Saturday, 3 July 2010

Growing Up Through The Cracks

When I began to work with medicinal plants, I started in the wastegrounds of Oxford. These were the places on the edge, ignored or dismissed by most people and often ‘earmarked for development’. Out of the stony bare ground rose magnificent mulleins with their spires of yellow flowers and soft leaves, a huge borage shaped like a boat flowered into November, tough and beautiful evening primroses flourished on disused railway tracks. There were gnarly goat willows, butterfly bushes and elder trees crammed with berries. Some of the strongest medicines grow in the toughest places.

In similar territories in Suffolk, bee and pyramid orchids appear before being mown down by the council at the height of their flowering. They come back, although this year I haven’t seen any bee orchids.

Last night we watched Michael Moore’s documentary Capitalism: A Love Story, where all over America, in Detroit, Florida and Chicago, people who have been made redundant are reclaiming their jobs, repossessing their homes from the banks, backing each other in neighbourhood groups.

This is what Naomi Klein at the end of her book about disaster capitalism, The Shock Doctrine, calls ‘starting from scrap’ rather than scratch. She’s referring to movements of ordinary people everywhere beginning to work together with whatever they have at hand to reconstruct their lives - from people who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina to dispossessed farm and factory workers in Latin America.

These pictures are of St. John's Wort growing up through the cracks of Lowestoft railway station. At the end of the platform. At the end of the line.

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