Human Flower Project
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Transport Globally, Erupt Locally
Iceland’s volcano has sent a blast through the cut flower trade, disrupting not just flights but employment and festivity.
Workers at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya, prepare flowers for export.
On Friday, trucks bringing flowers to export from Kenya’s main international airport were being turned away. The cold storage facilities were already cram-packed. Ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano had drifted into European airspace, detaining both human and floral travelers.
“According to the Kenya Flower Council, 97% of all Kenya’s flower exports are sent to the European Union.”
The head of Kenya’s flower council, Jane Ngige, told the BBC that growers were losing $1.5 to $2 million per day. “We have to continue harvesting the flowers,” said Ngige. Even if blooms do make it out in the next several days, Ngige says, she’s concerned they won’t be salable. People can snooze in airports and survive on Lance crackers, for awhile anyway. Cut flowers aren’t so resilient.
Flights out of Europe have been cancelled, too, meaning that acres of blooms are stalled in the Netherlands. Yvonne Tang, a florist in Toronto who relies on weekly shipments from Holland, has been calling suppliers in South America to fill her many orders for “Administrative Professional’s Day” (a.k.a. Secretaries Day).
The flower trade, long gone global, answers an old philosophical question. If a volcano erupts in Iceland, will a receptionist frown in Toronto and a factory worker go without pay in the Rift Valley? Yes and yes.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
In the Impossible
Beyond our wildest dreams and surpassing all human effort, something’s happened in the yard.
The Betsy Pirie rose (a.k.a Louis Philippe)—
top, in the drizzle April 15, 2010;
bottom, a year earlier, April 15, 2009
Photos: Human Flower Project
The past year has delivered some big cracks to skepticism. In fact, we’ve been staggering around for nearly three weeks now with pop-eyes and the transfixed smile of the believer.
Looking up Milam St., a relocated cactus and new four nerve daisy plants, April 8, 2009
Photo: Human Flower Project
It’s because things have changed, radically, here at home. Our yard has gone from a source of shame to a “lot” of pride. Though now that’s changed, too…
For us, it took hiring a really good guy and great plantsman, getting a design, buying some plants we’d never heard of, installing an irrigation system – and then maintaining these new lives under some dramatic conditions.
As Austinites know the past 12 months brought a near-record stretch of 100 degree temperatures and drought, then plentiful fall rains, and a plunge in the mercury. Here’s some detailed info. On the very coldest nights, we did toss sheets and towels over a few of the tenderest plants. And in February we chopped out lots of dead or withered stuff. We’ve tried to keep after the weeds (especially dreaded Bermuda grass)—and thus far this year, all those small tasks have been easy, since the mosquitos haven’t shown up yet. (There’s a reason that the largest urban bat colony roosts less than a half-mile from where we live) .
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Kensington Gardens: A Next Time
First horses, first boats, first statues—John Levett returns to Kensington Gardens on the first sunny day of spring.
George Frampton’s Peter Pan statue at Kensington Gardens, donated by J.M. Barrie
Photo: John Levett
By John Levett
I currently have an exhibition in a photography gallery in south London, a project that I’ve been working on and off for about fifteen years. It’s a reworking of what remains of the family ‘album,’ what after years of dismemberment and destruction could appropriately be described as the family paper bag.
The project was about my relationship with my mother and all the deceptions and avoidances on both our parts during her lifetime. The exhibition is the formal end of a personal walk through a life and its unintended consequences. It would be daft to write that all loose ends have been tidied up, contradictions resolved, resolution of conflict achieved, closure has descended. Nothing closes; you take the baggage with you to death. What I achieved was a ‘settling’—not of scores or debts but an understanding that sits ok with me and that I can carry around. That’s not a bad place to have arrived at. I have no intention to return to it but I never trust myself on matters of remembrance.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Elizabeth Lawrence’s Confidante
A new book collects the letters of a beloved Southern gardener and the fellow North Carolinian who gained her trust and friendship.
Friends and correspondents (l-r) Ann Preston Bridgers
and Elizabeth Lawrence
Photos: (Bridgers) The Little Theatre, (Lawrence) Warren Way and Elizabeth Way Rodgers
By Allen Bush
Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence: Discovered Letters of a Southern Gardener made me nostalgic for letters. I hadn’t even thought they might have gone away. But who writes letters anymore? Pen and paper seem as scarce as a porch swing.
Author Emily Herring Wilson discovered letters written – mostly typewritten—between Elizabeth Lawrence and Ann Preston Bridgers when she was doing research at Duke University on No One Gardens Alone, A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence (Beacon Press 2004). Wilson has gathered many of these friends’ letters, written between 1934 and 1966, a pre-Facebook and Twitter era. The collection is a revelation of life and culture you won’t find with the new social media. Elizabeth to Ann (1941): “Do my foolish letters bother you? I always have a feeling that you do not like me to write to you when you are working. But it is hard not to when I think about you so much, and like everything else, there are only two ways to write: a lot or not at all.”
Blizzards in Buffalo and tummy aches in Topeka are the stuff of Facebook. I dare you to find anything on Troilus and Cressida. Elizabeth to Ann (1934): “I read Troilus and Cressida because of ‘The Moon shines bright. —In such a night as this, where the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees, and they make no noise; in such a night, Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls, And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents, Where Cressida lay that night.’ But I was cruelly deceived. I had no idea that Cressida would take a Trojan lover. Still I can’t think why you call it an unpleasant play. I thought it very funny, especially the part where Pander [Pandarus] praises Troilus to Cressida. I love the way the heroes of The Iliad are made over into English gentlemen. The battle scene reminded me of Journey’s End [1924 R.C. Sherriff play with all the characters determined to play cricket….]”
The Lawrence-Bridgers era was a slower time, when written communication was not restricted to one hundred and forty characters (Facebook is more generous with 420 characters) and opinions could be expressed without worry that the rest of the world needed to know. “I’m tired of writing to you. Come home. I want to talk. There are also things you can say but not write.”
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