About The Writer & Forest Gardener
Updated: Apr 14, 2019
David Buckton is an emerging forest gardener, entrepreneur, multimedia artist and writer. He is developing Turaida forest garden as a small scale permaculture-influenced, sustainably oriented multidisciplinary project in Niagara South with his wife and fellow artist, Michelle White. In another chapter of their lives, they were health care professionals living in the city.
David studied Creative Non-fiction at Humber College. Both David and Michelle were once practicing Optometrists who retired because they didn't love their jobs, sold their practices to study and be closer to family and friends; they sought to reinvent themselves from a life of independently owned and operated clinical professionalism to one as multidisciplinary freelance artisans and other small business projects.
The small business thinking was always there. There didn't appear to be other options for them. Both sets of parents helped to encourage them towards this independence. The exposure to the first generation communities in Kitchener Waterloo (and the GTHA) helped encourage them to think about business incentives, since they were everywhere. People worked hard, and studied hard. Life goes by fast in those circumstances. The small town craftsmanship and artisan work seen across Nova Scotia promoted Michelle (before moving to Ontario) in this direction as well.
After being accepted into a multidisciplinary Master's Program at Trent University, David later decided to pursue forest gardening since as Robert Hart describes, '...because it just made sense' (from Farming the Woods: An integrative Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests, p 32). At that time, he felt he had enough of formal education, but never lost his passion for learning.
While the transition was a difficult challenge, this necessary step happened in the field as the emerging forest garden progressed over the years. There were obstacles along the roadway, but the path became clearer, easier to see to walk along as we kept going along.
It helped to have others there, but as many are aware, the resilience needs to be established on one's own for oneself, and as a couple. No one else can do what each individual needs to do for themselves; likewise, each couple on their own must discover this as a couple.
David tries to explain: "To be "frankly" honest, the quasi-monastic lifestyle has been a longstanding pursuit (see the purchased photo of the French abbey we visited during our family vacation road trip to Europe back in those days) that only recently became a passion. It chose me, not the other way around. I bought the photo at a turning point before leaving home for University. But I appreciate it now that I see it and appreciate it for what it is. It's hard not to feel this piece of art was misunderstood - even by myself."
"My cousin, now a theoretical Physics prof., Duncan Mowbray (who is now a 'far away' friend, and was in school a housemate throughout University) pointed out how we were 'turning into monks' back in undergrad at Roy Street in Kitchener, when we were both studying Science at the University of Waterloo. It was very hard to see how right he was back then."
"The family background was in medicine, with its logic and exactness of hard sciences was a strange place to start thinking about becoming a multimedia and multidisciplinary artist. Further still, exploring spirituality through music and forest gardening seemed inconceivable back then. Medicine was considered the cure for lots in life, and holistic thinking wasn't 'in the picture'. Everything was so separate back then. It all seemed too surreal to think of in a serious way."
"This photo of the abbey stayed on the wall of my entrance with me during my school years. It protected me somehow in a way I couldn't grasp. Now, it still hangs on a wall in our home at Turaida forest garden as if I always knew it. The reflection in the water of the abbey was that of my own image."
"I was longstanding resident in the heritage district in Olde Berlin towne (Kitchener), down the street from the main branch of the Kitchener Public library for nearly a decade. Everything was there for me as a student, but the University was a half hour bike ride. The beautiful painted mural on the wall in the main front room of the library shared a common identity with the photo we're discussing. The Abbey photo reminded me of it. I missed the old neighbourhood so much after school we tried moving back but it didn't make sense, since we were no longer students. We had outgrown the shoes. We needed somewhere new - a new fit."
"I didn't make the connection to monasteries until I noticed a common thread existing between some the authors that made such an impact (such as Terry Eagleton, Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Alain de Botton, Thomas Hardy, social psychologist Eric Fromm, psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, and others). The old cathedrals in Europe, the stained glass art, the simple living that rejected the some of the excesses of Western materialism and Eastern asceticism, the forest gardening, the hooded shirts, the music full of inspiration, and old books pointed me back to a modern kind of monasticism we sought out with the Turaida forest garden. We were surrounded by so many Churches where we were. Michelle became part of the picture for years in the second half of school. While it wasn't the happiest part of our lives, we persevered, lived to survive, and survived to live another chance at happiness. I can't emphasize this enough for those suffering and can't find a way out. Look within yourself. We found other things we enjoyed doing and moved on."
"I was baptized down the street at St Andrews, then we were at St Johns not far away, and the library was basically kitty corner to the Church on Queen Street. All the civic centres were there, including for music, KW's 'The Center in the Square'. There were connections in town since we grew up in North Waterloo. But I was studying Science not Art. I studied History and Art in my spare time later. It caught up with me. You can run, but you can't hide from who you are. Now, I study, design and create living, nonlinear waveforms in the emerging forest garden. The Science and Health care background adds a new spin on the experience."
"I used a holistic approach after studying in many different subjects and traveled in several countries. We realized that including a multidisciplinary approach as artists was more flexible, dynamic and lots more fun. Naturally, language as a writer, and music would also allow for this holistic approach. I wrote an essay based on Avatar (click the link to view) when I was studying in Toronto (at York U) that changed my life since it helped me to complete part of my education. The essay became a doorway (see the Abbey photo) that opened up a collage of contested signs, myths, narratives and identities that forced me to confront some of the challenges that came with interpretations related to a concept of identities and the meanings we attach to them."
"It made me realize my best work was when I had a passion for what I studied. Writing creative non-fiction with the help of Canadian writer Susan Swan during the College writing program was an important starting point. It was the beginning of my writing experience. It was a personal transformation. I realized I worked better independently, in a less competitive environment and free of distractions."
"What was interesting is that Mom told me more recently that someone close to me told her so back when I was a child. My "Babushka" (a patient of Dad's who was a kind older woman, of no relation to me) on Mansion street told my mom when I was young (when she baby sat us) that I was very competitive. "When I was young"...She was right. It is also the name of a song I later connected with. I set standards nobody could meet, even for myself. There are others like me that don't know this. Wake up."
"The kindness she reciprocated to us as children and my family in return from my Father's provision of health care, strengthened my faith in the Russian people as a person of Latvian ancestry. It opened me up to Russian artists and thinkers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, classical musicians like Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky and EDM producers like Zedd and Shapov. In short, Grandma Vujic broke down barriers for me during the Cold war that are still helping me now much later in life."
"I developed a love of EDM and other genres of music (including classical) when jogging everywhere I lived, then writing, then in the forest garden that has transformed my relationship with nature, art and God. However, I am appreciative for all those who helped me along the journey at school and colleges along the way. It led us to leave the city for more land for gardening to add diversity of the forest setting. We wanted to try homestead gardening. Wainfleet has helped us to find ourselves in country life, despite our cloistered living. The city and the country together were important for synthesis."
While busy on the site throughout the seasons, he writes articles and enjoys discussing their project to promote and introduce forest gardening to others. While he had considered public speaking, his longstanding apprehension with crowds since his earliest travels to larger centres limits this form of communication. "This started back when travelling to huge ancient centres like London, England and Paris. While I enjoyed the architecture, and cultural experiences, to be honest the cramped quarters packed with people seemed foreign compared to the more open spaces in centres in Canada."
"What is Forest Gardening?" is the first series of articles based on his talks. With a background in health sciences, David is raising awareness and promoting the holistic benefits of forest gardening.
He enjoys discussing forest garden projects and other current events with many of the guests at Turaida. His hobbies include a book collection ( that also includes some rare, out of print and used books), a youtube music channel (click link) that helps him to forest garden, and history. The book collection was an idea that the renowned Freudian scholar professor Todd Dufresne gave to him in an intro philosophy course in Thunder Bay (see the link here on Walter Benjamin and his book collecting connection to identity).
Photo of David at Turaida Forest Garden, January 2019
1931. Unpacking My Library. A Talk About Book Collecting. From Literarische Welt 1931, translated by Harry Zohn. https://www.archdaily.com/771939/the-long-ish-read-walter-benjamin-unpacking-his-library (last accessed March 20, 2019)
Mudge, Ken & Gabriel, Steve.
2014. Farming The Woods. An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Cameron, James, and Landau, Robert.
2009. Avatar. Lightstorm Entertainment.
ADDED NOTES & MUSIC REFERENCES:
Sir Isaiah Berlin wrote on so many subjects. His books helped me when I moved back to Kitchener. The library had many of his works. Likewise, Terry Eagleton was a figure that I cannot pretend hasn't been there since Thunder Bay. Hermann Hesse was there in the summers in Undergrad. Now, authors such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Richard Florida are gaining ground. Many other writers were and remain important (see bottom of intro slide in this like to the website for more writers as they relate to forest gardening).
Philosophy Professor Todd Dufresne was an important helpful influence (and reference point) during my early scholarly years when I sought out academic pursuits back in Thunder Bay at Lakehead University. Todd was the director the "Agency", as AIG +C (The Advanced Institute for Globalization and Culture), an institute that lacked the funding to stay alive, but brought a wonderful scholarly life to several of the philosophy students in the 'Far North' back then. His emphasis on having your own copy of books and making your own notes (with Walter Benjamin) within stays with me today.
I would also like to give a special thank you to all the musicians (and their related music videos) that have been so "instrumental" in waking me up to life in music as an inspiration in the forest garden. There are so many that helped out, it's hard to list them all. Piano lessons back as a child were helpful. EDM was an obvious choice since it is so dynamic. But also classical, folk, indie, jazz, synthwave, ambient, chill and chillhop, avant garde music, rock, disco, R & B, alt rock, pop, electro pop, funk, rap, blues, etc...Who invented the concept of genre? It reminds me of cataloguing problems in the libraries. They might be seen as a way referencing mainly in language and limited by semantics itself.
Without placing too much of an emphasis on order here (what should the "Order" mean?), special mentions go out to Tiesto (it's his Club Life podcast that became popular), MO, Avicii, Zedd, Lykke Li, Kygo, Diplo, Major Lazer, Pete Tong, Snakehips, Gorgon City, Nujabes, Robin Schulz & David Guetta, Keith Jarrett, both brothers Paul & Fritz Kalkbrenner, Daft Punk, M83, Darius, Martin Solveig, Kylie Minogue, Dua Lipa, Klingande, Kungs, Nora en Pure, Axwell /\ Ingrosso, Galantis, Madonna, Coldplay, Foster the People, Martin Garrix, Don Diablo, Tobtok, Alesso, Madison Mars, Syn Cole, Shapov, JAYC, The Knocks, Tycho, Benny Bennassi, Promise Land, and Steve Adams & other NuDisco artists. Of course, Europe seems like the place to start thinking about some of the EDM and other influences.
I can't forget about Canadian musicians and djs, such as Chris Shepard who was an early influence back in Kitchener in the old days (when we would go out on the town and dance at night after exams). Others, like Loud Luxury, Vanic, Shaun Frank, DVBBS, Dzeko (and Torres), and many others are here when I'm out in the forest garden. There's still so many I'm discovering and remembering. It's kind of silly to think of listing them all and placing some kind of order, or meaning to an order here. Like a forest garden, it would be hard to place some plants above others, even when they appear that way in the space. Everyone should matter.
The original EDM influence came from early French house that was introduced to me during a school exchange trip (the maiden voyage overseas) to Nantes, France with Yoanne Dray when I was 16 years old. It was the memory of ABBA's disco from fellow Latvian family friends that led to the interest in the emerging Nudisco genre following in their footsteps. Depeche Mode and Erasure were other bands which started me off the journey I'm still on as a multimedia musical artist.