Archive for June 15th, 2008

These cosmos capture last week, a flurry of putting in the first of our flowers to beautify the Center for the upcoming cistern celebration. We got the cosmos and donated ‘Wave’ petunias planted in the four circle planters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “beauty”, in the light of our efforts. What is beautiful landscaping? Keats’ wrote “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” an idea that appeals to me, but then we’ve got a lot of unlearning to do in our landscapes, which attempt to bludgeon the sustainable and constantly changing beauties of the natural world into a monotonously tidy sameness. And at the Center, the pressure is intense to make sure our landscape is “beautiful” in the same way as a mansion in Myers Park or a high end shopping mall – with lawn and the usual flowers, in the right places.

The irony that such landscapes are even more chemically dependent and unstable than the most troubled people who come to us for help and a decent meal escapes notice. And the pressure comes from both sides – a passionate volunteer weedwhacked a wildflower area because he thought it looked “like a bunch of weeds”.

The problem is, in part, dealing with change. We all change, it is in our nature and the nature of the world that grants us life. Gardeners know the cycles, today’s lilies are tomorrow’s compost, and the cycle continues. But our ‘beautiful’ landscapes try to never change, and instead to always look ‘nice’.

So, I’m conflicted. What I’m leaning toward is a functional and gritty definition of beauty that fits where we are, who we are, and our shared humble status as creatures who rely on Mother Earth. So, beautification will include some places for weary people to sit and rest. Some splashes of color, and lots of chances for the neighbors who come to us to be a part of the project. And use of what’s around us, not simply buying things – so we’ll paint rubble to make our labyrinth. And, of course, we’ll grow more food. Good organic food.

But we won’t turn away beauty on principle. We welcome people here – we turn no one away. And we welcome the Wave petunias, hardly a sustainably-inclined plant, but we got a generous “deal” from our wonderful friends at Renfrow’s Hardware in Matthews, my favorite place to buy garden supplies in the region. So, in they’ll go.

Pete, Cleo and Joe helped bring the first “Waves” over and put them in, after adding some compost as a topdressing for the beds – plus a little Plant-tone (5-3-3, a useful organic blend).

We also got started painting the tomato poles, using non-toxic outdoor paint. Here’s Cleo bringing some paints into the chapel, and me, mixing colors as Tiara heads out to work on painting a rock. We’ve occupied an area of our art space for the garden art projects, as you can see here (Cleo is painting a stake in the center).

Meanwhile, our other programs had quite a week as well. Lawrence Cann, shown here with Cleo and our soccer coach Rob (Lawrence’s brother – can you tell?) drove his little pickup, loaded with soccer balls, up to DC to discuss the homeless world cup qualifiers. And here’s a glimpse of our last Homeless Helping Homeless meeting before the big dance they organized as a benefit on Saturday night. Wow! Best dance in town, it was a smash.

The weather remains hot and humid, but with little rain. We had some up near the university, but not really at the Center. We need that cistern! The tomatoes are going bonkers – we need to get the stakes done and get them staked this week for sure. We’ll put in some sweet potatoes and cukes, maybe okra and squash. And a blackeyed pea edible cover crop on one bed. We’ll be busy. Here’s a pic of the garden (nice sunflowers – hope we can keep them blooming for a month – but those tomatoes needed staking 2 weeks ago…), and another of the inspiring space our cistern will fill. Zoning evidently wants us to put us a wall to keep people from seeing it – saving rainwater counts the same as an ugly good dumpster.


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