laughingly called my ‘flower beds’.  Last year on our visit to the Bowes Museum, during our tour of the Library, next to a 1920 book called Margarine, I spotted another with the title The Archeology of Rabbit Warrens.  Maybe that’s what I need now to understand the earth-moving strategies of these creatures that, after twenty years, I’ve become resigned to sharing this patch of land with.

photoThis will be my first year without a conservatory – another rather grand name for what it actually was – rotten and perilous: finally it had to come down.  Andy, the estate handyman, left the stone walls standing and built me a little wooden gate so that I’d have a rabbit-proof space to grow plants in pots and maybe sit and write when the weather warms up.  The sort of gardening I like involves a lot of sitting down between tasks!

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The Elephant in the Room

IMG_6731The life of one day is enough to rejoice. Even though you live for just one day, if you can be awakened, that one day is vastly superior to one endless life of sleep. . . . If this day in the lifetime of a hundred years is lost, will you ever touch it with your hands again?

Zen Master Dogen

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IMG_6708I see your argument about horses, the World Spirit, and about tomfoolery and disrespect, as well as why and how all these elements are so connected to each other.

Pussy Riot did turn out be a part of this force, the purpose of which is criticism, creativity and co-creation, experimentation and constantly provocative events. Borrowing Nietzsche’s definition, we are the children of Dionysus, sailing in a barrel and not recognising any authority.

We are a part of this force that has no final answers or absolute truths, for our mission is to question. There are architects of apollonian statics and there are (punk) singers of dynamics and transformation. One is not better than the other. But it is only together that we can ensure the world functions in the way Heraclitus defined it: “This world has been and will eternally be living on the rhythm of fire, inflaming according to the measure, and dying away according to the measure. This is the functioning of the eternal world breath.”

We are the rebels asking for the storm, and believing that truth is only to be found in an endless search. If the “World Spirit” touches you, do not expect that it will be painless.

 Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot writing to philosopher Slavoj Žižek

IMG_6744 2When there is understanding and a set of values that encourage sharing, then the limitations, the needs, and the lacks of any given life can be acknowledged and effort can be put into using material supports with compassion. This is also true in cases of deprivation; surely a major contributor to this is the greed and exploitation of others, which has its source in identification with material prosperity. If we could all accept the experience of limitation on our resources and comforts, if affluent people’s standard of living were not so high, there would be fewer people who felt, and actually were, “poor.” Maybe with more sharing, there would be less severe physical deprivation. Instead of creating golf courses in the desert, or seeing air-conditioning, two cars, and countless television channels as necessities of life, we could try to accept limitations to our material circumstances and acknowledge that there is suffering.

This acknowledgment doesn’t require that everyone should feel wretched; rather, it’s a matter of learning to know and accept that this earthly realm is one of limitation. When we wake up to how human life on this planet actually is, and stop running away or building walls in our heart, then we develop a wiser motivation for our life. And we keep waking up as the natural dukkha [suffering] touches us. This means that we sharpen our attention to catch our instinctive reactions of blaming ourselves, blaming our parents, or blaming society; we meditate and access our suffering at its root; and consequently we learn to open and be still in our heart. And even on a small scale in daily life situations, such as when we feel bored or ill at ease, instead of trying to avoid these feelings by staying busy or buying another fancy gadget, we learn to look more clearly at our impulses, attitudes, and defenses. In this way dukkha guides and deepens our motivation to the point where we’ll say, “Enough running, enough walls, I’ll grow through handling my blocks and lost places.”



Ajahn Sucitto

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Creepers

At Durham Botanic Garden last weekend a group of us  gathered in the glasshouses for a writing workshop while the rain fell outside.  It was a perfect spot for letting the eye and the imagination take a walk together.

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I was very aware we were not alone – a fine assortment of creatures keeping us company, thankfully behind another layer of glass.  I liked the proximity of human, plant and animal – just part of the way we’re all tangled up together.

IMG_6569Brazilian Birdeater Tarantula

IMG_6568Great African Land Snail

IMG_6530Cockroaches – Death’s Head, Madagascar Hissing and Mottled Leaf

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Even the cafe couldn’t escape its share of creeping things – the outside attempting to come in from the cold…

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Chokushi-Mon

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freed from all fear of man

You are lost
until the gate
is found

under the Chinese Nettle tree
spangled shade

gravel
raked
just so

island of white
a single stone

king of the garden
a peacock
cloaked in terrible eyes

shining paths
lead up and down

on a gentle rise
shades of pewter
and lichen

grandfather pine
the tallest tree

all of us wishing
for the same thing
I toss in my silver

the only colour
five-petalled mauve

are they flowers
or seeds dusting
the master’s haiku?

cast in bronze
letters I can’t read

the carved bird
forever on the brink
of flight

sprinkled awake
by the circling spray

facts speak
for themselves
no one listens

always stone
that takes us home

pruning the yew
a line of string
precisely level

enough work
today dreaming

may we all live
in houses stronger
than earthquakes

on the Atlas Cedar
new cones ooze resin.

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A nijuuin renga at Chokushi-Mon,
Kew Gardens
on 18th July 2013.

The title is a line from Kyoshi Takahama’s haiku set in the Japanese Landscape at Kew. He composed it there on May 2nd 1936 and it was installed as a feature, in English and Japanese, by his daughter 43 years later.

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There are actually two peacocks although I couldn’t tell the difference between them.  One is called George – presumably after George III, in whose reign so much of Kew as we know it now was established.IMG_5931

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Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

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‘Look sharply after your thoughts. They come unlooked for, like a new bird seen in your trees, and, if you turn to your usual task, disappear.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Kangaroo 2

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Red, White and Blue by Danie Mellor

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