Community Beautifiers


Just look at these wonderful gates. They’re in Berkeley, California. The decorations are cut out of the metal – leaves of bog rosemary, blue oak, sugar bush, California Buckeye, California Maidenhair, and many more.  Rivers and trains, roads and tools are represented.  Looking at them you can see all of Berkeley life.

Names of the sculptor (Eric Powell, 2007) and his crew are also cut into the metal, for everyone to see.


And when the gates open, where do they lead? Not to a park, not to a museum, not to a garden, not any place of beauty, but to the City of Berkeley Corporation Yard.  Behind these gates stand the road sweepers, the garbage trucks, the vans that maintain the infrastructure of the city, as well as their fuel.  The yard has always been there, even when horses drew the carts, and there was a pig sty on site for the collected garbage.  So why should this amazing work of community art appear as an entrance to such a mundane establishment?  That’s what I asked the security guard on my 6 a.m. walk.  “We wanted something beautiful for our community, “he said, “to bring them close together”.


These gates always impress me. It is rare that we can see the names of artists who have carefully made our living environment beautiful.  I also enjoy seeing the whole-wall murals that tell of myth and history or how the Berkeley community began. Here is a wall of a simple grocery shop.  The mural was so vast that I couldn’t get back far enough to take the complete scene,  almost risked getting run over for the bits I did manage to take.  (Standing in the middle of a busy street is not good for one’s health.)


In England,  landscaping with bushes, trees and plants along the highways produce seasonal colour, and I often wonder who has planned it, and did they get any praise for it? Thousands and thousands of daffodil bulbs are planted by the river in Bedford and always bring a sigh of pleasure after a damp drab winter.

Personal contributions to public enjoyment come in the form of front gardens. What a delight it is to see them bursting with bloom!  When she was getting used to her new community our daughter Lizzie  carried pretty post cards with her, and when she saw  a lovely display,  she sent them a quick note through their letterbox: “Hi!  I just want to thank you for all the time you take to make your garden so beautiful for those who pass by.  It’s a true gift to the community.!”

Our friend Alan painted a dancing Snoopy on his garage door several decades ago, and it has been a joy to his community ever since .  A few years past he received a post card:  “I have looked at Snoopy for fifteen years, on my way to school.  I still smile when I see it.  I’m 32 now.”

Bless the community beautifiers. And bless the people who take the time to say how much they appreciate it.

Oatmeal Shortbread

As far as beautiful food is concerned, well, you’ve got me there.  My creative sculpturing skill received a deadening blow when I carefully made a fish-shaped fish pie with puff pastry, complete with puff pastry scales and an egg wash.  Verdict from those watching: it looked like a sick fox.  From then on, I try to let the food speak for itself.  What then could be more beautiful than a multi coloured fruit salad, sloshed with elderflower cordial (to keep it from browning), served with cream!  Here’s an oatmeal shortbread recipe to go with it.  I served this at an all-day finance meeting for SEEDS Creatives (check the website).

Into a food processor fling 8 ozs butter (1 cup, 230 grams), 2 ½ ozs brown sugar (1/2 cup, 75 gms ),  1 tsp vanilla,  5 ozs rolled oats (2 cups 160 gms) , ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda),  and 4 ozs plain flour (1 cup, 125 gms).  Process on low, building to high, until all is a smooth paste.  Spread evenly in a pan on baking parchment or waxed paper about the depth of your thumbnail and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Fork the batter all over, and cut into fingers.  Lay out on a baking tray about 1 ½ inches  or more ( 25 cms) apart.  Bake in a slow oven (about 325  160C) for 20 – 30 minutes.  Cool on tray before removing – they are fragile when hot.



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