Friday, April 15, 2005

Not all willows weep – some reach towards the sky.

Willows at the Monastery of the Precious Blood - London

It is true, not all Willows weep; the Artic Willow (Salix arctica) for example has it branches reach up to the sky. I am found of the willow at this time of the year, as it is usually the first of the large trees to sprout its leaves. In this photo from the Monastery where I work, you can see the brilliant lemon yellow colours of the Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) just starting to explode with life. The two large trees, center and far right, are Weeping Willows and the tree to the left just behind the middle tree is an Artic Willow. In my painting of The Forks of the Thames (below), the trees in the foreground and lining the river are Weeping Willows, at just about the same time of year. I just love that yellow against the vibrant spring sky.
Well if I was tired yesterday, I am thoroughly exhausted today. Add to that, sore muscles over my entire upper body. I’m a right mess – beaten and bruised by trying to subdue nature – okay, well clean it up anyways. I spent the better part of the day raking under this stand of Willows and another stand of Sycamores just behind my cameras vantage point (above image). Ouch, my back still hurts and my arms ache but my spirit soars from being out in the elements most of the day.
As well as my fundamental career as a visual artist, I also own a small landscaping company. Small is a fitting word as I only have one customer: The Sisters of the Precious Blood. Their Convent is now called a Monastery, fitting in with the removal of gender based terms by society. These sisters were cloistered until Vatican II when they started to find new freedoms. Now they are more reclusive than cloistered. They are a praying order as well as baking the hosts used in the Catholic Communion service. My little company is employed to work their 6 hectares of land, the grounds, and gardens for them.
Why a gardener? It’s simple really, apart from my cultural heritage as a Dutchman my father actually was a gardener and gave me his company Martins Garden Service and Landscaping when he retired a few years back. I did not want to work for numerous clients, so I severed off the residential customers for my brother in law, and took only this customer for myself.
Gardening has been in my blood since I was in short pants as a child. My father Martin immigrated to Canada as a Pastry Chef – Baker from Holland. On his arrival, he went to work for a large local Bakery “Lewis Breads”. After working a small shop bakery, which he owned in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, he was completely overwhelmed by working in this bread factory, where thousands of loaves of bread were produced a day. Add to that, the fact that at the time, the loaves of bread this factory produced were nothing that he considered bread. They were those white loafs which you could mush back into a ball, not a marvelous rye or other traditional European sorts. After a few months, he took on a second job working for another Dutchman, Frank Berkelmans, who owned a landscaping business and after time my dad took over this business as his own. Frank wanted to get into the greenhouse business in a big way and had no interest in residential landscaping, so it was a perfect fit.
As I was growing up, I was always around gardens and flowers, as we also had a small greenhouse operation behind our house on Central Ave (discussed in the post below). Gardening has always been a big part of my life, through my dads influence, and of course my own interests in flowers as an artist.
I took over my dad’s business or at least the nuns because prior to that I had been a Professor of Art and was very unhappy teaching at the school were I worked. It wasn’t the students, I loved them; it was the politics of academia that turned me sour. On my dad’s retirement, I was offered another way to keep the wolf from the door and meet my financial needs as a gardener and I took it. Hey, think about it for a minute: I’m my own boss, I come when I want and leave when I please – great on those days I don’t want to leave the studio. I make reasonable money and employ a couple of workers so that if I need to be away, such as New York, I can go. I also work for the most wonderful group of older woman (the nuns) who bring me warm tea and cookies or cake at the breaks. I get the winters off to work entirely on my work as an artist. Most importantly, I get to work outside with nature, doing something that keeps me fit and trim - what is the word “hard body”. It truly is a blessing and if I had to do something else I'd really lament it as gardening melds flawlessly with my career as an artist. I’m blessed in so many ways.
Thanks dad! I owe you for freeing me from the realms of pedagology and the dictates of political academia. I may be somewhat didactic in nature but I am no pedant.

Broader perspective of the grounds at The Precious Blood Monastery - Sycamores and Willows to the left, Aspens to the right.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Find true beauty at

8:56 p.m.  
Blogger Gerard Pas said...

don't do do in your pants?
don't do who in your pants?
don't do what in your pants?
don't I hate pants?

I love plants!

11:28 p.m.  
Blogger Gerard Pas said...

I went to your site and I liked your sense of humour - got a laugh or a grin anyway. thanks for the link.

11:31 p.m.  
Blogger c1h2a3p4 said...

I can see that gardening and your artist-nature are a good combo. You are blessed!

2:36 p.m.  
Blogger Gerard Pas said...

Yes I am! Thank you and for your kind comments.

4:13 p.m.  

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