Here in the southern hemisphere, September is the time of spring blossoms. Not unlike the blossoming almond tree the poet Rilke writes about, the wisteria in my garden today is pungent with childhood memories of Michigan in March.

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How to Bloom

The almond trees in bloom: all we can accomplish here is to ever know ourselves in our earthly appearance.

I endlessly marvel at you, blissful ones— at your demeanour,
the way you bear your vanishing adornment with timeless purpose,
Ah, to understand how to bloom: then would the heart be carried
beyond all milder dangers, to be consoled in the great one.

Rilke

Also today, in the newly established Middle Garden (more in a future blog) a pushing forth of spring blossoms from two crab apple trees just planted. Yet another reminder of childhood in Michigan where “a softness, as if from everywhere, is touching the earth”.

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Threshold of Spring

Harshness gone. All at once caring spreads over
the naked gray of the meadows.
Tiny rivulets sing in different voices.
A softness, as if from everywhere,

is touching the earth.
Paths appear across the land and beckon.
Surprised once again you sense
its coming in the empty tree.

Rilke

At this time of year, who cannot but feel the power within spring blossoms to open one’s heart to life? Perhaps even, to summon up a budding courage to ask for a formal sharing of love?

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In the above photo, behind the wisteria is the Peace Bus where Ben and Marisa spent the weekend. What fragrance flowed imperceptibly into the bus as they lay sleeping? Who knows, but in the morning, in the topsy turvy world of Windgrove, Marisa asked Ben to marry her. Lucky them.

Good luck for me, too, as their newly committed love pushed forth more than spring blossoms. Actually, two wheelbarrows full of firewood and lots of kindling to make sure that even I could experience the new found fire in their hearts.

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Sunday evening visitors

September 8, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, when describing how I heard the faintest of “cracks” in the din of a cacophony of other noises, yesterday the opposite happened during a soft evening light of zero wind and little noise. While quietly pulling out noxious weeds on the grassy slope of the tennis court, my ears perked when a very definite loud sound like two sticks hitting each other repeatedly happened around every six seconds.

Looking toward the direction of the sound, I kept thinking it should be a couple of kids walking around on the land doing what kids do: bang on sticks. Yet it was late in the day and not the sort of time when anyone would be on the property. I could see nothing that gave a clue as to the origin of the banging.

And then they appeared.

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It was only because they had moved further out to sea that they came into my field of vision. Two humpback whales. Two playful whales goofing off in the manner whales do on a Sunday evening.

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“Why is it”, I thought, “that myself and everyone else gets such joy in watching such massive tonnage leap out of the water?”

Perhaps there is an inner child within us that understands the need/desire to frolic.

Perhaps there’s an ancient memory in our hearts that recognizes our direct ancestral linkage to these mammals from whence we evolved.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there’s an unconscious, quiet admiration that they — as land animals some 52 million years ago — had the courage to leave their terrestrial home and re-enter the liquid womb of the oceans. The very ocean from whence all life originated.

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Ambulocetus natans is the transitional fossil between the land based whale-to-be animal and the whale of today. It is known as “the walking whale that swims”. Discovered only 24 years ago in Pakistan (of all places), it is clear evidence that given enough time, change can happen.

Just think if we put down our guns and gave peace a chance. We just might eventually evolve to not have trigger fingers.

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Solar warmth

September 1, 2014

Who doesn’t like having the early morning sun cascading over their shoulder and spilling upon one’s lap. I certainly do.

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Aside from sitting in my cushioned red chair sipping morning coffee, the more delicious awakening to the day actually comes with the warming touch of the sun. In its gentle bathing, it is a reminder that the world — despite what is in the TV news — can be a wondrous place.

But my sun’s rays aren’t coming directly into the house. They first must pass through the atrium and, in so doing, leave behind some of their heat for the cactus, the aloe plants and the air itself.

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The photo shows the division between the atrium and the house itself. Running down the middle are the three sets of French doors that, when closed, keep the heat in the atrium, or when open, allow the sun’s winter beneficence into the house.

In the summer the interior French doors are kept closed and the bamboo curtains dropped down from ceiling to floor. The exterior green windows and door of the atrium are then opened to allow the heat to escape to the outside. Thereby, keeping the house cool. Well, in theory anyway.

Whenever I open the interior doors in winter, what always feels me with a certain childish delight is to see the hanging Peace flags flap upwards with the strength of the incoming heat. Passive solar design made visible.

Here is a one minute video of this process. Notice the unintentional ascetic of the longer flag flying at the same angle as the incoming sun.

solar sun from Peter Adams on Vimeo.

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Progress

August 24, 2014

At the age of 90, the famous cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice.

His reply: “Because I think I’m making progress”.

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Twenty five wheelbarrow loads of top soil later and four exotic African proteas planted out in hollowed out sections from the tree that fell two weeks ago, a friend’s motorhome is now able to enter through the gate without too much of a hassle and park it trouble free in the newly created wallaby proof lawned and flowered area next to the veggie patch.

It doesn’t look like much, this new area, as the progress in building it is incremental, but it is, even if small, a new addition to Windgrove.

In many ways, it is hard to stop doing the work around here — even though my body aches for a rest — because I think I’m “always” making progress with the garden, with my sculpture, with my grumpiness, with my ability to talk convincingly about climate change, even with my tennis.

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Come to think of it, even plants never give up practicing. Hence, evolution.

What would have happened, if 600 million years ago the Ediacarans in the ancient oceans decided that they didn’t need to keep practicing and improving their form. You and I certainly wouldn’t be writing or reading this blog, that’s for sure.

So, we can safely say that: Evolution is a process that never doubts for a moment that it isn’t making progress. What Pablo Casals said, therefore, has been ingrained in our DNA since time first began.

Nothing ever stops wanting to improve. Even if it takes a million years.

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That’s what my tennis coach keeps saying to me: “It’ll be a million years before that serve gets any good.”

Guess, I’ll just keep practicing.

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Born Bad. Really?

August 18, 2014

This past week I was asked to share my understanding of design with a group of students from the University of Tasmania’s School of Art.

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Yes, I took them into my studio and explained the importance of learning technical and basic design skills, and equally important, that underlining each work of art is a foundation of real-life experiences.

I, also (gently) impressed upon them how vital it was to be competent in articulating a philosophical discourse of the why’s and how’s of one’s personal artistic direction. Especially, if one’s artwork is nestled in environmental, social or political action.

And lastly, ….. to see the sacred in even the most mundane.

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Yes, the most mundane.

Take, for instance, the view from the latest composting toilet I’ve just built next to the tennis court. Along with some basic carpentry requirements I acquired during a four year apprenticeship in Alaska, this toilet’s placement came about only after many years of apprenticeship to the real world of leaf litter, rain dripping branches, life and death.

It sings with a beauty found in any cathedral and to sit upon this throne is a blessed sacred experience with it’s own unique “rose window” of a silver peppermint tree.

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But, truth be told, I’m more interested in the ergonomics of a person’s soul than I am of any “rules” behind composition or composting or form versus function.

What I most want to get across to any student is that we humans are not “Born Bad”; that the concept of Original Sin is but a fabrication of the western mind. It is a religious/cultural meme more destructive to world peace than any nuclear weapon.

Humans are, instead, born blest with an inherent goodness. Theologian Matthew Fox calls this our “Original Blessing”.

Coupled with an inquisitive scientific curiosity and innate artistic talents, we humans have a tremendous ability — responsibility, even — to portray the beauty of this earth and our own animal selves in such a way that peace truly does have the potential to prevail everywhere on this Earth.

A hard task, for sure. Despite what is happening in Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine or the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, we are born with the inner tools to handle the job of making the world a more peaceful, joyful place. And, handle it brilliantly.

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The best classroom, therefore, is the classroom where there is room for one’s inspired soul to fly. Where there is no limit to the number of directions towards which one could sail.

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Wind in the Grove

August 11, 2014

My work for the day was finished. I showered, poured a glass of wine and went back outside to sit on the deck where I could look out across Storm Bay in the fading light. The wine poured was a reward for all the physical effort spent cutting down — at a distance from the house — first, a tree that had got hung up in another tree during the day’s wind storm, and second, cutting down yet another tree after I had unintentionally hung up the second tree in a third tree while dealing with the first tree. Wind in trees is always tricky.

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Just to the left of the deck was: the ‘Old One’ — a silver peppermint eucalyptus tree one botanist said was “pre-european” indicating an age exceeding 200 years. Beneath one of its near horizontal overhanging branches was the “picnic table of fond memories” of lunches and candle-lit dinners. Or, even breakfast on a misty morning.

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The wind was still gusting hard. Huge waves pounded loud as they broke into foaming masses of watery weight. The noise level was, as expected, many decibels above even a “high” decibel day. But, as always, exciting. Hence, the wine with the wind outside on the deck.

I love immersing myself with drink in wild nature.

And then I heard it.

Like the indigenous hunter who can spot the one tiny dark shadow of his prey in the midst of a thousand of other night shadows, I heard the faint sound of a sound through the many other more loud sounds. This departure from the familiar indicated, not food for the table, but danger; imminent danger.

It was a “cracking” sound and not the “creaking” sound trees make when they sway in wind rubbing branch against branch.

It was a warning sound: a desperate plea from this ancient elder telling me that it could no longer hold on.

My eyes zoomed over to the big Old One and picked out the tiniest of cracks running up the trunk dividing one massive branch away from the main body of the trunk. With each successive wind gust and resultant near imperceptible “crack”, it became evident that this tree was soon — within a minute or two — doomed to fall.

And fall directly onto my house.

What to do? I tried calling my neighbour Steve to come help, but he was an hour’s drive away. I thought maybe I should call the SES (special emergency service) crew to come help, but the light was beginning to fail fast and I didn’t think they would get here in time.

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A bending tree is more than a bit tricky to cut down as its weight will surly shift in a counter-intuitive direction and drop heavily on the person beneath it. Without ropes and others helping to guide it to a less destructive landing, one takes a big chance doing it alone.

Yet, I had to take my chances as to do nothing would surely guarantee the house and chimney being crushed. Felling the tree intact before the branch over the house cleaved away from the others seemed the only option as the “bonded” weight of the still whole tree might just move the falling mass away from the house. I grabbed my chainsaw and took a deep breath.

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On this day luck was on my side as it was the picnic table and not the house that took the direct hit.

Cleanup has begun.

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