Archive for the ‘world’ Category

Martha travels to India for Christmas…

December 20, 2008

Rumpole was off this evening, having gone into the city for dinner with Man of Science. So I made dinner of gulyas for Martha, Lookingforbeauty and me, what I jokingly called “The last Supper”, given that Martha will be enjoying more exotic fare during the next two weeks. You see, she is flying off to Delhi tomorrow, where she will meet her sister-in-law to travel around together. To prepare her palate for more spicy food, I had been rather liberal with tossing in hot Hungarian paprika into the gulyas while assembling it this afternoon. Martha dutifully choked back the meal, but it was a bit apparent that it was a slight bit too hot, as she consumed many glasses of water during the meal. She is far too polite to make pointed comments, but is known on occasion to grab her throat in a dramatic fashion and cough dramatically, but it is not something she did tonight. She just drank her copious amounts of aqua and regaled us with airport experiences.

It is apparent that she dislikes the airport checking-in routines, and maybe is dreading her upcoming experience at YVR tomorrow evening. She fears being singled out for extensive searches and frisking with the screechy wands. As she puts it, if there are several Hell’s Angels types languishing in the lineup with her, it is inevitably she who is selected to have her suitcase ransacked and picked apart with close scrutiny – she who looks like your average middle-aged lady teacher of French, complete with matching sweater set, sensible shoes and perm, jauntily accessorized with a cavalierly tossed long scarf about her neck and shoulders. Sort of like your every day middle-aged female terrorist, she snarls with sarcasm.

As well, she may be anticipating being mugged, because dinner conversation thoroughly covered the topic of older people being set upon by hooligans on the prowl for easy pickings. She and Lookingforbeauty engaged in a lively exchange over a recent sting operation set up by the Vancouver Police Force. With the aid of local film make-up artists, they made male and female decoys up as elderly or indigent persons and sent them out on the mean streets to entrap the thugs who victimize the helpless and infirm. There seems to be a theme during our women’s dinners that keeps cropping up lately with more frequency than I can remember from previous years. It is the theme of personal safety, and how fearful and increasingly cautious each of us is becoming when out and about on our peregrinations.

Martha smartly pointed out to us that her chances of being mugged, here in our own small municipality, is as great or maybe even greater than that happening to her in India. Of course, I was too busy stuffing my face to counter-argue with an observation that whilst one is in familar territory with known landmarks and a businesslike manner of moving positively toward known goals and not distracted by unfamiliar and fascinating sights and details, one tends to be more attuned to what is happening in the immediate surroundings. Hence, more watchful, aware, and less likely to be taken by surprise, although that possibility does exist even here, on known turf.

Martha demonstrated to us how she planned to carry her money and Visa and her passport – in a small zippered purse she can sling around her body and grab in front, close to her body, with one hand. Killjoy that I am, I pointed out how I could come up close behind her on a crowded sidewalk, cut her purse-strap and yank the purse from her grasp. Of course, she pooh-poohed my cautions and asked how on earth she was supposed to visit restaurants and shops with her goodies hidden in a pouch under her clothes.
“What, am I supposed to do a strip-tease every time I want to buy something?” she asked irritably.
Lookingforbeauty commented that chances of being mugged are probably higher in Italy than in India. Martha was going to India. She was going with a tour and would be safe. But, Lookingforbeauty reminded Martha never to leave her purse on the floor, or just sitting at her side at a restaurant table.

Bur surely, tourists from North America stick out like sore thumbs whilst in India. And not just because they walk about gaping at everything about them, either. Their clothing sets them apart. Oh, well, both Martha and Lookingforbeauty dismissed me as a well-meaning Nervous Nellie and changed the subject. As I ate my way through dinner, I half-listened to them chatting about previous overseas adventures, while being distracted by thought of what kind of footwear Martha might choose to wear on this trip.

As a non-sequitur I blurted out, “I hope you are not planning to wear sandals. There are monkeys about in India, and they bite.”
I was visualizing Martha hopping about on one foot screaming her lungs out in pain, while the offending, biting, monkey sauntered off licking its bloody chops. Then the rabies shots at the local clinic, and what have you, AND limping about with a bandaged foot at the ghats in Varanesi.

Of course, Martha is excited by an opportunity to ride on an elephant at one of the stop-offs. Shades of her camel riding adventure in the Australian outback! I just hope, this time her room-mate, her sister-in-law, doesn’t end up Mace-ing her during her elephant trek. But true to form, Martha will have somethings unlikely and unexpected happenings during her India adventure, with which she will entertain us for months upon her return.

As she prepared to leave for home, Martha complained that she probably not going to get much sleep tonight. She was nervously excited. I imagine she will unpack and repack her bag several times during the night just to double and triple-check that she had everything she might possibly need on this trip. I nipped into the bathroom drug cupboard and brought the over-the-counter sleep aids that I use from time to time. Whatever is in it sure knocks one out cold, with no lingering morning hangover. I doled out 4 tablets and read her the dosage instructions while she wrapped the pills inside a twist of paper.

Martha wrapped herself up in her sheared fake beaver coat, wound her long Bolivian scarf around her throat, struggled into her winter boots. We hugged and kissed good-bye at the studio door and she went out into the bright snowy cold night.

“See you in two weeks,” she called back from her car.

“Stay well and have great adventures! We’re looking forward to your marvellous reports!” I closed the door and waved at her through the window as she drove away.

A confluence of notable dates…

October 18, 2008

The past week has seen Canadian Thanksgiving, the Canadian national Election and my birthday, concurring within two days. It has been a busy week, and I have spent much time in the kitchen preparing foods and accompanying that, tidying up. We have kept company with friends and family in a swirl of visiting and discussion. We thanked Providence for everyone’s health and for now, ongoing economic stability. It has been largely unspoken, but during times of difficulty we all know we are going to be present to lend aid, support and encouragement to those about us in need. That is much for which to give thanks.
On Sunday the 12th, a large group of friends and family convened at Lookingforbeauty’s for the Thanksgiving feast. She and Whistler had spent time the week before, polishing the silver, and laying out the festive china. They made a big shopping trip for the turkey, ham, potatoes and vegetables and delivered the groceries for which I was to be the cook. LFB was doing the turkey, stuffing, gravy and potatoes,while I was to prepare the ham, brussel sprouts, mashed turnips and baked apples. It was an equitable split as well as a practical one since neither of us have an oven large enough to house both turkey and ham at once. After all, we were preparing food for ten people.

Came Sunday morning, seven a.m., there I was in my pajamas, trimming brussel sprouts ends and precooking them – all the while carefully following instructions from a recipe Barb had e-mailed me.
My family loves brussel sprouts, even just steamed, however, for this feast we had to have sprouts in a mustard and cheese cream sauce that could be swiftly reheated in the microwave. i was in the middle of cooking the cream sauce for this when Rumpole emerged from the bedroom and announced,
“By God, but you are noisy. Can’t you leave the cooking for later?”
“No, I couldn’t,” retorted I, “This dish has to sit in the fridge for at least five hours.”
“Well, it had better be good tasting,” he muttered, ” you know how much store Glasgow Girl sets by delicious and NOT overcooked brussel sprouts.”
He poured himself a coffee and retired to the living room couch, leaving me to thicken the cream sauce.
I grumbled under my breath. ” Hisself could at least have offered to peel and chop the two monstrous turnips. There they are sitting, large as life, hell – larger – at his breakfast place. His eyesight must be going! – Oh well…”
The cream sauce thickened after what seemed like a long time. It occurred to me why I don’t make cream sauces at all – one has to keep the milk from scorching and ruining the taste, thus it takes forever to slowly raise the heat to cause thickening. Of course, the fun part is incorporating the flavouring ingredients. For me, recipes are not absolutes and written in stone – just mere suggestions which one can alter at a whim, after tasting to concoct a newish flavour. Instead of cheddar, I used mozzarella and added more Dijon mustard than callled for. The pinch of nutmeg seemd a trifle paltry so I beefed up the amount by adding one sprinkling clockwise, then another counterclockwise to amuse myself. That’s a sort of witchy thing to do – and slaving over a steaming pot makes me feel and look like a witch, so why not indulge myself – “eye of newt, hair of dog, chicken toenail shavings and Abracadabra – we have a killer cream sauce for brussel sprouts.”

The turnips loomed in their earthy splendour on the kitchen table, next to two huge white onions.
After saucing the sprouts and putting them to cool in the fridge, I tackled the turnips. It was a Herculean task, this peeling, during which time my trusty old peeler gave up the ghost and broke into two pieces. I fished out the back-up peeler from the tool drawer and continued peeling. Rumpole came out to top up his coffee. He set down his coffee-cup next to the mountain of turnip peel while he grabbed the carafe. As he poured the coffee, I flipped a peel neatly into his cup.
“I hope you washed that turnip before you started to peel it,” he commented as he fished out the peel.
“Naturellement, mon cheri,” I cooed, whilst chipping away at the turnip.
“I don’t think there will be enought turnip for ten people,” he opined. “maybe you’d better prepare the third one too.”
“You know how few people favour turnips, my dear, they equate it with poverty food. I want to leave them begging for more.”
While dicing the turnips and the onions for over half an hour, I mulled about people we have known who cannot force themselves to choke back turnips in any form. A good friend ate turnips for over two years, almost daily, during the latter years of the Second World War in Holland. never does he let turnips pass his lips – he equates its flavour and texture with hardship. In some way, this makes sense, in his case, but turnips are a wonderful root vegie, and plentiful during our winter season in these latitudes. They keep well in storage and ar high in nutrients. What’s not to love and eat during a celebration of harvest season and of thankfulness for the earth’s bounty.

Once the turnips and onions simmered in the large Dutch oven, I puttered around washing the apples and preparing the sugar and spices with which to flavour them for baking. prepared the glaze for the ham and sat down to figure out the order and timing of putting the different dishes into the oven. Rumpole came out and ordered me to take a nap, and I complied. He volunteered to begin the baking at the appropriate time.

By the time I emerged from my nap, he had already begun baking the ham and had basted it at least twice. It was then time to place the casserole of brussel sprouts into the oven, and begin to prepare the baked apples. He washed and dried the apples once again, cored them and trimmed peel from their tops. He poured lemon water over them to keep their colour and following the recipe I wrote out for him placed butter bits into each cavity and then the spiced sugar mixture. He finished by sprinkling more sugar over all the apples and closed the baking casserole. He seemed well-pleased with his effort of preparing this part of the meal.
“Make sure you tell everyone I made the baked apples,” he requested.

At the appointed time Renaissance Man appeared and Whistler arrived – together they ferried our contributions next door. Rumpole and I made our way over a little later, after changing into better duds.

The evening was full of lively talk, with ample distraction provided by Mousey who is a socialite in the bud. While everyone ate turkey, ham and all the fixings, she ate of the two main food groups – cranberry sauce and ice cream, with a tryout of artichoke hearts, right after a mouthful of cranberry sauce. She was unimpressed.

Wine flowed, and along with it humorous discussion of the American campaigning. We agreed that the US elections distracted from our own, which seemed downright colourless and humdrum in comparison. We don’t have a Sarah Palin, who seems to be a Republican “weapon of mass distraction” to provide us with unforgettable one liners and nonsensical interviews with the news media. There didn’t seem the be a definite platform from the various parties vying for our votes – just generalizations, red herrings such as talk of our health care crises which really are provincial matters. Naturally, the economy got its share of table-talk – every one of us is affected by what is going on in the economic turmoil about us all. Naturally, we hastened to reassure ourselves that our banking system operates under more rules than does that of America’s, yet unspoken and unadmitted was the fact as the fortunes of our neighbour go, so does ours follow.

Thanksgiving was a pleasant respite from pervasive anxiety surrounding us. And then there was election day, on Tuesday.

Election day coincided with my birthday. Lucky and Barb decided to bring dinnner and wine for the four of us in the evening, after which Aime and Lookingforbeauty were to join us for cake and to watch election results on the TV. Dinner was wonderful curried chicken, pakoras and samosas made of chick pea flour and vegies all prepared by Lucky’s Mom, and a fresh salad made by Barb. We studiously stayed away from discussion of politics during dinner, as each of the four of us voted differently. Aime and Lookingforbeauty arrived at 8 with a wonderful cream cake. After filling our plates with cake and our cups with tea, we gathered around the television set and anxiously watched the voting results scroll by at the bottom of the screen, while various pundits opined about the potential outcomes, the strength of the various parties’ strategies, etc.

A phone call came in, and i took it in the kitchen. It was Mousey, singing “Happy Birthday to you grandma…. you know I am on the potty – heeee!!!! giggle”.
Rumpole yelled out from the living room.
“G, your candidate came in second. The pinko bites it! Ha!” He sounded extremely cheery.

If Mousey had not made me giggle, I think I would have burst into tears. As the nation wide results rolled in, I understood we were in for more of the same secretive style of governance that has characterized this minority government. It saddened me that voter turnout was at a record low; people may feel hopeless in effecting change, yet by not turning out to cast a vote have engineered a maintenance of the status quo with which they may feel dissatisfaction. I am angered at the millions of dollars wasted on an un-needed election. And I worry that the scrambling to stabilize faltering economic systems diverts attention and action from the complex of problems facing all societies – ecological devastation, food supply failure, water supply paucity and inevitable social upheaval.

As the Chinese curse goes – “may you live in interesting times”, yes it has come true. We do live in “interesting times”. My birthday wish is for more uneventful times, but I’m afraid, that is not to be realized. On the other hand, there is still much for which to be thankful.

Lecso – a seasonal vegetable stew…

September 1, 2008

The kind lady at diamondsandrust requested this recipe. Here it is for her, along with some background information of how this became one of the foods for me which celebrate seasonal bounty and memory.

In post WorldWar ll Hungary, in my early formative years, all of the food acquired and prepared by my mother, Anyu, was dependent on seasonal harvests, her putting by food in early fall and then obtaining staples whenever they became available. We never saw canned or frozen processed foods, as are so commonly available here in North America these days, nor any exotic foodstuffs which are the norm for North Americans to consume and which daily arrive to us from afar.

Thus, tomato and pepper harvest time was cause for celebration and for feasting. We ate these fruits raw and cooked, when they became plentiful. Lecso was the stew, made from onions, peppers and tomatoes, either incorporating Hungarian sausage or not as desired, that when served hot or cold with langos ( fried bread) or accompanied by scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes made the eater feel as satisfied as a king or queen.

I have made lecso for over forty years now, every year in August and September, ever since I obtained my first frying pan and learned how to moderate heat while cooking. Eating this food makes me feel ageless – it condenses time, stirs memory and provides immeasurable sensory pleasure. Our son, Renaissance Man, is wild about eating lecso this time of year. This is truly odd, because for so many years of his life he refused to eat raw tomatoes. And yet, the tomatoes stewed in this dish are to his taste.

There are as many variations on the lecso recipe as are cooks. It is the principle of combining sweet onions, tomatoes and peppers, in that order and adding powdered sweet and hot paprika, as desired to taste at the time of sweating the onions to transparency. Before adding the chopped tomatoes and peppers, one can slice along the diagonal Hungarian sausage, or Bratwurst, or garlic sausage, add or not finely diced garlic, as desired. Once the tomatoes and peppers are added the heat under the pot is reduced to low, and the whole melange allowed to simmer and stew into a softened stuff for ont to two hours. Of course, the cook must taste this concoction and adjust for salt and pepper during the stewing process.

I like using yellow Hungarian banana peppers along with sweet green peppers for lecso. In my own way of preparing this dish, I allow for equal amounts of peppers, onions and tomatoes, because I love oniony stews. This is a matter of preference and is what makes it wonderful to eat this dish at other people’s tables to see what variations they have teased out of those principal ingredients. There is something delightful of setting to eat from such a dish and engaging in discussion about how a particular cook acquired a resulting taste, and then deconstructing the recipe with partisan vigour, a table. Add a small glass of wine to leaven the discussion and watch the engaging fireworks.

The recent lecso I made for us when Old Forester, Uncle Pista, was visiting included Deer pepperoni sausage. On a whim, I chopped up and added one green chili pepper to the stew. We ate the lecso for dinner one evening, and as accompaniment for scrambled eggs for breakfast, the next morning.

I need to make lecso for Renaissance Man, this week. For him, I plan to make fry bread – langos – as accompaniment. Fry bread is made in many cultures around the world. The leavened kind we Hungarians call langos is exactly the same fry bread I ate in the Taos pueblo thirteen years ago – same foodstuff different part of the world. Growing food, harvesting it,  preparing it and feasting from it is a universal activity which makes us consider our similarities rather than our differences. Celebrate this as you celebrate the season’s bounties.


April 24, 2008

A person doing scuba diving is equipped with oxygen tanks which limit the amount of time one can safely stay alive underwater. That is a form of rationing; only a fool tries to go beyond the limits provided by the existing oxygen tanks.

In many parts of the world, but not where I live, people consume rations of food-stuffs. Some rations fall short of maintaining people’s health and well being. Meanwhile, where I live, the most exotic foods are readily available to people of average means. Variety of food is naturally rationed by seasonal availability, by the commonplace transport of foods from all over the world, and cost.

All of a sudden, news has arrived that Costco is limiting the amount of rice that can be purchased by individuals and small businesses. The reality that finally we may have to pay “actual” cost for food – the cost of transpost, storage, middlemen, producers – unleashes the first signs of panic in our carefully orchestrated  unreal reality, our waking dream life. No, I have not made my way to Costco to pick up several bags of Basmati, or brown rice to stockpile in our spare bedroom as a hedge toward scarcity.

I remember walking out with my Mother as a young child and waiting in line for the family ration of rice, which had to be taken in a pillow-case, and once brought home we spread out on the kitchen table to take out the chaff, gravel, and other components of the ration. Flour was rationed; as were sugar; coffee; beans and lentils. We live; we thrived; we played; we bemoaned the shortage of fresh fruit and vegs; we worked. Seasonal offerings were cause for joy and celebration. Living meant labour – daily doings which helped sustain us, offered us amusement and distractions from the rigours of living.

In comparison, my life has been one of almost unremitting ease and, yes, luxury. A suburban woman, I don’t perform one quarter of my mother’s labours. Yet I don’t view her life from the heights of condescension – she certainly didn’t lack in appreciation of the “refinements” of life; her tastes were not less sophisticated nor more pedestrian than my own – her ease, appetites, opportunities, ambitions  and labours were rationed in a balanced way.

I think it is high time to consider rationing my activities, appetites and expectations. Just enough, and no more, will most likely be a pleasing way to live.

Equus in Agrum Est…

April 7, 2008

What a sentence – “the horse is in the field.”

Does it imply a horse-inhabited landscape

of fields rolling,

pocked with wild-flowers, a crop,

as far as the eye can see?

Does it suggest a legion of soldiers

marching by with their kits,

a simple farm-boy among them

who gazes on the browsing horse

with longing for his homestead?

Does it foretell of a scene

where an unmanned horse nuzzles

fallen men, strewn in the casual,

splayed, abandon of the dead?

Does it intimate that a horse is

 a guileless companion to man,

a witness to all that takes place

in fields everywhere?

GM 2004

Troglodyte life…

May 18, 2007

There is a wonderful snippet of a scene in the movie “Delicatessen” where troglodyte dwellers in a subterranean service and sewer world  arrive at a momentous decision by playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. This quirky and charming bit of goofiness is but one of many surprising elements that play through this movie of dark humour. The idea of troglodytes was rather fascinating to me, as I do recognize pervasive troglodyte tendencies in myself and have experienced a number of years of below the surface living.

When we first arrived in Canada, some charity agencies that provided hard goods to newcomers delivered a wooden apple crate full of comic books and magazines among which were several issues of National Geographic.  It was in one of these where an article on the cave dwelling people of Anatolia accompanied by strange and wondrous photographs of an alien terrain provided many hours of fascination and rumination for me. In my imagination, I could feel the dim moist coolness of the hollowed out sandstone chambers, the hard-packed grittiness of sandstone floors on my bare feet and the abrasive brush of stone walls agains my exploring hand and fingers. A bed could be a ledge hollowed out from the wall, small niches could support necessary utensils – a lamp, a jug, a few tools.  I entertained myself for a long time, elaborating on what life might be like living in such caves.

It was during high school years that I began to study art history. Particularly fascinating to me were the early Renaissance paintings of saints who had withdrawn from the hubbub of common life to live in ascetic solitude, in landscapes sere and harsh. The illustrated terrains were rocky, austere and uninviting. One could imagine  a saint’s life being stripped to the bare essentials of daily survival. Yet, the various saints looked beatific, serene and satisfied, content to find themselves in such forbidding settings.

At age 23, having fallen from grace, a single, unwed mother, I embarked on a number of years of living below the surface.  The only accommodation that I could afford for baby Renaissance Man and myself were basement suites with minimal services – electricity, ambient heat from the central heating of houses, rudimentary stove, shared fridges and bathrooms and tiny sliver-like windows set high up on walls that allowed watery light into these cave-like environs. In the first few years, these basement apartments were furnished by the landlord.  Table with mismatched chairs, a box-spring and mattress, a bookshelf and an old overstuffed chair perfect for lounging on to read and study late at night. To these dwellings I brought Renaissance Man’s crib, then bed, his clothes, books and toys, my clothes, dishes and cooking implements, my text books and school stuff and an alarm-clock-radio. We spent much time out during the day, enjoying weather of all kinds, the neighbourhood, the playground and sometimes longer treks to the beach a couple of miles away.

One such abode, one favourable and comfortable to recall, was a tiny two room basement suite in the area just outside the University gates. It had tiny windows, cedar clad walls with built in shelving and cleverly concealed built in closet which house all of our clothes. There was a small alcove built into the wall separating the two small spaces – in this was a fitted mattress which became Renaissance Man’s little bedchamber. One little room became his playroom, with rolls of large paper taped to the long wall where he could draw with crayons and pencils to his heart’s content. His books were accessible from the small book-case, and his toys were placed about here, ready for play. My mattress and box-spring bed I dragged into the space adjoining the two rooms and this gave an illusion of privacy for both of us. The large abstract painting my art schoool friend Barry gave me for my 23rd birthday, provided beautiful jewel-like colour on the dark wall above my bed. On the door hiding the closet hung my friend Carol’s hard edge painting from one of her series of closet abstractions. The book-shelves in the kitchen housed my collection of text-books, few art books and some of my pottery dishes and mugs.

We lived a quiet life here, cocooned and comfortable.  It was spare living, but very comforing. There was a park with lovely shrubbery and trees across the street, a playground, a view of the North Shore mountains. Grocery shopping was close by, in fact, my University, RM’s day care provider, doctor and friends were within walking distance. My Statistics prof lived two houses over from us, and her little daughter was RM’s age.  Her nanny would bring her over to the playground across the street in the park, where she would stand transfixed and terrified to move and get herself dirty, arms upraised in a “Yuck” gesture while Renaissance Man did his best to entice her to play with him by demonstrating how to make sand landscapes with his little shovels and pail. He reveled in the unrestricted freedom of the open spaces, while she recoiled from them.  They never managed to connect in play, in spite of all his friendly overtures toward her.

I loved our little lair and its environs. My Mother, on her occasional visits would curl her lip, disdainful of our apparent comfort. My Father said it reminded him of a hermit-in-the-woods cabin.  To this day, I recall fondly this marvellous cosy underground home.

Fifteen years later, Rumpole, Renaissance Man and I travelled by car to the Four Corners area of the U.S. southwest where we were completely fascinated by the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and spent several days wandering about and considering how a population of people could make safe homes for themselves in close communal groups using the natural features of the landscape to provide the basic structure of their living spaces.  These cliff-dwellers were New World troglodytes.

When we travelled to Moab in Utah I was struck by the gorgeousness of the landscape.  It did seem rather strange to me, however, that the town of Moab was built out of materials that obviously had to be transported from a different landscape; ther was no attempt whatsoever to use the indigenous red sandstone to build this community.  Was it a collective failure of the imagination that caused this poor integration of built environment within its given landscape? There were no pioneer builders with troglodyte tendencies?

I have developed a natural abhorrence for voluminous living spaces, of the kind that are much desired for living in North America. The outdoors seems to be more than adequate to experience feelings of expansiveness and freedom.Needs for privacy can be met within small, intimate spaces; the need to let one’s spirit and mind soar freely can be fulfilled by moving about outdoors. I suspect there is a duality operating in human nature – one aspect, to contain and distill into concentrate  impressions, and the other to let range and roam gathering information and sustenance. A troglodyte needs sun, wind, rain and stars, food and water, the companionship of others as well as comfortable enclosure in small private spaces.

Do you have a bit of the troglodyte inside you?

Attending a Lecture…. and its aftereffect.

February 4, 2007

Last night, friend M and I drove 40km to attend a lecture at the U, entitled “Gardens as Elements of an Urbanizing World”.  The lecturer is a world-renowned  “expert on the development of landscape architecture through the ninteenth and twentieth centuries.  He was co-founder of his university’s interdisciplinary doctoral program “Practice and Theory of Creative Research in the Arts”.

I have long been looking at and considering land use in suburbia, and have noted with pleasure the increased recognition of the need for urban and suburban allottments which enable people to grow at least some of their food, if they do not already have a piece of owned earth on which to do so. What surprised me in this lecture was an almost total lack of emphasis on gardens in urban settings which could augment food supplies for people living there; I would rather have seen developments in this area, than on the history of the evolution of pleasure gardens of well-to-do landowners and leisure places of large communities.

While having breakfast, browsed on line articles from “The New York Times”, still somehow preoccupied by last night’s lecture, and came across the article:

“Smokestacks in a white wilderness divide Iceland” by Sarah Lyall, February 4, 2007. The New York Times.

Having seen many photos and artworks picturing Iceland, which is a place of peculiar beauty, and perhaps is a natural Variation of the Garden, in all its possible meanings, I was very much moved by the contents of this article – a stuggle between the need to conserve an environment and the necessity of increasing trade by a particular nation of people.

Stuff in life….landscapes of consumption…

January 29, 2007

This Canadian photographer has made an amazing body of work during his career….

The result of our obsession with novelty , status,  acquisition of  power, pleasure and need to ease of innate fears has had profound consequences on us – in how we live, where we live and our ecologic impact as a species.  Sure, we read all about this every day, but think back on the way the bombing of the Twin Towers in 01 held most of us spellbound (because it so closely affected us).

As I type this on my rebuilt computer and brand new monitor…. niggling in the back of my mind are the pictures Burtynsky has captured.  They should be played all day without surcease on Televisions in suburbia.  Pictures can sometime be worth a thousand words!

This film  of Burtynsky’s has been playing in Canada in 2006…..Profoundly affecting…..a dirge!

Manufactured Landscapes

Variable Weather in Suburbia….everywhere in the world

January 28, 2007

Some of you dropping by have reported variable conditions  today – snow in Belgrade, stormy in Cornwall.

It’s sunny here, and lovely, but miss snow. If you are an armchair traveller who doesn’t get around much any more stop by at:  – “St Sava – All Schools’ Slava”

He gives good tours!

Kay’s mother’s death watch…

January 25, 2007

Kay’s mother is 95 years old.   Kay’s mother is in the process of dying. Kay is spending most of her time now, sitting with her mother. They converse whenever her mother is lucid – her mother’s mental faculties are intact and she communicates her physical discomforts as well as her desire for and appreciation of how Kay has been  and continues to be a caring companion and caregiver up to now. 

Two days ago, her Mother announced that she was “ready to go”, and that she felt she had died twice that day. They had an interesting discussion about whether this actually happened. Kay reports telling her that “Yes, she was still here”, and where here was.  They together looked around the room where her mother was lying, to enumerate things familiar there. Look at the wallpaper (check) grasp hands(check) sing a hymn(check).

Kay’s mother then requested that Kay keep her company and go with her to the afterlife.  She really thought this was a good idea and would prefer this to happen.  (Kay’s mother has, throughout her long life, reinforced and acted on her belief in a strict hierarchy of “Power from the top down” with God at the top, prophets, the Bible, priests and other learned men, Government at all levels, bosses, parents and finally children. She fully understands the importance of her position in the pecking order of “Power from the top down” authorities and what duties she must fulfill and how she must fulfill them. She also has firm expectations of Kay’s duties and desired conduct as a daughter, someone operating from a lower level of power. She dispenses her approval, permission or displeasure in what she considers an even-handed way; she is the arbiter of all matters pertaining to family life.)  Kay patiently explained that she had still some of her own unfinished business to complete here.  Her Mother understood and approved the need for Kay to finish her tasks, and gave her permission to remain behind.

Today, Kay has reported on the phone that her siblings have all arrived in suburbia to be with their mother in her final days.  They spent the afternoon together by the bed, where their mother is lying, now mostly unconscious. They remained quiet, and to preserve silence, they sat on their respective chairs doing cross-word puzzles, each by themselves.

Kay said she has been taking photographs of her mother, whenever she has lapsed into sleep, to have a record of her mother as she is right now. One of Kay’s sisters thinks this is not a good thing to do. Her brother just shrugged. Kay, an artist as well as business woman, expressed to me that she wants to make some artwork using her mother’s image.  We segued into a conversation about why it is okay to take pictures of people while they are alive, but is considered less desirable to show them in the stages of dying. Kay mentioned the various paintings that Edvard Munch had made of deathbed scenes. In these scenes, people dying are tastefully depicted, and  those who surround them are shown in various postures that can be read as expressions of their feelings of loss. Kay said “Imagine the furore that would have erupted in Munch’s day if he had painted a death scene showing family members playing cross-words”.  We  considered that Munch would have been considered dis-respectful, unloving and thoughtless, or insane. He would be highly criticized, maybe shunned. Kay ruefully stated that her mother, would  react in a similar fashion, and perhaps also with sadness and anger, if Munch had been her son and painted such a picture..  Next, Kay wasn’t sure how to feel about doing cross-words at her mother’s deathbed.  She made this candid and thought-provoking observation –

“Mother is beyond caring about this and I guess I’ll have to live with the consequences that result.”