Winter 2014 June 13 2014, 0 Comments

Dear readers,

Welcome to the winter issue.  It’s been an exhilarating, creative journey for all of us at EG to bring you this issue and the previous one — both radical departures from Earth Garden’s traditional format. Radical departures can be challenging, annoying and unsettling — especially if you have fond memories of where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt when you read Earth Garden in its traditional format.  But many forms of tradition are simply ripe for reinvention.  I sometimes hear people say: “I live like this because that’s how traditional tribal societies lived.”  Fine.  

But many traditional tribal societies I’ve brushed up against had some awful traditions, like wife-beating, child brides, and zero respect for the lives of other animals.  I remember a classic passage from an all-time amazing Australian book called Sing For Me Countryman by the enigmatic musician, Neil Murray.  He was deeply embedded in the lives of Aboriginal people from the remote settlements of the Western Desert, like Papunya and Kintore, when he asked the older men if they yearned for the old days before European disruption.  

Unanimously, they declared that they had no wish to go back to that lifestyle for one simple reason: there was too much killing and payback in the old days.  They had lived in constant fear of reprisal parties, revenge killings, and warriors from neighbouring lands, like the fearsome Warlpiri, invading, stealing their women and wreaking havoc.  This shocked me, because I’d had a romantic notion that everything must have been better in the old days.  Of course, none of this justifies the unspeakably appalling treatment of Aboriginal people by European invaders that continues to this day.

If we hadn’t turfed out the tradition of relying without question on coal-fired electricity for our homes, none of us would be living in solar-powered houses, in the middle of the greatest energy revolution since James Watt developed the steam engine.  So changes to EG are part of keeping EG a creative project — thanks to the commitment and talent of Tony Fuery, Fiona Tunnicliff and Viv Hamilton.

Which reminds me of the creative projects my family’s been involved with recently — and how it relates to my food garden.  I am very lucky to be married to a very talented woman, Judith Gray.  If I listed Judith’s talents I would go well over my word limit, and this would set a bad example for all our other disciplined writers.  People often ask us why all our children are musicians and artists, and why they always seem contented with their lives and myriad projects.  Long ago I stopped claiming any credit for this. “All karma, no clue!” is what I usually say when people ask (wondering if we have some secret recipe).  Of course, like any family we have our share of dramas and challenges (Yee-hah! Ride ‘em cowboy!).  Maybe part of the answer relates to not having a television for nearly 25 years, but I think it’s more likely to be something Judith said to a friend recently after the usual question.

She said: “Out there in the world, you can do anything you want: deal with institutions, red tape, banks, governments, money.  But once you step into our home it’s about creative projects and spirituality.  I don’t care if my family is creating songs, paintings, garden beds, bamboo garden frames, magazines, or cakes, but I want this to be a creative world, not a bureaucratic one.”

Wow.  In all the years I’ve known Judith I’d never heard her say this.  It sounded so reasonable, and so . . . pre-meditated!  So now, when I go about my business creating garden beds or magazines, I do so in a more mindful way — a way that tries to see this creative process as part of this nourishing life.  

The photo on page 19 shows my Judith in April, a few days and frantic nights before the opening of her first solo art exhibition of encaustic paintings: ‘Dissolving Into Country’.  The opening was a very moving event, with Judith reading out her Artist Statement about some of the themes and meanings in her work.

Jean Paul Sartre once said: “Life has meaning - if you give it some.”  We say: “Give it some.” 

And I hope the stories in this issue can help you enjoy the creative meaning you choose to inject into your Earth Garden projects.