IN THE MIDST OF DEATH, IN THE MIDST OF LIFE


IN THE MIDST OF DEATH, IN THE MIDST OF LIFE

Hello Ryiad, Rabat, Barbastro, Jerusalem, Teheran, Mega, Rouen, Lisbon and Pawpaw! It is rainy and cool in little Macondo by the Potomac. Roses, irises, oriental poppies, spirea and sweet rocket are blooming, asparagus is ready to harvest and it is time to plant more strawberries. I am about to have a slice of freshly baked corn cheese bread and a cup of espresso. How about you? I am assuming that you also have breakfast, wherever you live and I hope that you have plenty to feed yourself and your family, plus a few extra pennies to blow on books, a box of chocolate, flowers, a bottle of good wine, music, movies, and whatever you like and your religious beliefs permit. Out there, in the big world of realpolitik, things are not so pretty. People are killing each other in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Darfur, and Sri Lanka, among other places.

I suspect that some of you might think that killing is not such a bad thing. Some of you might believe that you go boom-boom and you fly straight up to where your seventy virgins await you. That is your thing. I confess that I do not understand it. It is not that I am that terribly afraid of dying. I just happen to have seen enough death to gather that it is dadblasted final. Besides, there a few features this side of paradise that I would like to enjoy a little longer.
Being on the sunny side of sixty, I belong to a group whose peers seem to be departing life all too often. Two of mine died within the lat couple of months. A couple of days ago I helped bury a good friend. Actually, some of us who love her scattered her ashes in the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, below Harpers Ferry. It was a sunny afternoon. The sky was as clear as the best aquamarine. Gold flecks shone on the cool river water and and on the hills, the old trees had the achingly beautiful green of new saplings. A gentle breeze turne the surface of the water to a froth of lace. A Pawlonia tree showered us with it royal blue flowers.
After we had scattered ashes and roses into the river, a pair of wild ducks made its leisurely way to the shore. A swallowtail butterfly, old quaint old buildings of the town seemed to huddle together arund gardens where e pink clematis yellow roses bloomed. In the hour long trip home we saw more wildlife than we usually see in a week. Baby turtles sunned themselves on a log on the Potomac. A trio of groundogs played in the grass. Deer watched us from the woods. A great blue heron fed in the shallows. Mourning doves sang in the wheat fields. All about us there were reminders that in the midst of death there is unquenchable life.
I think that you out there in Rabat, Teheran, Rouen, Jerusalem, and I, in this little town in West Virginia are good neighbours. We have more in common than you imagine. We hve known love, loss and we have learnt to carry our burden of grief with dignity. We know that some of that grief could have been avoided if only we could have chosen wise leaders. As it is, we have to do goes on when our best as individuals. We cannot determine the results of the talks between Obama and Netanyahu. We cannot prevail upon Ahmadinejad to stop rattling his nucler saber and bringing the world closer to complete disaster. We cannot stop floods in Brazil, nor keep the swine flu from spreading globally. What we can do is to respect each other. Life is short. We can do nothing better than to honor our shared humanity and tend the seeds of peace as carefully we tend our gardens.
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Last year a good friend gave me a pair of red leather gardening gloves that are really too beautiful to use while grubbing in the dirt. Generous as the gesture was, I am not the sort of gardener who wears gloves. I like to feel the texture and temperature of the soil. I like to sink my fingers into a nice mix of sand, bone meal and humus when I prepare a spot for recalcitrant poppies and lavendar. Though they might keep my hands and nails from being brutalised, gloves get in the way. I feel like a wuss when I wear them.
Early in the season, a hard day of sewing the abominable trees of heaven that find their way into my Nanking cherries and lilacs, makes my hands look like they belong to a wussy urban gardener. Today, after clearing beds for snow peas and sunchokes, I earned broken nails, abrasions and blisters. No matter. During my thirty some years of gardening and seven years as a metalsmith, I learnt that a certain amount of discomfort comes with the territory. Sure, there are times when I would like to be Vita Sackville-West, mistress of a bevy of hired hands in charge of grunt work. Quite often, at the jeweler’s bench, I wish I were Faberge or Spratling and leave the uncomfortable tasks for minions. Somehow, I doubt that I would enjoy either gardening or silversmithing as much, I have no castle–I garden in a half acre lot. My silversmithing clients are every bit as discerning as Russianj aristocrats, but they have a smaller budget. I think that I am doing what I have always been meant to do–gardening and making jewelry my own way, gloves off, all senses on the job.


We are switching to microblogging, what with novels to write, the business of crafts and gardening season just around the corner–we are being very optimistic, metereologiccaky speaking.

The first novel of the series is in the hands of a capable reader. The second and third are nearly plotted. The business of crafts is gasping, but there are big plans afoot for a cooperative effort that should breathe life into it. At present, the garden is a tiny pot planted with cilantro and green onions. High temp today is 30F, low 15F. The poor seedlings need a blanket. The food news is that outdoors, the daffodils have reach an impressive five inches growth and some of the perennials– sweet williams, poppies–have more than a hint of green. Adelante!