Sunday, June 28, 2009

the Greening

In the 12th Century C.E. abbess and mystic Hildegard of Bingen coined the word veriditas, a blend of the Latin words for "green" and "truth." Verditas describes nature's divine healing power, the power under life that sustains all life. When we eat green plants, we take in veriditas. We re-connect with nature through veriditas.

Gardening is an active participation in the lifeforce, in the mysteries of the universe, in creation, in management. When I garden, I feel connected to the earthpower. When I tour caves, deep underground, one of my favorite kinds of place to visit when I am traveling, I feel surrounded by the earth, by Earth, by Gaia, by the earthpower, by the element of Earth, the element I am naturally strongest in. When I re-connect with Earth, I come back to center, I find healing, I find solace and comfort. Earthworms constantly churn the topsoil: everything we love that grows, every ounce of soil, has passed through an earthworm's digestive canal, at one time or another, to be cleansed.

There is a spiritual capacity in carbon as there is a carbon component functioning in our highest spiritual experience. If some scientists consider that all this is merely a material process, then what they call matter, I call mind, soul, spirit, or consciousness. Possibly it is a question of terminology, since scientists too on occasion use terms that express awe and mystery. Most often, perhaps, they use the expression that some of the natural forms they encounter seem to be “telling them something."
—Thomas Berry

My purpose is to garden, to watch the cycles of life and death that spin the Yearwheel round. My purpose is to make art, music, poems, because to make is to participate with the Divine in Co-Creation. My purpose is to get out of my own way. My purpose is to keep going, to keep making art, even on the day I die.

Meister Eckhart compares the work of the artist with the Annunciation scene. The spirit that comes over Mary and begets the Christ in Mary. He says this is the same spirit that comes over the artist and begets the Christ. So this is the Cosmic Christ being born in you. And of course it’s Eckhart who says, “What good is it if Mary gave birth to the son of God 1400 years ago and I don’t give birth to the son of God in my own person in my own work.” That’s art. What you give birth to is the Christ, or the Shekinah the wisdom, or the Buddha nature. You are giving birth to it just like Mary.
—Matthew Fox

Everything that is, is alive. The world is alive with beauty, with grace, with seed. I make thousands of photographs of flowers in bloom: flowers, the sexual organs of the plant in question. The sexual display. The Divine's creative sexuality, fecund with the greening, with veriditas. My friend Al calls these photos bee porn.

There is no creation that does not have a radiance. Be it greenness or seed, blossom or beauty, it could not be creation without it.
—Hildegard of Bingen

Gardening is aprticipation, is co-creation. So is making art. But art-making needs to be done with the intention to co-create. Poets most praise, for poetry is either praise or masturbation. Art-making must be done with concentration, focus, and attention. It must also be done with intention. Not mere self-pleasuring, but in order to get something out, to get it down, to spell it clearly.

The mere process of fixing imagery onto surfaces or forms does not ensure spiritual development. It is the intention and awareness from which artists create that determine whether their work will serve mammon, ego or spirit.
—Alex Grey, artist

Intention does not mean fixing meaning. It does not mean interpretation, or programme. Intention does mean focused awareness, and thinking of the consequences of actions. Why is there so much ugly art in the world? Is it still trying to shock us with its newness?

I plant lilies, I plant hosta, I plant bulbs and rooted plants, and know they will eventually spread. Fecund and green, the rising life that emerges each spring from the soil in my garden is life itself, returning after winter's dormant slumber. In early spring the ferns grow from fiddlehead to full expanse, from mere fingers of light into long shade-shelters.

And there is an inner music. I hear the roots grow, ever so slowly. I hear the worms crawl inside the soil, rough and smooth, rasping and swallowing. I hear the scrape of cricket's legs on fallen leaves. I hear

Underneath all the texts, all the sacred psalms and canticles, these watery varieties of sounds and silences, terrifying, mysterious, whirling and sometimes gestating and gentle must somehow be felt in the pulse, ebb, and flow of the music that sings in me. My new song must float like a feather on the breath of God.
—Hildegard of Bingen

The soul is a breath of living spirit that
with excellent sensitivity
permeates the entire body to give it life.
Just so,
The breath of the air makes the earth fruitful.
Thus the air is the soul of the earth,
Moistening it; greening it.

—Hildegard of Bingen

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

This is one area where I find I stand at a distance from you and wonder. When we were looking for this flat there were two conditions I imposed on Carrie, 1) we should each be able to have our own offices, and 2) no garden. Both were, I'm happy to report, satisfied.

I just don't think I have a spiritual bone in my body. I can enjoy greenery but it doesn't affect me like it does you. If I never stepped outside my front door again it really wouldn't trouble me that much. And it's not that Nature is alien to me because all my childhood was spent wandering around it. The thing was, I didn't seek it out, it was on my doorstep and so that was where I played. I miss the sea on occasions but that's about it.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

No worries.

I know I've said all this before, in other ways. It's really not meant to convince anyone. It's just a report of how I experience the world, life, nature, etc. It's an oceanic merging, a feeling of oneness. It's not just the mystics who report this, though; it's also been studied and reported on by the transpersonal psychologists, notably Abraham Maslow. There are also accounts from the martial arts direction, notably George Leonard's "The Silent Pulse."

I postulate that everyone has some kind of spiritual aspect to life; although we might not all label it that. If nothing else, it's the contemplation of the big mysteries. Death is pretty much unavoidably a spiritual question, unless we're so anti-spirituality that we avoid it.

Just my opinion, of course.

8:58 AM  
Blogger John Ettorre said...

I must admit I've always secretly envied people who are into gardening. I've never had the patience for it, though I appreciate the results immensely. Perhaps as I get older my hungry mind and restless energy will somehow find a way to make peace with the different rhythms it involves. But then, how different can they be from those required for reading and writing?

1:20 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hi, John—

I'm discovering on a whole new level that gardening is an art of imperfection that requires a great deal of patience. You have to wait a long time, sometimes, before you see results. It's not something you can ever hurry.

My Dad, as I've written before, was a gardener. It was his therapy. He came home from the doctor's office each evening, and dug his hands in the dirt. When he'd done that he was always in a good mood for dinner and the rest of the evening. He shed his work stress that way.

Now that I'm a home owner, for the first time, I really have the chance to do gardening. I never have before. I've always felt connected to the greening, but now I have the opportunity to get my own hands in the dirt.

I just weeded a huge section of my corner plot, and planted some day lilies, which should spread over the next couple of years. I have a wide variety of perennial plants in place now, mostly flowering plants, although you can never have too many hosta.

It's going to be a year from now before I really begin to see what I've done take shape. It takes time. It can take as long as five seasons before a garden begins to fall into the shapes you expect it to, that you've worked for. Depending on the plants, maybe faster, maybe slower. Since I'm dealing almost entirely with perennials, because they'll come back each year, and because they can survive my travel absences, it can take longer than if I just planted annuals.

Annuals are for the impatient, in some ways. They yield immediate results, but they don't come back every year, and you have to plant new ones every year. That's fine if you want to work hard every year, and change your garden every year.

I'm more interested in my garden growing a little more slowly, but taking root a lot more deeply.

3:20 PM  

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