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  1. Martine
    February 3, 2011 @ 11:40 am

    ‘For flowers are musical in ocular harmony’, love it!
    A pleasure to read some poetry, I never seek it out and yet am always reminded when I come across a poem how much I appreciate it.
    ‘keeping the mind fertile, receptive and clear of weeds’ sound words from James for life generally. I will hold onto those……..if I can, as my mind resembles a garden sieve.
    I worked in the new Bethlem hospital in London……goodness knows how Christoper Smart was able to write in the old one………how he must have longed for his flowers amidst such misery and torment!

    • Ben
      February 3, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

      Wonderful words Martine. Thank you. I have been working in medium secure mental hospitals for much of this year…its always so tricky to expect people to recover when surrounded by high fences…indeed its enough to make most of us ill. After a 13 hour shift to be ‘let out’ and smell the cow parsley that edged the path to the car park was nothing short of enlightening and the colours in the undergrowth would positively throb after the stark white of the ward…how it must be to be locked up for sometimes years because of an illness must lend itself to a melting of the soul. Clearly people need to be protected from some of the men that I helped nurse but I would challenge any right minded individual to spend a year in that environment and come out without a mental illness.
      I no longer work in mental health but would be really keen on having patients come and spend some time helping in the garden…this won’t happen this year but I hope it will next. :)

      • Ben
        February 4, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

        …much of last year…not this year! …oh how time flies.

      • Martine
        February 5, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

        Indeed it is always the dilemma of an institution as to whether it heals, harms or merely contains. I have worked 12 hour shifts in 7th floor (!!!) mental health units and in huge Victorian hospitals (sold to developers and now converted into expensive “villages”). Whilst I wouldn’t advocate shutting people away due to mental illness, (unless absolutely necessary) the beautiful grounds and views of the big hospitals did have a part to play in healing. Patients who had known both, told me that they missed being able to take tranquil walks and sit in the sunshine and admire the scenery.
        Hospitals used to carry out their own horticulture and farming, with patients being happily involved in this……..many spoke fondly of their memories and of their work. Perhaps in its way it was more a caring community than the modern concept of ‘Care in the Community’?
        I really like your idea of involving patients in working with you and it has given me something to think about for the future.
        Sorry to woffle on, mental health care is one of my other passions!

        • Martine
          February 5, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

          Oh………I forgot to say…… your description of coming out after a day in a secure unit is quite profoundly accurate and beautifully written :) Sure your friend is the only poet?

          • Ben
            February 5, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

            Bless you! Flattery get’s you everywhere…there is a flower grower somewhere who utilises the help of patients…I shall have a hunt to find out who it is…

  2. jan
    February 1, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

    Love the phrase about applying rich well rotted literature- maybe all that stuff i’ve read in the past will produce something wonderful one day?

  3. Ben
    February 1, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    “For the right names of flowers are yet in heaven.” …is my fav…sometimes other gardeners look down at those who don’t know names, common or botanical for flowers…I couldn’t give a monkey’s…I know how they look…and smell…and when they do well and when they fail…I KNOW them…its just I don’t know what someone else has named them in the past. Sometimes naming things changes the way we perceive them too…ignorance can be its own teacher…

  4. James
    February 1, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    If I were forced to pick a favourite line from that passage, I’d be torn between the “living and the dead” line and the “poetry of Christ” one.

  5. JW Blooms
    January 31, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

    I am not very good at poetry but I loved the idea of flowers being good “both for the living and the dead” and it’s always brilliant to see the words “warp and woof” used. Which reminds me – how to remember which is the warp and which is the weft? When my Wise Uncle George was a young fireman in days of yore and had to darn the hoses, he was to told to “sew vertically up the woof and then turn weft”! x (Works better if said in a stupid childish voice).