Sunday, October 05, 2008

Vine Peace Spirit - Hampton Court

Monday September 22, 2008:

“Aha”, I thought, “I know where to find a great vine!” Hampton Court has a Great Vine, it’s so big and old it’s in The Guinness Book of Records, so it must be worth a visit. What I didn’t know was that the vine was entirely cased in glass and its magnificence could only be gazed at from afar or from within a glass house.

I stood disconsolately in the vine house and poked the obstructing glass grumpily. Well I’ve met the spirit of all kinds of trees in the most strangest of places and circumstances, a completely encased vine is not going to defeat me.

I marched outside and sat down on the grassy path next to the bare earth (left unplanted lest any pesky inferior plant roots interfere with the great vine) and set to work connecting with the spirit of the vine. I didn’t care what the curious passers-by thought the two strange middle-aged women were doing sitting on the damp ground in silence next to a bare patch of earth. Another example of English eccentricity perhaps?

She stood large and solid, full skirted; her arms up dramatically, her head thrown back. She was the thick heart of the vine twisting and moving out up and over, yet she was a solid Victorian lady in black plumb frock complete with bustle and big dark hat. Great clusters of grapes hung coquettishly from its bending brim. She was the very picture of a Victorian tableau, saving her extraordinary hair which had escaped confinement and was flowing like the tangled vine all around her.

I stared at her, hardly believing my eyes. She looked solid and unsentimental, yet capable and determined. Then I looked again. Amongst the leaves and clusters of grapes, she held a brilliant white placard aloft, a placard with something on it which, as I focussed became the outline of a Picasso peace dove. And then I remembered the Women in Black and smiled to myself. She was a Victorian Woman in Black!


I began to sing

“And every woman ‘neath her vine and fig tree shall live in peace and not afraid.
And every woman ‘neath her vine and fig tree shall live in peace and not afraid.
Hands into plough shares beat their swords; nations shall make war no more.
Hands into ploughshares beat their swords; nations shall make war no more.”

What is the meaning of the vine? I mused aloud to my companion. Perhaps it’s something about connection, even if that is chaotic like the tangled vine. That connection is also about communication, like, “I heard it through the grapevine”. There’s also something about fruitfulness and harvest and the abundance and sexy sumptuousness of the round juicy grapes. A vine can hold a rambling building up, so it’s a strong and tenacious plant in how it supports. Does the vine hold things together? Can it reconcile those who are warring? And where is the connection with peace? Is it because of the appearance of the placard with the Picasso peace dove? What is the connection between the vine and the image Picasso gave to the peace movement and still used by Women in Black across the world?

“Who knows?” I thought, as I got up to go.

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