Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flowers of Evil

Baudelaire could not have imagined that I would steal the title of his majestic and wonderful poetry book to write about one of my pet peeves.

Flowers of Evil bother me. To the point of repulsion. I have goose bumps, my skin crawls back, nausea invades me, I cannot breathe and sometimes I even develop an immediate headache. This morning, when I stepped into the medical building where my dentist’s office is, the symptoms flared up. I was not totally awaken and was juggling chapka, gloves, bag, book and coffee mug. I still had my sun glasses on coming into a black marble walled foyer from the sparklingly sunny snow patches. I made my way on automatic pilot into the even darker elevator, not noticing anyone or anything.

On the way out, I had my regular glasses on.  The Flowers of Evil hit me right in the face as soon as I got out of the elevator.

Tall ivy plastic trees, almost unnamable exotic plastic plants, plastic ferns and foliage of sorts. Or should I say dust gatherers, allergy enhancers, BPA releasers, toxic fumes slow producers?

I wonder if anyone has taken up the fight against these Flowers of Evil yet. What purpose do they serve? Beautification?  Interior Decoration? Soothing you into a hypnotic zone before you get your teeth drilled, your breast mammogrammed, your skin cancer removed?  What is their carbon foot print? What is their long term health damage? Where are they made? What about the workers’ health?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ecological Epiphany

Voltaire wrote in Candide: "Il faut cultiver son jardin."

It takes time to understand the core meaning of this sentence. Of course witty Voltaire did not mean it for us to literally dig and plant and weed and harvest our garden, nor did he encourage us to live off the fat of the land. That would be his archnemesis' fashion, le cher Jean-Jacques the philosophizing Tartuffe himself.
But Voltaire's beau mot became my motto as I compared my front and back gardens, took notice of sun and shadow, surveyed the terrain and calculated the optimal sun exposure per day per week per month and per season... all with the aim of becoming a "gentlewoman-farmer", or rather an "urban food-grower."

At heart I am a country girl who is happier when "playing dirty," with soil under my broken fingernails, mud on my toes, and the sun my only cosmetic. Long walks in the woods, observing birds and bears, finding praying mantises, spotting fish jumping out ot the lake or animal tracks, and learning the name of trees and plants bring me the sort of pleasure Teresa of Avila enjoyed in her Ecstasy. In Nature I find peace, I find myself and I find God.

It took me  years to come to terms with this aspect of my personality. Years and a few good books. Maybe it's age after all, or all those Montaigne's Essays we were forced to read and explain when we were in High School, or the perusing of thinkers and writers like Thoreau and his Walden, Rudolf Steiner's The Agriculture Course, Annie Dillard and her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Barbara Kingsolver and her self-sufficient year she describes in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and more recently Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemna and In Defense of Food, which I read after screening Food, Inc. Recently I also stumbled upon Wendell Berry's poems and other writings, which may have been just what I needed to finalize my education and who could be considered as a Walden-Steiner combination with an Amish twist and a few other tricks up his sleeve.

If I dig into my youth, I can already detect the first filaments of what my daughter calls "Mom's inner hip-hippie-peacenik-side." Tolstoy was my favorite writer from the moment I read War and Peace.  When I read Anna Karenina, especially Part 3, Chapter 4 in which Levine cuts the hay with a scythe along with the peasants, I became convinced that for the Earth to survive, it would be necessary to put a brake on progress, to slow down instead of to constantly grow. Decrease, not increase. Save, not spend. Make, not buy. I felt like a prophet in the desert for the next 30 years...

My ecological epiphany never left me, although I toned down my enthusiastic declarations of ecological independence and refrained from writing more Constitutions of the United States of the Earth. Somehow, my fellow-citizens and college mates thought I was just a jester, another fool in the realm of dreams, living in the kingdom of Chimera CSA.  Now, they are all joining their own CSAs, brag about the bounty of their weekly basket and the benefits of biodynamic agriculture. I am so happy they finally saw the light that I do not waver my finger at them in an "I-told-you-so" gesture, neither do I claim my 5 minutes of recognition.

But now at almost 50, I can accept my "inner hippie self," I can cheer for my little organic garden and its humongous harvest,  I can relish in my home-made pickled chili peppers, pickled cucumbers, jams and cookies, I can support my CSA which brings my family the biodynamic dairy and animal products I cannot provide. Yet.

Top right: Photo of my garden at the beginning of June 2010
Bottom left: Photo of my first harvest, first week of July 2010.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The King's Speech... A Review of an Oscar Material Movie!

All families keep secrets: bastard children, misalliances, mistresses or mistreatments, dishonor or disease… And no one is immune, as revealed by the very moving film, The King’s Speech which brings out into the open George VI’s debilitating stammer.

The most important moment in the movie comes when “Bertie” (Albert is the first name of the man who will become King George VI) reveals that he was an abused child. Abused by his nanny, Mary Peters; humiliated by his dad and his elder brother (who will abdicate the throne for Nazi sympathizer American divorcee Wallis Simpson), his stammer comes as no surprise and a surprise nonetheless. In the 30s, the wireless broadcast communications became the new means by which politicians addressed the crowds. A stammer, a stutter, a lisp or any form of speech impediment could undo a career. How many movie stars of the early cinema whose voices were never heard had to abandon all hope of pursuing a “talking” career once cinema discovered sound?… But a King could not simply call it quits.

Edward VIII did not in fact abdicate purely for the love of Wallis Simpson. Had the woman not been such an ardent Nazi sympathizer, maybe the Cabinet and the Church of England would have closed their eyes on her twice-divorced status. After all, didn’t King Henry VIII separate from the Catholic Church to divorce and marry… multiple times? George VI had no intention to become a King and was not trained to become one. As the younger brother, extremely shy and with his speech impediment, he was looking towards an ordinary, albeit wealthy and aristocratic, family life. Confronted with unexpected circumstances, he showed great courage as he would later on during World War 2.

Colin Firth plays an admirable and convincing George VI. I was amazed at how he learned the King’s stammer. It must be extremely difficult for an actor to master a stammer when one is not so impaired. But then it is an actor’s job to be able to act…Geoffrey Rush in the part of formidable Ryan Logue who helps George VI is simply brilliant: an Australian “nobody” as the soon-to-be King George VI calls him once, he was not a medical doctor, nor a certified speech therapist. His gift, because that is what it truly was, was to be able to bring out the best in people. WW1 soldiers whom he helped find their voices again after the traumas they endured in the trenches or Bertie/George VI, he considered all men equal in front of adversity. His mix of tongue twisters/breath exercises and yes, psychotherapy, got to the root(s) of the future King’s speechlessness. Both actors will probably be nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

David Seidler, the scriptwriter, was also a stutterer when he grew up. He remembers having listened to the King’s slowly enunciated war speeches on the radio while a child in England. The idea of a movie on George VI was always in the back of his mind. He met with Ryan Logue's only surviving son. The project went on hold in the early 1980s when the Queen Mom (George VI's widow) asked him not to go forward while she was still alive. Little did he know he’d have to wait for so long: she lived up to the age of 102!

What strikes the spectator though at the end of the movie is the current Royal Family’s misplaced pride: if this “secret” had been exposed earlier, it would have made the House of Windsor appear more humane, less remote, less imbued with itself, with convention, appearance and history. Maybe they would have done something for Prince Charles’ ears?

The original King's Speech can be found at:

Saturday, January 1, 2011


On this, the first day of Anno Domini 2011:

Resolve in no other order than what comes first to my brain:

- To look at life through a pink lense always and forever
- To get my invalidating lumbar spinal stenosis and left knee sorted out
- To run again even if it means getting a corticoid injection every month
- To acquire US citizenship
- To trust my children
- To encourage my children to become independent
- To support my children's decisions regarding their own life without regret or bitterness
- To read more
- To learn a new language
- TO WRITE and deliver these lines trotting inside of me
- To love unconditionally
- To forgive and not judge
- To make better use of my time and of my hands, cooking, cross-stitching or sketching
- To laugh
- To sing
- To play the piano again
- To learn how to make brioche
- To be in constant and silent prayer
- To get rid of moral and physical clutter
- To live

What is a heart if the flower of love is not growing inside it?

Picture taken at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, November 2010.