Peace Garden

Put simply, “Work”

October 31, 2011

In preparation of a bus load of kindergarten kids coming to Windgrove tomorrow, two of us worked at the Peace Garden earlier in the week clearing algae off the pond (Steve) and raking up wallaby turds (me). Was the work mundane, a tedious chore, a distraction from the serious work that “I”, as a serious artist, should be undertaking elsewhere?

Hell, no. Because on this day, something in the way the sun shone soft, the wind blew gentle, the ground comforted and our banter was amiable, our sweat was made meaningful because the day became exquisitely alive with beauty, colour, texture and intensity. Eros was fully present and easily evident. Scooping up wallaby turds into a wheelbarrow seemed as important and worthy of my time as sitting in the studio carving or, perhaps, sitting on a cushion listening attentively to the Dalai Lama.

Even if the day had been sodden, it wouldn’t have mattered because we’re talking about Work — wherever, whatever, with whomever — and its serious importance to the well being of our lives.

Throw Yourself Like Seed

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
The person who wants to live is the person in whom life is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

Miguel de Unamuna

This painting by Jean Leon Gerome holds the key to how we, as individuals and as society, will survive the struggles of “blessed unrest” as 7 billion people make their peace with global economic and climate upheavals by adapting artful strategies to their changing world.

There are many interpretations and re-interpretations of the story of Pygmalion and his carving of Galatea (or in other versions, Aphrodite), but to me the simplest and more profound aspect of the story speaks about what happens when one brings skill, intensity, passion and commitment to one’s work.

When viewing the painting, sure, go ahead and allow the first impressions of firm buttocks and erotic embrace to waft over and give pleasure. But then, appreciate the deeper message conveyed: that passion in one’s work makes love visible and brings Eros out of the cracks, into full view penetrating and permeating all.

When work is imagined different from love, work becomes a punishing, and, what I would say, “de-mortalizing” job as well as demoralizing.

(In order to give another visual perspective to the story, there are three photos of the construction of the Peace Garden from eleven years ago.)

(Black and white photos have been included as sort of an analogy to Wim Wenders’ movie ‘Wings of Desire’ where angels can only see in b&w, but one angel decides to become a mortal human just to experience fleshy earthy sensuality and where even seeing his own “red” blood is a moment of wonderment.)

From a psychological point of view, we can say that Pygmalion never found the divine feminine either within himself or within the world at large; hence, he remained single (read steadfastly macho). Eventually, though, through his art, he makes a heart connection to the cold, hard marble of his sculpture and, lo and behold, he falls in love “with his work” and this work becomes a marriage: alive, meaningful and fulfilling (if not difficult).

Rilke reminds us that the winged energy of puer flights of imagination might have been helpful in one’s youth, but as a mature adult, hubris is an unwillingness to pick up wallaby poo. Besides, he states, it is the work of humans that allows the sacred, divine presence of earth, of God, to learn.

Just as the Winged Energy of Delight

Just as the winged energy of delight
carried you over many chasms early on,
now raise the daringly imagined arch
holding up the astounding bridges.

Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned.

To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words;
denser and denser the pattern becomes —
being carried along is not enough.

Take your well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Transformations of landscape by the thoughtful work of humans blesses the Earth. By being blessed, the Earth in return will bless us all.

Click here for larger image


A Christmas gift

December 30, 2009

My replication of Goldsworthy’s “sticks-in-the-air” is in celebration of finally having some 500 plastic bags and 2000 bamboo sticks removed from trees near the Peace Garden Pond. Trees that formed the bottom portion of a gigantic keyhole symbol (if viewed from the air).

P1010024To do this required the generous international cooperation of people born in Canada (Lorne), Holland (Nel), South Africa (Terry), America (Kate, pictured) and Thailand (Chalerm and Tanwa). Talk about a welcomed Christmas gift.

About the time that I first saw a photo of Andy Goldsworthy throwing sticks into the air I was planting out the 2,000 or more trees that created the outline of the keyhole that stretched from the Peace Garden pond to the top edge of Windgrove’s boundary line; a perimeter distance of around a kilometer or 3/4 of a mile. This was eleven years ago.


I don’t know what Andy had in mind when he threw his sticks in the air, but my sticks represent “a job well done”, not only by the friendly humans that gathered them up over the Christmas holiday, but to the sticks themselves that served all those years as guardians of the young trees as they matured into the tall trees of today.

“Three cheers”, I say.

Post Script: After posting this blog entry I took some newly arrived friends and their kids down to the Drop Stone bench to watch the sunset. The beauty of the setting red sun is always special. Coming up opposite to the sun was a near full moon. More special.

Then we saw a seal playing around in the water below us. We got excited watching where it might surface next. Even more special.

Then little Oscar says, “Look! Dolphins!” And, sure enough, four separate pods of dolphins were swimming between the two headlands of Roaring Beach. So, very, very special.

“A hundred cheers”, I say.


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Daily maintenance

March 10, 2006

Maintain: to continue, persevere in; to carry on, keep up; to keep in being; to sustain by nourishment.

Maintenance: the action of maintaining.

The interesting thing, for me, is that the etymology of “maintain” is rooted in the Latin “hand” (manus) plus “to hold” (tenere). Again and again the physical world is the basis for our present day language. Seemingly forgotten in the abstraction of modern living, it is there none-the-less.

Yesterday, in order to keep the Peace Spiral in good nick, I spent the day living up to the fullness of this word “maintenance”.

Peace_Spiral_oil_2Once, when I was at the top of the ladder reaching a bit too far with the oiling brush and the wind came up and blew my hat off, a touch of vertigo set in and I dropped the brush and held onto the ladder with both hands. I little scary, yes, maintaining myself while maintaining the Peace Spiral. Lots of hands on action and lots of holding on.

There is, also, in this discussion of the word “maintenance”, whether or not there is within artistic creativity the requirement that one’s art work be maintained. Is it enough to bring something into being and then abandoning it?

I suppose I could have left the Peace Spiral to turn grey and weather gracefully, but I also understood that a good oiling now would prolong its life for another 100 years, thereby, allowing countless more visitors to be inspired and feel hopeful of the future.


The question I like to ask is, “how does one maintain or sustain a healthy emotional and spiritual life?”.

The answer might lie in one’s ability to literally grab hold of the physical.

Feeling down, massage someone.
Feeling angry, chop wood.
Feeling depressed, hug a tree.
Feeling spacy or disconnected, bury your hands into the garden soil.

Yearning to be a more spiritual person? Take a walk in bare feet.


Keep breathing

November 5, 2004

The shiny, reflective, inner beauty of the Split Rock only came about after the whole was broken open.

split rock electionYour heart is now thus. The pain of the American and Australian elections can lead us to a deeper wisdom, a deeper compassion, a deeper love for all of life. These winds that seem endless and, at times, all too tiring, are polishing are character. Let them serve this purpose.

This week half of America is licking their wounds.

Well, keep licking. Like any animal that has been hurt, bruised and battled scared, now might be the time to retreat softly into the protective custody of friendly surrounds. Take time to be kind to yourself.

Just remember that half of America still believes as you do. And, I would guess, most of Europe. You are not alone.

Yes, keep licking. Try ice cream. The dew off a leaf. Your lover.

Do not forget the sensual beauty of this world.

Do not forget the delicious flavours this earth gives away freely each day. Indulge in them. Take time to immerse yourself in the joys that are found in the woods, the sea shore, the valleys and the mountains.

And after your licked wounds have healed, come back into the ring again and stand tall for the earth, for social justice, for peace.


A true leader

September 27, 2004

My first intention today was to write about the fur seal that swam within meters of me this past Saturday with a grace and ease that I could only wish for.

I changed my mind when, this afternoon, I came upon a wombat in broad daylight and, seeing his comical gait, I wanted to share the gratitude I felt in knowing that the numbers of these delightful, walking sacks of concrete were increasing at Windgrove.

But, it was seeing the Peace Spiral reflected in the pond just at dusk that I knew what I needed to write about.

peace spiral mirageIt was seeing its reality distorted and made to appear transitory that I was made to ponder on how difficult the achievement of peace really is. Not because it isn’t possible, but because there is a shortage of leaders with the vision to lead us to peace.

Consider the following words and ask yourself if these same words could be spoken by any of our political candidates today as they make their way across the country seeking our votes:

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence.”

“If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.”

These words were spoken by Martin Luther King in a sermon delivered nearly 50 years ago.

In this election year, are there any politicians who have the insight King possessed? Are there any governments courageous enough to “give peace a chance”?

May I suggest that when voting day arrives, we cast our votes to those candidates prepared to work for peace in ways other than pre-emptive strikes.


Easter cave

April 10, 2004

Good Friday and Easter are reminders, even for non-Christians, of the importance of allowing oneself to venture into the “cave”; into darkness, mystery and the unknown.

easter caveThree days seemingly dead and then a rebirth. Just like the moon when it disappears from view for three days, only to reappear as a thin crescent of hope waxing, yet again, into fullness.

Do any of us avail ourselves to this call? Do we allow ourselves to enter into the dark well of our being? Why are we so afraid of this part of nature’s cycle?

To be born requires gestation in the womb; any womb. For adults to be born again, this might require an entrance into Earth’s womb before an exit into newness is possible.

Maybe it just isn’t possible to always be in the light if one truly wants to see.