At this time in my life I have lived many days adding up to years on this planet and our home that we call Earth. Most of my days I have had a deep magnetic like attraction, although I would call it connection with the natural elements of this planet Earth. Beginning in my first years of life choosing to live barefoot during the warm months with my feet connected to the ground, digging in the soil of my very English garden I speak of today and joining my parents as they worked daily in the garden. I grew up spending more time in my garden than inside the house, outdoors breathing fresh air and feeling the warm sun kiss my skin. We didn’t have cable television, our Zenith television had pliers, yes pliers holding the channel in place and included a rotor with an antenna for receiving local television such as CBC and occasionally other channels at random. Spending time outdoors in my backyard was much more enriching, the Earth was my entertainment, learning environment and place of peace in this world. I reflect on this today, Earth Day 2021 with some authentic thoughts and words about the natural world.
Spending years of my life committed to taking care of Earth, in the most recent years I have turned inward with my advocacy. It would appear that becoming chronically ill and living with disability resulting in a housebound life, that my garden of childhood is now the garden of my adulthood. It has become my sole connection to the planet due to my chronic illnesses and disability and more recently the Covid-19 pandemic. I no longer feel the need to advocate with my body and mind in the world which as a empath left me with such anger and frustration towards what I saw humans doing to the planet with no regard or care other than for themselves or financial greed. It truly hurt me deep in the heart and I no longer can take on that feeling of pain. There are many extroverts who will do the advocacy job much better, free from emotion like the task burdens me with. With so much awareness of the struggles within the planet, I don’t understand those who chose to ignore what needs to be done to save the planet. There is much more I don’t understand, however I can’t take this on my shoulders anymore. As I approach midlife with chronic illness and disability, my experiences have been many and have changed my approach to life. I no longer care what others think of me, as I live the life of solitude, free to authentically be me. I will be me and do my part as this is all I have some control over in this world, this planet Earth and the place I call home.
My garden is much more to me than flowers and soil, it is filled with wonderful memories, life learnings and joy. As a family we spent most of our time together in our garden. The plants, flowers, shrubs and trees were all planted by my mom and dad while I observed as a young girl. The soil was all collected, hauled and tended to by my father year after year. I recall one year my father finding manure out on one of his country sojourns in the white Ford station wagon with vinyl dark blue seats, we always had a station wagon when I was young. My father opened the tailgate and dumped the loose farm fresh cow manure in the back of the wagon. The find of the manure was much more important to my father and our garden than the clean up of manure in the back of the wagon. I vividly recall my father moving dirt and manure with our green painted wheelbarrow, the one Brandon uses today. My mom on the other hand was livid my father didn’t use a tarp, the garden on the other hand naturally flourished with that manure, as it does to this day. Good soil is simply irreplaceable and the foundation of Earth.
As a young child I spent more time at garden centres than in any other store in Toronto with my father. Sometimes we would take a drive to see what plants Sheridan had in the green houses, but we always left with a garden trolley or two full of goodies for the garden. Perhaps this is why to this day my favourite store other than an art store is hands down with no comparisons the Garden Centre, preferably Sheridan Nurseries. Perhaps one day in the far off future I might be able to make it once a year to the garden centre with my mobility aids, for some pure joy. I will have hope anyhow.
Recently, I realized that others don’t have my experience, understand it or even wish to understand a connection with nature and the planet earth. The world occupied by mass populations of humans have become disconnected from Earth and connected to technology in its place. Children have no need for pliers to change the channel on a t.v set as they have computers, smart tv’s, iphones, tablets and game devices all free to choose from and at hand 24/7. EMF’s are filling our space indoors and outdoors alike, something most humans are happy about unless they are visibly affected by the emissions within indoor environments like myself. Is it not alarming that in 1918 during the Spanish Flu children in Toronto took learning to the forests out of doors to prevent viral transmission and promote safe learning. Today in 2021, children attending the largest board in North America, the TDSB are all hooked up into virtual learning, inside their homes, learning through a computer screen disconnected to the surrounding world around other than though technology. A topic I won’t discuss in detail or any further as this is another topic altogether. I simply cannot answer for others disconnect, nor can I spend any more of my energy trying to effect change or understand others neglect for the planet.
I am always technology free when I am out in my garden, as is my Peace Cottage, the place where I escape the house to garden, meditate and practice art. A space to free my ears from tinnitus caused by electrical currents throughout homes hooked up to the tits with electrical devices. One of my favourite times indoors is when the power to the house goes out and gives my ears some peace and solitude. In fact, I don’t use my iPhone at all, ever, it is only for emergencies and times when I am forced to leave the house, considering I am housebound most of the time it sits dead. I recommend if you ever are inclined to call me for some obscure reason that you never use my iPhone, I am not likely to receive the message for a long period of time. It use to sadden me when people were out in the beauty of the natural world with a smartphone device in hand looking down into the oblivion of a screen completely unaware of the beauty at their feet, in the sky and all around them. I say used to because I realize I am the strange person now, looking at the sky, scanning trees for birds, observing a flower for long periods of time and aware of the natural wildlife nattering and scurrying about freely living life on Earth doing their part in nature. When did observing nature, the most simple and connected experience we can have with nature, that generations of ancestors predating us since the beginning of time did daily with joy become such an oddity? Could it be that my paintings may stimulate change, causing a human to stop, step outdoors, take in the air around them and look at their surroundings ? Perhaps inspire a human to buy a plant or flower, is this a possibility ?
This year I have been eagerly awaiting buds, shoots and sprouts in my garden. I have decided to document my garden, taking photos, sketches and flower cuttings. I have begun pressing flowers from first growth in spring a few weeks back now and keeping a flower press book. This is such an old tradition going back centuries to the very earliest botanists of Victorian England. In fact my flower press was handmade, engraved my name and sent over from England for me. A simple way to connect with Mother Earth, ones garden and nature in a creative memorable way. My flower pressing experience has been a true delight to date, an experience which I will be sharing in my blog for those who are new to my writing.
Our English garden has become my muse for my paintings. I honour the Earth through my garden and have chosen it as my subject for my paintings. Although, in truth I feel like it revealed itself and chose me. I am only beginning my journey with my English garden as my muse, I am certain that it will gift me years compositions for my paintings and is guaranteed to continue to provide inspiration through colour for a lifetime. This year I am designing our garden beds with new flowers to add to my parents plantings, the bulbs were ordered locally from the Toronto Botanical Garden and in my hands as I type, well the keyboard is in my hands if you like to be literal. With my new bulbs and the help of Brandon our garden beds are going to have colour combinations of delight as I have dozens new flowers a variety of contrasting colours, textures, sizes all to be planted into the flower beds. This will provide for a new group of paintings come the next few seasons of growing, many photographs and a plethora of sketches, to my delight of course. Perhaps my paintings will spark a light to art patrons towards the beauty the Earth provides us with, if we just take a moment to stop and look around us. This could indirectly be my way to stimulate change in the world regarding stewardship of the earth, simply through paint and a panel.
It is within our garden that I will continue to connect and do my part for the Earth tending to the soil which I have been given to steward and awarded caretaker of. A task that my husband Brandon has taken on for me since I began living with disability. I am reminded of the Welsh farming lands which are passed down generation over generation, sometimes dating back twelve generations and the sheep belong to the land generation after generation, they are part of the land and lineage. I have been passed down my beautiful and expansive urban garden from my parents and I am committed to take care of it for the rest of my living life with Brandon’s help. I will be out their technology free, dressed to my liking with lots of colour, a fun scarf and funky sunglasses doing tidbits of gardening, photography, sketching and lots and lots of observing for the rest of my lifetime. This is my commitment to the Earth, I will always treat it with the utmost respect as this is what it deserves and through my paintings I will celebrate its beauty. In my paintings, I also hope to inspire awareness for the natural world that surrounds us, perhaps open the eyes of other humans, with the hope to inspire a spark a light for the love of nature. Perhaps one day I will find another creative soul, outdoors enjoying nature with a sketchbook or camera in hand instead of a smartphone, I would like that very much indeed.
About the Author
Jane Louise Holden
On Jane’s Blog I authentically write about real life experiences with loss, suffering and acceptance as a woman artist living with disability. There are times while in my studio I step away from my abstract paintings and turn towards words. My garden often inspires written words in the same way it fuels my paintings, words come to me connecting with thoughts as I sit in quiet peace with my garden.