SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Heaven on Earth

Tony tying up his tomatoes

I've known Tony, who is a motor mechanic, forever. Years ago, when the kids were little and I could only afford wrecks, Tony kept me on the road. He saved me from many a scrape and panel beat others. He was quite simply my guardian angel.
So a few years ago on an early morning walk, I wasn't surprised to see him again. There he was, watering his plot, as well as others', at our local community garden. Why I was unsurprised was simple. Initially to distinguish it from the adjoining railway tracks and surrounding industrial wasteland, the community garden had been fenced. And that fence was adorned with enormous intricate plaster wings - surely the shingle of an angel. And that is what Tony proved to be, yet again, this morning.
Lately I've been feeling gloomy about my garden at home. The earth appears dead and the edible plants are sparse and starved-looking and look anything but edible.

My sad little basil

This morning when I walked by and saw him tending his luxuriant plot, I felt overwhelmed by inadequacy. And in a nano-second I found myself confessing my gardening woes to Tony through the garden's metal fence. He immediately took me under his wing and invited me inside.

Tony's basil, in front of his strawberry tunnel

Tony explained how, with his Italian background, gardening is in the blood. His ancestors carried the seeds of their local fig trees in their pants pockets and their grape vines in their jacket linings on the boat to Australia. Tony still calls the plants on his plot after the people who gave him the seeds; there are the 'Russian' tomatoes and Senora Falasquez peas. And, like his father before him, he knows instinctively how to produce bountiful crops. Take zucchini: You simply dig a hole, fill it with chicken or sheep manure, cover it with topsoil, in which you plant 3 zucchini seeds. The roots head straight downwards towards the manure and you end up with super-sized zucchini plants. All this ancient knowledge means that in a tiny space (4 metres by 5 metres) Tony has managed to create a truly celestial plot bursting with fruit and veggies.
As he talked about collecting just the perfect aged manure from friendly farmers, digging it in and turning it over regularly, daily plant watering and vigilant slug and snail inspections, I realised something. Gardening is no mere dalliance. It is committed life-long relationship, in fact one that often extends back over several life times.
I spent my childhood in suburban Reservoir, where our 'New Australian' neighbours grew vines and made wine and generously shared the bounty of their veggie patches with us, their Anglo neighbours. But no one in my family had the slightest personal experience of food growing. It's little wonder I have had to learn from the ground up.
I left Tony, with a capsicum and a huge bunch of basil under my arm, feeling much less self-critical. Such is the power of an angel.


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