from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 10 June 2011

the quiet revolution

I still believe in civil disobedience. I still believe in passionate though non-violent protest. I still believe in (peaceful) anarchy if the otherwise-option requires moral compromise. I still believe, passionately, that we have a responsibility to stand up and speak – shout if necessary – for those who cannot when wrong is being done to them. I believe we have a right to have our voices heard; all our voices, and true democracy depends on our freedom, and willingness, to speak up and know that all voices count in this family of beings, human and non-human.

I also believe as strongly as I ever did that we need to resist control by money-driven corporate identities (multinationals, oil and pharmaceutical companies, centralised governmental bodies working against the good of people and planet in service to their god, Money). And now, as I'm still idealistic but older, I'm looking too at smaller-scale quieter ways of addressing these issues in our own backyard. (Not instead of, note, but as well as. 'In here' as well as 'out there'.)

You will perhaps know, and certainly if you live in England, of the transition town movement pioneered by Rob Hopkins here in Totnes. There's a great deal to say about this movement, and a great deal already written on it. For now what's relevant here is the delivery of power back into the hands of a small community.

And on the back of this – don't laugh – I want to mention gardening. If it makes you think of something dull and worthy carried out by your ageing grandparents – well, I understand. But it occurs to me that although the organic movement is growing hugely, as is the 'local food' movement in GB, the power of this is still largely untrumpeted and overlooked in the mainstream. The growing of your own food, and the personal health benefits plus the low-carbon-impact aspect, plus the omission of the use of pesticides and herbicides is an exponentially big move towards taking power away from the supermarkets and multinationals (and makes a difference to the planet). Determining what you put in your own mouth – and not exploiting others to do it – is an empowered and empowering act.

OK, not everyone is lucky enough as to have a garden – I know that. But even a windowsill can produce salad leaves much of the year. I have read that you only need a square metre to grow a significant amount of your own annual requirement of veg at least. Grow in boxes. Grow in old containers. Grow in buckets or cut-down old bins or cast-off 5L tins of eg food oil (ask at a restaurant what they do with their old containers) – check they haven't contained toxic chemicals, clearly! You can grow upwards in 'stacks' – old planks and bricks. Grow against walls. You can intercrop (eg salad between beans; beans among sweetcorn). Companion-plant and save space too: intercrop carrots with leeks and the leeks will put off carrot fly, carrots will be harvested first and the leeks will have room to grow on. You can grow continually-cropping things like spinach or chard or salad leaves in windowboxes. You can grow tomatoes and runner beans in pots, and soft fruit too. You can plant potatoes in used plastic bags on your own doorstep. Learn about wild food if you have access to the countryside. Queues for allotment spaces? Group together and demand more food growing space from your local council. You can post an ad to use some garden space owned by someone who can't manage it and share some of the produce in exchange. You can save the seed (and swap it). (One of the worst things I think done by Monsanto was to monopolise the African market and sell them only F1 hybrid seed – this doesn't produce fertile seed, so the small growers have to buy seed each year instead of saving their own. I'd be interested to know if anyone knows whether this is still happening? Comments box below.)

And of course the deeper quieter revolution is tending the garden of your own thoughts. Don't let anyone sell you the used-up collateral of our hybrid F1 collective (corporate) thought-police.


  1. I agree entirely - with the thought-garden as well as the literal garden. There are lots of easy ways to start approaching life in this way. I've embarked upon a few simple creative steps of my own of late, which help tend the internal garden and re-evaluate and as far as the literal garden revolution is concerned, long live your own veggies (dressed in beautiful, locally pressed, golden, rapeseed oil rather than olive oil)!

  2. Hello Sarah C and welcome! Pleased to see your comments. And you're quite right re rapeseed oil; though I'm personally delighted that the people who are working the south-facing hillside opposite ours (who also run a rather lovely restaurant) are growing olives as well as fruit trees such as almonds and cherries specifically to suit our climate, grown in a local agroforestry centre.

  3. Hi Roselle, this really struck a chord with me - we've just moved house, and have our own garden for the first time... on a Highland Sangha retreat back in March, one person brought along a poem which she had seen in the Herald, with the tagline "Is cultivating one's garden the ultimate wisdom?"
    It turns out that the poet is a Triratna Buddhist Community mitra, and wrote the poem at a Wolf at the Door retreat at Dhanakosa...

    We are enjoying herbs and salads from the garden, and the chance to touch the earth.

    Happy summer solstice!

    With much metta,

    Claire Martin

  4. Claire - hello and how lovely to hear from you! So glad you now have a garden.

    And big thanks for that lead, above - how interesting! Will check it out. And Manjusvara and Ananda of Wolf at the Door both contributed pieces to my creative writing sourcebook (as did Ken Jones)!

    Enjoy your garden. Somewhere on this blog is a post about loving hornets! - you might enjoy that too...

    With love



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