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Summer 2020

Welcome to the New World.  Words can hardly capture or express the seismic changes in our world since the Spring Equinox.  A globally shared quarantine as the Covid-19 virus wrecked havoc in the artificial normalcy of civilization.  The natural world thrived with less activity as witnessed by variously hiliarious entradas of local animals into vacant city streets and sea life reappearing in Venice canals, and the massive Himalayas seen for the first time in thirty years from afar as the haze of pollution lifted while humanity self-isolated.

Then, the 8 minute 46 seconds of horror witnessed again, globally, as George Floyd was murdered publicly at the hands of police officers.  Casually murdered.  As the knee was pressing Mr. Floyd to the point of suffocating, as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” the image of the officer with his hand tucked in his pocket as if waiting for a bus, set fire to a pent up rage of inequality. 

It brings to mind the word, “entrainment.”  It’s a phenomenon of synchronicity discovered in 1666 by Christiaan Huyguns, a Dutch physicist who placed grandfather clocks in a room, their pendulums swinging at their own different paces.  When he returned later, they were all in sync.  Women have experienced this physical energy in offices and close groups as our menstrual periods became unified.  Heartbeats respond to each other, auditory and neurological responses have all been studied as science tries to explain the power of entrainment. 

The subsequent protests, largely and beautifully peaceful seem to be a moment of entrainment when injustice overrides the circuits of denial, and accountability becomes the overriding motivator for the masses of people who are recognizing that systems have become corroded and corrupt.  My hope is that this entrainment of movement for change continues.  I believe it will.  We are witnesses.

What would Dag Hammarskjöld say about these world events?  I’m currently reading Markings by the UN Secretary-General who died in a plane crash while on his way to broker peace in the Congo.  Published after his death, Markings reflects the musings of a man devoted to uplifting humanity while examining his own deep inner soul. 

Sometimes the writing is enigmatic.  

“Mixed motives.  In any crucial decision, every side of our character plays an important part, the base as well as the noble.  Which side cheats the other when they stand united behind us in an action?  When, later, Mephisto appears and smilingly declares himself the winner, he can still be defeated by the manner in which we accept the consequences of our actions.”

Sometimes it is timely.

“The madman shouted in the marketplace.  No one stopped to answer him.  Thus it was confirmed that his thesis was incontrovertible.”

Always thoughtful.

“Conscious of the reality of evil and the tragedy of the individual life, and conscious, too, of the demand that life be conducted with decency.”

More entries for this season:  Gardens:  An Essay on the Human Condition and Swimming Abiquiu.

Chanticleer, A Pleasure Garden

Aside from Parc Monceau in Paris, and Sissinghurst, and Gravetye, and Wave Hill – oh so many favorites, but Chanticleer is at the top of my list. Located in Wayne, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. The Adolph Rosengarten family made their fortune with the pharmecutical company, Merck. The 35 public acres opened in 1993. The Rosengarten’s named their home Chanticleer after William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel, The Newcomes. If you have a chance to visit, by all means spend the day. Imaginative, dynamic and bold – this garden is not to be missed.

A little summer sunshine in a bottle

For the mid-winter blahs, a dash of facial almond oil that’s been infused with calendula petals and rosemary. will soothe dry skin and lift your sprits. To make, I sit the jar in sunlight for several months and then use the concoction until the next season when a fresh batch is made. This can also be made with rose petals and lots of other flower essences as long as you know the source is organic. I grow my own so no worries there

Lotusland-A Diva’s Dream

thumb_IMG_7993_1024 Once, while watching a yoga CD, the instruction got lost by my attention being drawn to a giant yucca in the background.  A garage sized yucca.  Almost blue in color.  Where was this?  It turned out to be the blue garden at Lotusland, a 37 acre paradise in Santa Barbara, California (Montecito to be exact) and the dream of Ganna Walska, who spent forty years creating it until her death in 1984.  It was a place I had to see.thumb_IMG_7809_1024

Gardens, those that we create by hand, by our own sweat, inspiration and time, are expressions of love.   Both love of the plants themselves, but also the personalities that combined, form a story, whether it’s seasonal (the two week wonders) or structural (like a japanese garden’s Niwaki pruning) or the mass meadows of Piet Oudolf’s “New Perennial” movement.

thumb_IMG_7917_1024Ganna Walska’s world, originally of unfulfilled operatic ambition,  though ardently pursued for decades, truly blossomed when she purchased the estate in 1941, encouraged by her sixth and final husband who envisioned a Tibetan monk retreat center.  Never mind that he was a rogue and used the wealthy Walska’s money to line his own pockets, when they divorced (after suing and counter-suing each other) she threw herself into a relationship with the land.

Bamboo walk through the Japanese garden
Bamboo walk through the Japanese garden

Lotus (Nulumbo nucifera) and agapanthus

Her previous marriages, starting with a Russian count before the Revolution, (she was born in 1887) fortuitously enhanced her financial well-being.  As a result, she used her resources (finally selling her exquisite jewelry – at one point she had carte blanche at Paris’ Cartier atelier) to purchase large quantities,  fully grown specimens, and expensive varieties for instant effect.  Her cycad collection is world class and micro-chipped to prevent theft.  With the guidance (although she was very difficult to guide) of excellent plantsmen, she created a collection of stunning “rooms,” distinct and dramatic.

There are over 130 varieties of aloe
There are over 130 varieties of aloe

Of the 3000 varieties of plants collected worldwide, they are not labeled, as “Madame” (as she is still referred to), wanted a pleasure garden, considering plant labels as distracting from the distinctly theatrical sets she created.

Deemed “enemy of the average” by the New York Times, over the top rather than average is very much at play in the use of giant clams for tiered fountains, abalone shells lining a pond, “grotesque” statues in her outdoor stage and the impact of mass plantings.  When one arrives at the rose garden, it seems rather staid and straight-laced compared with the exuberance of everything else.

A nod to formality in the rose garden
A nod to formality in the rose garden

Brian Adams has written a fine, well researched biography, Ganna, Diva of Lotusland, that provides insight into an ambitious Polish girl determined to live a life dedicated to art.

A lemon tree allee
A lemon tree allee

While she never became the international operatic superstar to which she aspired, after her first fifty years  spent in high society, the last decades established her legacy and legend through nature’s inspiration.

My take away:  Whatever the scale or purse strings, create the garden of your dreams.  Think long term.  Enjoy the art of it.

An abalone shell lined pool

Visiting Lotusland is by reservation only.

A "grotesque" guarding the al fresco theater
A “grotesque” guarding the al fresco theater

Joan back on Broadway

Although it’s now closed, Condola Rashad performed a splendid Joan with restraint and humility but also with her characteristic courage and wit.  G.B. Shaw’s Nobel Prize  winning St. Joan directed by Daniel Sullivan opened in the spring (I saw the last preview) and closed June 10.  

David Byrne’s New Joan of Arc Musical – “In the Fire”

A new rock musical will premiere at the New York City’s Public Theatre on 14 February 2017.  “In the Fire” is set twenty years after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic.  Her mother is determined to clear her name.   My novel “Playing with Fire” is still looking for a publisher.  Hope springs eternal.

I can’t wait to see this show.

Here are a few links:

Dominica Beckons

It’s the little Caribbean island you’ve never heard of because DSCN3693 DSCN3699 DSCN3766 DSCN3820 DSCN3839 DSCN3847Dominica is relatively untouched by tourism.  At 250 square miles, with elevations that reach 4700 feet, it is a tropic rainforest with 300 rivers, crystal clear pools, snorkeling, winding roads along the coastline with breathtaking views and a national hiking trail that spans the island.  Unique and friendly (English is the national language) it’s easy to navigate via local vans (once you get the hang of it).  It’s not famous for beaches, there are no large hotels.  Rum punch is potent.  That said, the ubiquitous touring cities stop at the port of Roseau, the capital, and off-load folks who bolster the local economy.  They are gone by 4pm.  More in the next post about the Nature Island, as they called themselves, but for now, colors accent an already gorgeous palate.

Little Lamy & Crude Oil

Just a short jaunt from my home is a tiny train station that services, among other things, the Amtrak line linking us to Los Angeles and Chicago via the Southwest ChiefDSCN3373 DSCN3379 DSCN3387 DSCN3393 DSCN3399.  A controversy now embroils the community because an oil company is proposing to bring crude oil into the station and off-load it onto trucks for transporting to refineries.  Tracks and transporting trucks are outdated and the infrastructure has proved incapable of handling the increased demands.  In the small village, two wells are in close proximity to the proposed off-loading station. A petition against this ill-conceived plan needs your signature. Lamy is named after Bishop Jean Baptist Lamy who served Santa Fe from 1851 to 1885.