Silent Sunday


Friday flowers

Close up shot of yellow cavolo nero flowers. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Cavolo nero flowers. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

The cavolo nero I’ve been enjoying all winter from the garden is going to seed and producing heads of beautiful yellow flowers. The bees love them.

Close up shot of bee feeding on yellow cavolo nero flower. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Image: Su Leslie, 2017

From hand to mouth: thoughts on gardening, food poverty and giving a fig*

Straight from the tree. Close up shot of hand holding freshly picked figs. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Straight from the tree. Today’s fig harvest. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

According to contemporary sources (The Free Dictionary, Merriam WebsterThe Cambridge Dictionary), the term “living from hand to mouth” is used to suggest bare survival — getting by on the minimum.

My 25 year old copy of Brewer’s Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Cassell Publishers, London, 1992), adds a moral dimension with the following:

To live from hand to mouth. Improvidently, without thought for the morrow. The phrase implies the ready consumption of whatever one gets.

I can’t find a reliable source for the phrase (suggestions welcome), but with or without the whiff of moral censure, the term is positively dripping with negative connotations.

Without diminishing the very real suffering of millions of people who are doing it tough and barely surviving in a world of increasing inequality; for a gardener, living hand to mouth can mean something positive — a celebration of the fruits of our labour.

Yet the ability to cultivate a garden is beyond the reach of many, if not most, people. Access to land, tools, seeds — even water — is limited. And those who most need that regular, if small, supply of fresh food, are those most denied it.

So as I give thanks for my handful of figs, and for the beetroot, brassicas, herbs and citrus fruit to come, I also want to acknowledge the efforts of countless individuals and organisations working across the world, in a multitude of innovative ways, to grow and/or distribute fresh food within their communities.

Here are just a few of the initiatives I am aware of in my small part of the world. If you know of such groups in your community, please tell me about them in the comments, or post a link to their websites.

Community Fruit Harvesting. Auckland-based, but increasingly working across NZ to collect surplus and unwanted produce, and distribute — either fresh or as preserves — to charities.

Garden to Table. A New Zealand-wide programme that works with schools to create gardens and teach children to grow, harvest and prepare fresh produce.

Compost Collective. Auckland initiative to reduce organic landfill waste through composting, has become involved with a number of gardening initiatives.

Kelmarna Gardens, Auckland

Wellington City Council Community Gardens

Written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

* For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term “to not give a fig”, The Free Dictionary defines it as to not care.

“Always the bough is breaking …”

Grainy b&w shot of milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

I’ve become a gardener. Not just in the literal sense of having a garden; but more in the way that my garden has become a filter through which I see the world.

I grow flowers for the bees, set beer traps for snails, chase wasps from the swan plants and am the Big T’s eager accomplice in Monarch butterfly husbandry.

When I grow hungry, the contents of the  vege patch are as important as the contents of my fridge.

And when the annoying TV weatherman casts impending rain as a villain swooping in to spoil the party, I want to shout “sod off! Think of the plants; think of the gardens.”

The thing about gardening is that you become part of a cycle; birth, life, death, decay, re-birth. Compost as metaphor!

I have become connected. Though my little patch of cultivated dirt, I feel a sense of belonging to the Earth that is not only new, but surprising in its intensity.

Grainy b&w shot of milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

I found this poem yesterday and realised that where once, if asked about my attitude to life and death, I’d have quoted Dylan Thomas’s Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Now I think Willam Soutar‘s Song might be more apt.


End is in beginning;
And in beginning end:
Death is not loss, nor life winning;
But each and to each is friend.

The hands which give are taking;
And the hands which take bestow:
Always the bough is breaking
Heavy with fruit or snow.