For someone who spent much of his childhood indoors, nature and the outdoors are now vital to my health and productivity. After doing my morning routines, I go outside for a piece of sky and fresh air. Whether the sky is dropping rain or sunshine, just being outdoors completes my waking up. Midday, sated with work indoors I step outside, walk among the flowers, look up at trees, inspect the bugs and worms at their labors, and I am refreshed.
This was not always so. It was the first thing I did after I moved into a condominium twenty years ago. People move to a condominium to free themselves of mowing the grass and maintaining the shrubberies and trees. I dug up sod and planted a garden. I was fortunate to have the assistance of my friend, Don Choy, who had worked extensively in greenhouses in Chicagoland. He pointed to a shrub and informed me of its scientific and common names. Naming is how items from both Heaven and Earth become presences in our life. Remember Elohim in the Hebrew book of Genesis?
Donald told me the natural histories of each species he named, what it required to flourish, what color flowers it was known to bear, and how it was propagated. As we dug up rocks and stones from what had been a gravel pit, I listened to biographies of plants I had given short shrift to before. We threw in bags of composted manure and top soil, stuck starts and sowed seeds, and wonder in me growing, I had my first vegetal babies. Every spring thereafter, and in the fall, too, I added new plantings and dug up more sod. The garden grew until I decided to end warfare with the condo association and let the landscape crew henceforth widen my borders as they wished as they did their spring maintenance.
Plant life, I found out, was like human and animal life. Plants may not move about as much or as widely as we do; they may not express their preferences as quickly; they may not speak or growl or purr or quack but like us they are alive and to be alive is to change with unfolding circumstance. I learned about myself from watching plants grow, wither, flourish, procreate, die.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
The Poet of Righteous Fury was right. In Auguries of Innocence he linked nature outside us with nature inside. Both spoke in the same tenor, really of the same life or source of life.
A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage…
A Dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State…
And for me, most touching:
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fiber from the Brain does tear.
Blake’s hallucinatory images are as gripping today as they were in 1803. These lines may exculpate us of responsibility if we read them while asleep:
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.
To know that life inherently brings joy or sorrow is to try to name what joys we can propagate, what sorrows exterminate. Inside and outside, the same drama of loss and gain, of rejection and attraction, of hatred and love. I walk in the garden then come back in to compose my thoughts. Man is made for joy and woe….
Posted via email from Duende Arts