Thursday, December 21, 2006


Our friend, who is a magnificent Irish scholar, and who regularly sends us Carageen moss for use in our paper marbling, has this Christmas sent a card saying an olive tree is given in our name to a farming family in Palestine. It shows two women harvesting olives, a dove perched in one of the olive trees. And she writes about remembering the beauty of our Tuscan olive groves. And our own four olive trees in this courtyard from which we give so many blessed leaves for the healing of trauma.

OxFam writes of the possibility of giving a camel, a cow, a sheep. Unicef, of giving sachets of water and salts for correcting dehydration in sick children and thus saving their lives. All these, the best Christmas gifts.

As I think on all the trauma today, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, in Palestine and Israel, in Iraq and Iran, Africa with its AIDS orphans, its child soldiers, so much terror in so many places in the world, I remember John Kenneth Galbraith saying the sources of conflict and violence are caused by economic desperation. Julian's sense of 'And all shall be well' translates rightly the Hebrew 'Shalom', of a wellness, of a wholeness, of prosperity, the true peace the angels sing to men of good will. Anorexic women despair of freedom, their only freedom being death. Suicide bombers despair of freedom, their only freedom, death, of themselves and others. The Greek sense of peace, 'irene', was merely a cessation, a truce, in ever on-going hostilities. Shalom is different and for all.

One passes through our four olive trees, after braving the roaring traffic about this piazzale, to come to the peace of our library and our tombs. Our library stocked with books on trauma and indigenous and migrant peoples, our cemetery with its many scripts and languages commemorating its many persons who worked tirelessly against slavery in the nineteenth century and for better health for women and children and for freedom from tyranny, statues of 'Hope', and even the black fourteen year-old slave from Nubia, baptised in a Russian Orthodox family with the name of 'Nadezhda', 'Hope'.

And now we have a dream in which many are sharing, of turning this abandoned cemetery in the midst of city traffic into the garden it once had been, with orange and lemon trees and azalea bushes, through digging a cellar into our hill for keeping them in winter, called here a 'limonaia', and of planting daffodils, irises, roses, lavender. Look about us and see how divorced we now are from nature, our clothes all like machines, our cars separating us from greenery. It could be a most peaceable revolution to plant a garden in the midst of a city. To travel on bicycles. And to give olive trees to Palestinians, sheep to Afghans, camels to Ethiopians, cows to Somalians, sachets of life-saving salts to sick babies. We have very little time to turn this earth, this Gaia, back into a garden, a Paradise, for our grandchildren.

Thank you, Maire, for this most lovely of gifts, and a Blessed Christmas to all Godfriends,

Bless you,


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