Humans + Landscape = ?

In between my infrequent blog entries, which always focus on humans and landscape, I am writing adventure novels, not surprisingly on humans and landscape.

As you can see from the menu bar above, I have been working on four novels over the past six years.

In preparation for updating them on my blog this fall, I have had some fun doing themed graphic design, one composite image for each of the four novels.

Themed graphics?

Yes—unique to each novel—humans interacting with the exotic geography and inspirational landscape around them, with the lightest  sprinkling of ethnobotany.

I have interpreted each of the four novels below and I hope you find them enjoyable.

If so, recommend them to your like-minded friends, please.

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This is the least developed adventure to date. The story revolves around a coffee house in Vienna–a place where for centuries East and West have and continue to struggle…over espresso…the text offering a brief respite.

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The landscape background is the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter where surface sand patterns take us to Julian eternities and the sun takes away our sight. The botanical panel is the date palm, Phoenix canariensis providing food, utensils, environmental and architectural shelter. The human craft panel is carved stone–essential discipline. The text is the gold ring.

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The Moroccan landscape background threatens with an irritating red born of never-truly-healed and always festering cultural conflict wounds–North African, Arabian, Sub-Saharan African and European–in equal measures macerating humans over millennia. The botanical panel is the fruit and foliage of the fig, Ficus carica–rare relief. The human craft shows patterns from North African Berber wool carpets–practical essentials. The text is the shelter humans take from the native and endemic forms of the plant, Cannabis sativa. The dreams are real life.

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The dark green and blue landscape background is the edge of our dreams always implanted by the highland mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and streams of the Swiss Alps. The botanical panel is the gentian, Gentiana acaulis, whose blue beauty, paired with our rare good fortune, beckons human transformation. The human craft panel patterns are the lace of internal order. The text is the promise of clarity–or is it simply the hope of clarity?

Maps: Moths to Fire


…or…mystique richesse?

Is mystique the Empty Quarter landscape magnet for Western culture? If so, then how…why?

How could a place, a landscape where cultures of India and Africa have interlaced for millennia be…empty?

How can there be an Arabian Peninsula landscape virtually untouched by Islam these last 1400 Hegira years?

And before Islam, how in the Empty Quarter can there be long lost whisperings…mystical names…unwritten sagas…still emerging from those sands…

But is this Empty Quarter mystique nothing more than a moth to fire?

For me it is unimaginable how non-Muslim foreigners came in search of this landscape…a foreign land…a foreign culture…a foreign religion…a foreign language…what to speak of…NO GPS…NO TELECOM…NO WEATHER REPORTS…

Everytime I think about our ‘modern technological tethers’, the real time information resources to which we are all accustomed, I am amazed by the strength and will power of these earlier explorers…and that gives their writing all the more gravitas.

Just be glad to be here…

I’ve been writing a landscape story titled, The 23 Club. Above, I have summarized it in a five minute clip.

In this story an American expatriate landscape architect confronts the strange multi-cultural realities of Arabian Peninsula work. Those social peculiarities layer with the powerful presence of the Empty Quarter landscape…the Empty Quarter, an enigmatic sand desert which, alone by its very presence, negates life.

The multi-media clip opens a window on the physical geography and cultural issues that swirl about the story–the construction of an iconic five star destination resort in that oil-rich, sand desert which, until recently, had been populated only by the transient Bedu.

If you are attracted to ethnobotany or plants, gardens and landscapes and have the wonder; but you do not have the time or money to travel to the Arabian Peninsula for these, then, just be glad to be here.

Existential Garden Visits–Borges

International Authors' DayBetween 14-18 July 2015, on each day, I will be making a post in celebration of International Authors’ Day, featuring review of works by Kenneth Grahame, J.L. Borges and Algernon Blackwood, authors whose works have been formative inspirations for me.

These posts will be made as part of a Blog Hop as can be seen and visited through the links at the bottom of each post.

Today is 17July2015.

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Existential Garden Visits: J.L. Borges
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1899-1986 Jorge Luis Borges, some of his works can be found here.

…I was just there…

Erik Desmazieres’ illustration of Borges’ Library of Babel (courtesy of funambulist)

Library of Babel. This image I share with all of you who are convinced that the written word is at the center of our lives and a library houses the efforts of all people who share your convictions…J.L. Borges called it Library of Babel.

Here is a two minute sound clip featuring Borges’ description from The Library of Babel:

If you tried to call his work based upon themes, you would have to include dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors–the stuff that provides portals to the madness of existence–the madness of questions some of us ask, some of us become obsessed and others by the grace of God, never even think of–so, some of you would be better off not reading any further.
In one of his stories, most often quoted, analyzed, The Garden of Forking Paths, he takes the reader on a garden journey wherein movement through a labyrinth is required, however the labyrinth folds back in on itself through networks of time, none of which are the same, all of which are equal, an infinite regression.
The concept itself is incredible and the masterful skill of writing that creates the experience–beyond words. Fantastic writing, fantastic imagination–and you must ask yourself upon reading that–you must ask yourself where did I come from, where am I going and what is this thing we call life.
But it all starts with books because books, like gardens…always take you…somewhere unexpected…if you let them. Libraries, gardens, landscapes…what more could you want? And Borges is supreme at enticing his reader into the garden, as in this 4 minute sound clip:

But there is too often a dreary end to existential inquiry–I prefer the garden, or a walk out into the landscape–places where discovery captivates, enthuses.
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In the garden just like every book, just like every piece of music--in the garden are discoveries to be made--portals with thresholds waiting to be crossed--it is up to you.

In the garden just like every book, just like every piece of music–in the garden are discoveries to be made–portals with thresholds waiting to be crossed–it is up to you.

Plants: how do they inspire you?

Please answer that question in the comments below, because on the last day of this International Authors’ Day Blog Hop, I will randomly select a winner to receive The 23 Club, Beta 6, a free giveaway for your reading enjoyment.

The 23 Club (Beta 06)

Table of Contents

  1. Desertification
  2. It’s 2AM
  3. Spike Lounge
  4. The Walk
  5. Rub Al Khali Coastal
  6. Rub Al Khali Inland
  7. Liwa Qsar
  8. The Plant Nursery
  9. Tamarind Gardens
  10. Library Majlis
  11. Villa Patio
  12. Long and Short
  13. Pilgrimage
  14. Wanderweg

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On Ecology–Kenneth Grahame

International Authors' DayBetween 14-18 July 2015, on each day, I will be making a post in celebration of International Authors’ Day, featuring review of works by Kenneth Grahame, J.L. Borges and Algernon Blackwood, authors whose works have been formative inspirations for me.

These posts will be made as part of a Blog Hop as can be seen and visited through the links at the bottom of each post.

Today is 15July2015.
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On Ecology–Kenneth Grahame
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Kenneth Grahame, 1859-1932, access to his works at Gutenberg.

…now where is that portal…

Especially in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, E.H. Shepard’s illustrations imparted the author’s deep feelings for the forest landscape and its inhabitants.

While many think of Wind in the Willows (1908) as Toad of Toad Hall–it really is an intimate picture of the landscape around which Kenneth Grahame grew up and always loved.

I think of him as the first Ecologist. Most of us, when we think of ecology, think first of the Odum brothers in the 1950s. But for me, it was the observational powers of Kenneth Grahame–how the flora and fauna intimately interacted on diurnal and seasonal bases in his own local patch.

The following two minute sound clip documents Kenneth Grahame’s heartfelt understanding of the landscape.

I respect, I highly value his powers of observation. Unfortunately his efforts have been blacklisted, by some cultural revisionists, as anthropomorphic, but…that bit of censoring is only as transient in time as a slight breeze on a hot, still, summer day.

Kenneth Grahame’s work will return–be it Wind in the Willows, 1908 or Pagan Papers, 1893 when he was already asking ‘Are we irrevocably cut off from the natural world, or might there still be a way back to it?’

He knew of the power in the landscape.
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Plants: how do they inspire you?
Please answer that question because on the last day of this International Authors’ Day Blog Hop, I will randomly select a winner to receive The 23 Club, Beta 6, a free giveaway for your reading enjoyment.

International Authors’ Day

International Authors' DayBetween 14-18 July 2015, on each day, I will be making a post in celebration of International Authors’ Day, featuring reviews of works by Kenneth Grahame, J.L. Borges and Algernon Blackwood, authors whose works have been formative inspirations for me.

These posts will be made as part of a Blog Hop as can be seen and visited through the links at the bottom of each post.

Also at the bottom of each post please find the giveaway question:

Plants: how do they inspire you?

Please answer that question in the comments section. On the last day of this International Authors’ Day Blog Hop, I will randomly select a winner to receive The 23 Club, Beta 6, a free giveaway for your reading enjoyment

Landscape Story–what is it?

14July 2015

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On Ecology–Kenneth Grahame

15July2015

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Landscape Mysteries–Algernon Blackwood

16July2015

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Existential Garden Visits–JL Borges

17July2015

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The 23 Club, Beta 6 Giveaway

18July2015

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In The 23 Club, Erik Chalmers, a landscape architect, follows his obsession to build beautiful and captivating gardens--this time to The Empty Quarter.

In The 23 Club, Erik Chalmers, a landscape architect, follows his obsession to build beautiful and captivating gardens–this time to The Empty Quarter.

The Last Kilometer

…don't fight it…

Erik Chalmers, American born and bred professional landscape architect, used all his skills to manage these very large, complex iconic projects in the Arabian Peninsula. He knew that the multi-cultural and technical complexities required not simply a left side of the brain number crunching iron will; but they also required what he called…performance art.

What is the magic–what are the skills required to succeed on these huge complex projects being designed and built in such challenging and downright dangerous environments? Erik Chalmers’ post project notes give insight into his successes.

But Erik Chalmers, for the first time in decades on an assignment without his wife Madge, was about to learn if he had done one project too many and lost his one true emotional certainty, his one true root.

…it is…

Chalmers felt what he had missed over the past eight months–the fullness of the water, the plants, the soil, the wholeness–it was holistic, it was an existential comfort.

Following is a short narrative from Chapter 13: Pilgrimage, that imparts some of the landscape connections in The 23 Club.

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The 23 Club

Immersed in the contemporary culture of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, against the backdrop of the Empty Quarter, The 23 Club tells the inside story of how an iconic project gets built in the oil rich, Gulf region of the Arabian Peninsula.

Table of Contents

  • Desertification
  • It’s 2AM
  • Spike Lounge
  • The Walk
  • Rub Al Khali Coastal
  • Rub Al Khali Inland
  • Liwa Qsar
  • The Nursery
  • Finding Majlis
  • Library Majlis
  • Villa Majlis
  • Long and Short
  • Pilgrimage

               The Last Kilometer

Chalmers was returning after eight months on his own. Nobody in the UAE called him Erik. It had been eight months of Chalmers. Eight months of taking care of his own meals, his own shopping, his own laundry. It was the little stuff that informed his daily life culture. It was the little stuff that built up…big time.

As the train took Chalmers closer to his stop, his thoughts turned to Madge. He was returning to his shared spaces, his shared life. Chalmers was becoming Erik again. He missed Madge; but he was uncertain how this return would be. Long distance communications always filtered, always blurred emotions.

Chalmers recalled the worst of his time away…he had not been able to hide his week in the hospital from Madge. He was supposed to have gone to Singapore for silk; but her worst fear came true. He had been injured in an automobile accident and hospitalized. She suffered to hear about it from distance. Sorry just did not cover it…from either side.

He arrived at Lauterbrunnen and thought, it won’t be long now.

He transferred from the train to the funicular. It was late in the afternoon and the sky was overcast. This time of year there was little difference between the valley village and the small plateau up where he and Madge lived. Fall plants were already naked of leaves. The first big snow could come any day. The temperature 5ºC or below; frost threatened.

As the funicular rose, Chalmers recalled his excitement nearly nine months ago when he was asked to help fix the first five star resort destination deep in the Empty Quarter. It had been about the challenge. It had been about his joy in providing beautiful gardens for people.

Now the job was complete. The gardens were a success. The owner was satisfied, happy. That world was finished. Now he was home.

And he was worried. Had he traded off something of emotion and trust, something he had held closely with Madge, just to build a couple gardens?

  • Wanderweg
  • Appendix 1:  Berner Oberland Back Story
  • Author’s Notes
  • Plant List
  • Colophon

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(to be continued)

© 2015 Edward Flaherty

**Blatant Plug: If you find this writing about humans and landscape intriguing, please share it with your like-minded friends. Thank you.**

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