Where is Nature Gone?

One of the things I feel the most disconnected from here in Luxor is nature!  I know that might seem a little strange to some, who see the beautiful pictures of sugar cane fields and palm trees hugging the Nile, but actually living here is a very different story.

Palm Grove.

Palm Grove.

Having moved from England, where I was in nature a lot, this life here feels so disconnected from it. All of my life I have spent in nature. Growing up in ireland and being surrounded by fields and woods, then Spain where I spent most days either in water or horse riding or roaming the fields, not always with positive outcomes, but that’s a different story! Even moving to England I was again surrounded by green fields and large woods. And water, my most favourite element.

When I began really connecting to nature, and the elemental energy within it, my awareness that my body and consciousness were part of the energetic matrix of Life within the natural world expanded. I knew myself to be in a relationship with nature and that is where I felt the most comfortable. Doing my earthwork over the past 13 years and being part of the natural world made me feel healthy and whole, even though I was still healing myself of all of my pasts. Over the years I have moved ever deeper into the consciousness of nature, and the elemental energies which keep it growing abundantly. I learned why certain areas were not growing abundantly and how to change it energetically. I also learned how our ancestors understood, and worked with, the cycles of nature to create abundance for themselves. They too had a good relationship with their surroundings. They understood the necessity of creating harmony within that relationship if they wanted to survive well. They understood the vagaries of nature and respected it. Although this has changed immensely over the past few thousand years people are realising that in order to survive they need to move back into that awareness again. Many of the problems with nature is the people in it!

Seti the First Temple in Gourna.

Seti the First Temple in Gourna.

So having grown up, surrounded by nature and the Elementals, and now living in the desert, I find it it is a very different experience. We live on reclaimed desert but which was once ancient graveyards, going back to the Naqada period (6.000 years). A few hundred yards away lies the Temple of Seti the First, which was once beautiful and surrounded by nature, but is now a barren tourist destination. We are surrounded by an ever-growing community of people whose only desire is to live the modern life depicted on TV, and promised by the money brought by tourists. Older, mud-brick houses are replaced by concrete and steel buildings and people are becoming more and more disconnected from the land. In order for these buildings to be built they tear down the trees, which grow around their houses. Palm and fruit trees only grow around the mud-brick houses but disappear as soon as another son needs to build a house because he wants to get married. Slowly the nature is disappearing and being replaced by tall, unfinished buildings with satelite dishes on top and the noisy hum of air-conditioning units. You can’t live in a concrete and steel building here without one!

The disconnection from nature is palpable. As a foreigner here, having grown up in greener Nature, this disconnection is very difficult to manage. I yearn for a small house, surrounded by garden and lots of trees. Although we are lucky here to have a garden I rarely go into it as it is always filled with kids or adults and I really want to be able to just sit under the olive tree and ‘commune’! There is no concept here of ‘personal space’!

The Nile at Night.

The Nile at Night.

It feels here like the prevailing energy is always ‘tense’.  There is no sense of ‘ease’ here, even if people spend most of their time sleeping, especially in the hot summer months. I have spent the past two years crossing the Nile, back and forth, from East bank to West bank, but only once actually ‘felt’ the water. The first time we were sitting on the ferry waiting for it to move away, and I suddenly heard the lapping of the water at the edge of the bank. It was such a quiet, soft sound and my entire body relaxed into it. It was the first time in nearly two years that I had felt this and i wondered why it just never seemed possible to connect with the river in this way any more. The people here are constantly thinking of survival and the pursuit of money. The enjoyment of nature is just never considered. They live on nature, not within it.

The farmers, who spend a lot time in the fields, have a closer connection but this too is about money. They think of the land as a product, rather than as something to be nurtured by and enjoyed. They spend more time fighting over it, selling the topsoil for cash, yelling about field boundaries, but not a lot of time actually relishing the miracle of the life they are nurturing as they grow the food for their families. But again it all comes down to survival.

One of the most satistfying feelings i have ever felt was the tiredness at the end of a day spent growing my food in my garden. Knowing that I was taking care of myself and my kids, foodwise. It was a feeling of utter completion and joy, and I never get that feeling with anything else that I do.  I miss that connection. I miss life. And as I write this I am hearing three men’s voices, arguing and shouting, about God-only knows what this time. It is a constantly stressful place to be and maybe that is why there are so many stroke-victims here. Virtually one a week. Cancer and stroke, the two big killers.

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If you cannot connect with Nature then you are also not connected to your own body. I feel like the energy in my body is depleted. It is starved of life. Living this way is a trap with very little hope for a way out. That is how most people exist here. Cut off from their feelings, their experience and from life. It takes such a long time to move out of this that people often just don’t bother any more. They live in a tiny fishbowl of envy and petty jealousies. They are always on edge. Life is hard but it could be a lot easier, if they only changed their minds and listened to newer ideas and ways of doing things.

But I guess that is why we are in the middle of revolutions. Because people need to be pushed to their limit before they know that change is necessary. And I hope, that when the change really comes that people will reconnect to their land in a positive way and not continue skimming across it as if it were ice.

I can only hope…

My Winchester Garden.

My daughter Hana, who is expecting her first child, is living in our house in Winchester along with my friend Chris who recently came to visit us here in Luxor. Before I moved here we had reclaimed our garden which my other daughter had left to overgrow during her pregnancy. It was too big for her to manage. Chris did most of the digging and clearing and I did the planting and growing.  We put in lots of plants and young trees and it was doing really well. Coming here to Egypt inspired him again and now he sends me lots of pictures of how things are going in my absence. I can honestly say that he is doing a grand job!!!

Variegated Roses in the Magdalene Rose patch.

Because we had been doing energy-work in this house for years, (energetically it looks like a Maypole!) we wanted to create a garden which incorporated elements of this work. It felt like a little Garden of Eden and we wanted the feminine energy to be an ‘equal’ part of the energy so our little Magdalene patch was created. We put in a number of different roses and planted herbs all around them. We have one apple tree in this patch as well. We bought most of the roses from Mottisfont abbey where they have the most beautiful rose garden.

Blenheim Orange Apples.

We planted four apple trees in all. A little Cox’s Pippin, a Blenheim Orange and two others. The Blenheim has apples on it in the years when the others don’t!  I know they are different root stocks, and blossom at different times but no-one said anything about different years!

Red Currants.

These redcurrants are from plants we put in a couple of years ago. Didn’t know if they would produce anything but lo and behold…they did!!  Lovely colour! And sweet too by all accounts.

Rhubarb, wild strawberries and grapes.

All the rain has obviously had a good impact on the water-loving rhubarb. My favourite food in the garden and I’m not even there to enjoy it!!! My daughter, on the other hand, is and has been busy cooking rhubarb pie and custard! I am so jealous! My four-year-old granddaughter May usually eats all the strawberries so its a wonder there are any in this photo!  The grapevine has been going mad and so needed lots of trimming back. Stuffed vines leaves anyone?

Climbing rose.

Lots of blooms this year! Thank god for mushroom compost. Miraculous stuff!!! We usually buy it for £1.50 a bag, a BIG bag!! The entire garden gets loads and everything grows beautifully…including the weeds.  The only that doesn’t grow is mushrooms! Although with all of the wet weather I’m surprised there aren’t.

So a big slap on the back for Chris and his terrific gardening…and the lovely photos. I can’t enjoy my garden but I can live vicariously through the photos.

Pecking Order? What Pecking Order?

Well, buying chickens has led to a whole host of interesting issues within the household! Here in our house there live 19 people: mother, father, four brothers and their families. Each family has its own flat. I live with my husband on the second floor opposite his brother, with his wife and daughter. On  the ground floor live two brothers and their wives and children.  Mother, 70, and Father, 90, hover on the ground floor as they were displaced as sons got married and wives were brought in to live in the family home.

Front Garden

Up until the point where we acquired our chickens Mother looked after the hens, and the women of the house threw them their scraps  She had bought fifty hens from the souk and housed them with the three rams. She looked after them all. But here in Upper Egypt chickens are not taken care of in the same way as chickens in the West. The same chickens which they get eggs from are the same chickens which they eat when they want to eat chicken.  To buy a broiler, or chicken specially reared to be eaten, costs 50LE. A lot of money when that same amount of money can feed you vegetables from the souk for nearly three weeks!!

So, when they fancied chicken they just went out to the hen house, grabbed a chicken by its legs or wings, brought it into the house and cut its throat. Halal meat! It didn’t matter whether this chicken was a good layer or not. It was not even considered. The flock of hens slowly dwindled and flock dynamics were in a constant state of flux!

When our friend Chris bought us our first three chickens and the rooster, we housed them separately so that I could raise them in the way that I always did in Ireland and in the UK.  We put them in their own enclosure and put a lock on the door so that no-one could help themselves to the eggs!! I wanted to go in everyday and collect them in one batch. Here the kids would randomly go and take whatever eggs they could find and bring them into their respective house. However, a rat decided she wanted to eat Mother’s eggs so we put her hens in with ours so that we could deal with the rat! The kids got the message pretty rapidly that this was now a no-go area!!! However, the adults were a different matter altogether! We gave a key to Mother so that she could continue to feed her hens and we tried different ways of allocating the eggs. None of which worked! The women of the house were used to going and taking the eggs whenever they wanted but now, they couldn’t do that. On top of that I noticed that the hens were dwindling in number and it turned out that they had been eating them! Unfortunately I don’t know if my new hens had gotten the chop as we had only gotten them and I didn’t recognise them yet, apart from the rooster and the one with the limp!

Hens in the Henhouse.

So we had a chat, or rather Omar did, and we put a stop to that!!!  Then we bought four new hens and I put them into a separate coup within the enclosure so that the other hens would get used to them! I wasn’t sure how the pecking order would establish itself as the flock was in a constant state of change and people here are really not all that interested in flock dynamics!!! But I wanted to ensure that the new hens integrated properly. When we first bought them we put them in the large, palm-tree cage where they felt at home. But because of the way chickens are handled here Mother would let them out, thinking that they needed space! However, the other hens pecked them badly and these newbies had lived in a small cage with other hens their entire lives, They were being sold as food! Letting them out of their, now larger, home was traumatic! I watched them for a couple of days, allowing them to be out as Mother wanted, but they were not eating or drinking as the other hens wouldn’t let them near the food!  They hid in the corner or in any dark place they could find. It was like watching freed prisoners of a concentration camp, who are so traumatised that being given freedom proves to be too difficult to manage. They feel safe in their confinement.

Improvised feeding!

I watched one of the hens as she ran around the edge of the hen house and it seems that she had a strange nervous habit. Like a tic! She would run and hop and try to peck at something in the air. I realised that because she was used to living in a tiny metal cage with no food for most of the day that she would try to catch flies as they flew by. It really was like looking at a freed concentration camp prisoner who is still acting as though they were captive.

Happy in their Confinement!

I put the four back in their run with a perch and they were perfectly happy! Hens here are not provided with nesting boxes or perches. But are allowed to eat greens.  We built them a couple of nest boxes, put straw in them and Omar made a traditional earthenware nest from a broken water jar!   But we are still trying to get the message across that the new hens need to be kept in the run! They keep being let out and so their food is eaten!! Yesterday I was concerned about the health of the strange hen with the nervous tic as she seemed to be quite weak and was hiding all the time. We took her upstairs and she ate and drank for a full half hour, non-stop! She is obviously not getting enough food! Then she pottered around quite happily, jumping up onto our bed and checking our carpet out! It is only when she is with the others that she is hiding. The other three are a little more confident but only barely. If they have been let out of their run they hide behind it. So I have to keep putting them in and explaining what we are doing. Well, Omar does that as my Arabic has not reached that level of proficiency yet!

I know! Chickens and carpets don’t mix!

Its a constant battle and a very frustrating one but we have to keep going. Hopefully, when they are producing more eggs they will see what we are trying to do and resentments that have built up from the women who are not free to take the eggs whenever they please will hopefully dissipate when they see that they are getting a lot more than they were before!

Dolores the Sheep.

Her name is Dolores…who would have guessed. I found her name when we took her upstairs to our flat to feed her as we discovered that she is not getting enough food! The three big boys that she shares her space with are eating it all and leaving her with nothing so we are feeding her here!

The Three Boys.

She needed quite a lot of coaxing and hand feeding as she was not doing so well so we gave her fortified milk, special seeds for young sheep which she was not impressed by, broad bean pods, which she loved, and cucumber.

Eating from Omar’s Hand…

She also really liked our fresh mint which we grow on the balcony and which she had no problem climbing all over!!! My coriander was nearly demolished too but at least she is eating and healthy! So its a small price to pay!


Negotiating the ceramic floor was a little tricky at first. Her little hooves slid around like ice skates, but she found her ‘feet’ and now is proficient at trotting gently across it. This also saves the carpet as I’m pretty sure that ‘How to clean sheep pee from your carpets’  is not something I would be able to find on the internet!

We will take her up morning and evening and she will soon be sturdy and strong and well able to hold her own against the three bad boys in her house!  Of course this could well be a projection as it totally reflects my life here in this one! Well…like they say…the outside mirrors the inside.