Friday, 11 December 2020
During the lockdown in spring, one of my neighbours offered sunflower seeds to anyone in the street who wanted to plant some. Despite the awful news we were hearing, it felt important to watch these sunflowers growing. The flowers, like golden stars, brought their bright hope and beauty to the homes on our street. The bees, butterflies and squirrels really enjoyed them too! One thing that struck me again as I made this 'sunflower star' was how different they turned out to be from the very ordinary seeds that my neighbours and I put in the ground. It is interesting to ponder what might emerge from this time we are in, and from the gifts or 'seeds' that we might share or plant today.
Many neighbours have shared with others during this challenging time. I have been deeply grateful to be connected with so many people in this community who have given so much in so many ways - seeds, time, energy, skills, deliveries, support, donations - to support neighbours here and further afield. This grace and generosity has been a real privilege to see and receive... and it's great that we can all be a part of it.
The picture in the centre of my 'sunflower star' is of Anthony Yates, one of the generous volunteers I had the privilege to meet during this year, but who is sadly no longer with us, due to a tragic accident. He spent a lot of time and energy during the first lockdown coordinating food deliveries for residents at Lea Bridge hostel. The first message he sent to me confused me a little, as it was sent to me by accident: 'Hi Abi. More food arriving in car park by garden shortly. Please come down to collect asap.' (No doubt many residents of the hostel would have been very glad to hear this news.) He also found some time to deliver food to people who needed it through the Round Chapel Old School Rooms and I met him once there when he came to collect a round in August.
Anthony also shared his gifts by setting up a website for local mutual aid groups, had multiple business including a fruit juicing business, and ideas for charities, including setting up a homeless hostel. He was a talented artist.
His partner Kareen shared this poem with me:
Technicolour Ant - By Janine Fortune
You are everywhere,
In the bright colours of the fair
On a skateboard by the river
In a pair of shiny sunglasses
With a shy, warm smile
That bubbles into carefree laughter
As you share your gifts with the world.
Your presence so vivid,
A vibrant splash of warmth
Shared with family friends and strangers
Memories of your kindness
Swirl in the air like the intricate patterns
of the summer bandanas you adored.
You dreamt of creating and shaping
change for those who could not help themselves.
Brave enough to seek your own path
You challenged convention,
with your originality that dared to be free
Hanging out with your friends,
Taking it easy, creating new goals
Guiding others to their inner child
The sunshine inside of you always
So much fun, so much vision,
You will always be surrounded by our love.
As your eyes that smiled into soft crinkles
Join the stars
We thank you for making our lives
Brighter, more beautiful, for having walked
These steps with you in colour.