Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Wild irises (Florence's purple lilies) planted by the tombs

This morning I woke up remembering a story Rose had written. Rose was an abandoned gypsy child taken to an orphanage in England by her mother because her father could not control his drinking in their poverty. This is part of her story she wrote for me, for us, in my convent. In which she described, after a successful career as army cook, buying a house. The previous owner had been a woman dying of cancer and angry with the world and unable to tend her garden. She ordered it covered over with cement. Rose and her children now set to work with pickaxes, removing that layer, at night taking hunks of concrete to the skip illegally, and finally restoring the once-lost, murdered garden. Rose died of cancer before she could see her book published on the web and in print. But she left for us seeds of words and seeds of flowers, a book and a garden.

Camus in his Notebooks says we are free to stoke the crematoria at Auschwitz or to nurse lepers in Africa. We are also free to cover the earth with concrete, purchase and drive gas-guzzlers - or to plant gardens. Those who do the first in these series will do their best to cover gardens with cement, those in the second part will be lugging hunks of concrete secretly in the night! But we just might between us save or restore some gardens, heal some ravaged bodies and minds and souls and ourselves have peace of mind and great joy.

And this is now happening here! For years this Cemetery has been put to weed killer and four years ago almost all its nineteenth-century plants rooted out - to save money. It looked so gray and dead. Finally I persuaded the Swiss to stop the weed-killing, visitors have been giving us bulbs, lavender, rosemary, strawberry plants, box, myrtle, pomegranate and rose bushes, and master gardeners have been giving us advice and help. Not only this, my weeders of stinging nettles and dandelions are gypsy families and we have now won the right to establish a training center here for them, an apprenticeship, where they can learn gardening, stone masonry, blacksmithing, sewing, book-binding, paper marbling, reading and writing, so they can work to repair their houses in Romania and send their children there to school. I love our Rom families. They don't really need training, already knowing how to build dry walls expertly, how to carpenter (the women!), how to sew (the men!), how to tell weeds from flowers, before you even tell them. But no one will give them work anywhere. This will be our breakthrough. Because of the television broadcast on Easter Day (you can find it in the middle of the video that you can call up by Googling 'tg1 speciale silenzio Dio' and then its archive) people are now finding the funds for this program from foundations. We are writing proposals explaining how they work in families, not as individuals. And the women work better almost than the men. In our seven years of them here nothing has been stolen. We are calling our project 'From Graves to Cradles', for we even make their beautiful traditional rocking cradles - which are immediately put to use with their babies in them!

Our Cemetery is now filled with flowers, lavender and rose petal sachets are perfuming the library, and there is great joy everywhere. The Rom and I are planting shoots in pots under plastic - what the Italians call a 'vivaio', a nursery garden. Costs nothing. It is so much better to produce than to consume, so much better to build a hospital, a school, a library, a garden. And to keep on doing so. A great conspiracy of peace, of healing, of learning, of nurturing in the world.

Florence's Cathedral seen from the 'English' Cemetery

We are now at 1488 signatures on the web at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/471134975,
'That the Swiss-owned, so-called 'English' Cemetery in Florence be kept open, be restored and be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site', and with 4134 signatures in-house from our visitors, for a total of 5572 signatures. We have decided to keep them coming.

If you wish to donate to the Aureo Anello Association for the restoration of the 'English' Cemetery you can do so by a cheque made out to 'Aureo Anello' and posted to 'English' Cemetery, Piazzale Donatello 38, 50132 Florence, Italy; or through the Pay Pal 'Donate' button below, which can also be used for the CDs, for the hand-bound limited edition books or for the sculptures of Elizabeth and Robert's 'Clasped Hands' or tondos with their portraits (Amalia Ciardi Duprè's sculpture can also be found at http://www.florin.ms/amaliadupre.html), or some or all of these.

Julia Bolton Holloway
Aureo Anello Association for the Library and Cemetery
Piazzale Donatello, 38

'The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world'