Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recovering from Natural Disasters

As our country suffers through the effects of devastating tornadoes, I am once again reminded of Guatemala. Above you can see part of the restored center of the tiny village of San Marcos de la Leguna on Lake Atitlan. This is several years after horrific mudslides and before Tropical Storm Agatha which also wrought tremendous destruction. Those who wish for getting "government off our backs" have only to turn to Guatemala, variously described as from half to entirely a "failed state," where government services are few and far between. And where a huge amount of the majority-indigenous Mayan population barely survives day-to-day.
Below is a view of the enchanting volcanic lake which is what makes this area such a tourist destination. These photos are from March 2009 and courtesy of Judette Kurasz. She traveled with me then on my Earthways site-visit. After meeting the people who run and staff AFOPADI, she said they were the most amazing people she had ever met.
I wish great strength and adequate government resources to those who have lost so much during these recent powerful storms here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

WBEZ's 2011 Global Activism Expo

This Saturday (30 April 2011) at the UIC Pavillion, Jerome McDonnell's World View will host its 4th annual Global Activism Expo. Be there!
Unfortunately, I can't participate this year with a table for my work with Earthways and AFOPADI in Guatemala...but we will return next year.
Especially with our slow spring, do yourself a favor and go. Most of the serious activists I know realize that you always get back more than you give. Here are photos from last year's Expo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Objectified: Design & Life

Last night I attended a showing of the documentary film about Industrial Design: Objectified by Gary Hustwit, the director of Helvetica (which I have not seen). Not only was it a joy and a luxury to focus on design with a group of similarly-focused, but differently skilled people (mostly architects & graphic designers from the group, Design Evanston), but as well I found the film thought-provoking. One concept that stuck with me, [illustrated by how the camera has retained its form, originally designed around rolls of film, despite the fact that cameras have gone digital and now no longer need film] is how the old dictum, "Form Follows Function," is no longer necessarily true.
Here is a clip featuring Apple's VP of Industrial Design, Jonathan Ive. Near the end of it, he talks about how, when good design works well, it "feels un-designed." I usually agree. Often in gardens, I feel spaces are way too over-designed and self-conscious to a degree that you cannot lose yourself in them and connect with nature in a liberating way.
Image of vacated chrysalises above was taken last summer during one of my garden tours. Loretta Downs gave us a demonstration of how she raises Monarchs to support positive experiences at the end of life. Both chrysalises and Loretta's work: good (as opposed to intelligent) design, so to speak...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Movement Towards Spring: Tree

Here's a favorite tree down at the lake. I forget what it is...a Cottonwood cousin?

Great catkins & statuesque trunk. I.D.???

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Painting by Adam Siegel

In today's New York the Style section. In an article on the fashionable Chicago boutique, Ikram.

Above Adam stands in front of a different painting in his studio during a show last September.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Flower Power

Foliage an integral part.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Personal Victory in the Garden

So after weeks of cold gray weather, today it's sunny and 82 degrees. I joked to a friend that usually on this kind of freaky April day, we have to transplant somebody's rose (and that has happened), but luckily today is Sunday. So, for the first time in months of straining at the bit (I pulled a leg tendon hiking in Guatemala), I actually worked in my own garden! You have no idea what a victory this is...
I hauled away the trellis that had blown over in a windstorm, complete with most of the Akebia vine I can't seem to send to the compost pile. I cut back Hydrangeas, Hellebores, Grasses, Mint and Toad Lilies. I moved aside some leaves, pulled out some of the English Ivy that serves its purpose but needs constant vigilance. I cursed all the contractor's debris from last's year's window installation. I noticed the beginnings of Solomon's Seal (burgundy and phallic) and Canadian Ginger (silvery and crumpled like a small young animal out of a children's story). I smelled the marvelous spicy scent of Geranium macrorrhizum and felt soil that crumbled in the perfect way. I communed with neighbors and strangers and small people on tricycles. I experienced my usual gardener's ambivalence over dog owners (of which I am one), rarely the dogs. I appreciated how the blue of the scilla was offset by the orange of the tulips. I got dirty and delighted at the sun on my face and arms, exposed to the sky here for the first time since last fall.
It is good to be reminded of the joy of gardening. It simultaneously connects me to the planet, my communities, myself and the past/present/future in 4D.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Little Color on a Gray Day

A few weeks ago, some friends had a birthday party for their son at a bowling lane in Chicago. Don't the bowling balls and rug look like a wild garden?

By the time I arrived, they had already moved on to the video games...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Memory and Spring

In Chicago, many people evidence memory lapses around the concept of spring in the garden. Our last frost date is around the end of May, but after a long winter like this year, people's expectations cloud memory. They often recall spring happening earlier than it normally does.
We had an early warm spring last year, so I checked some of my photos from my own garden on April Fool's Day of 2010. Above you can see the Hellbore which today has about one stalk. One of my favorite tulips below (Tulipa turkestanica from the high mountains of Central Asia and usually pretty comfortable with our extreme springtime weather shifts) hasn't even appeared yet. But despite the cool temps, there are signs of growth in the ground...I noticed foliage from Coral Bells, Valerian, Rue, Bleeding Heart and False Forget-Me-Not. The Geranium macrorrhizum (Bigroot) has been verdant for a few weeks.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Guatemala In Context: The New Yorker: Rodrigo Rosenberg

To get a sense of the Big Picture in Guatemala, read last week's (4/4/11) excellent New Yorker article by David Grann: "A MURDER FORETOLD: Unravelling the Ultimate Political Conspiracy." It provides a window onto the 2009 assassination of Rodrigo Rosenberg, "a highly respected corporate attorney in Guatemala...with master's degrees in law from both Harvard University and Cambridge University." As Grann describes Rosenberg,"Rosenberg had been born into Guatemala’s oligarchy—a term that still applies to the semi-feudal Central American nation, where more than half of its fourteen million people, many of them Mayan, live in severe poverty.

Read more

Since the image illustrating the article is intense, I have tried to balance it metaphorically with my photos. First I show a picture of the good life in Guatemala (flowers in a nice hotel) then we have a shot of a poster for "Plataforma Agraria" taken up in one of the indigenous homes high in the mountains. Plataforma Agraria is their national group dedicated to land reform and environmental protection. This issue is central to the extreme imbalance of wealth distribution in Guatemala. We, in the States, are not that askew yet, but we are quickly moving in that direction. Paul Krugman, among other economists, often addresses this reality more expertly than I, in his New York Times blog: "The Conscience of a Liberal."