Last week, the bombing of the Boston Marathon, another “little death” of innocence, plunged me into despair. Very slowly I began seeking, and finding, some glimmers of hope in an inner darkness: first came music, next came sharing of food, and now comes testimony of another source of healing. Like music, it is a traditional source: NATURE.
Our friend Evamaria, in Cologne, Germany, has a delightful backyard garden with a tiny pond. Our mutual friend Christel takes wonderful photos of it. Spring was still teetering on the edge here yesterday when via email I received this primrose set off by blue lace. Here’s another testimony to Evamaria’s love of gardening:
Evamaria’s garden was laid out and engineered by her father. It is a legacy for her. He also took her walking and climbing in mountains, another legacy. I, on the other hand, was a city child. From my memoir, Convergence (Doubleday, 1993):
I walked on paved streets, paved sidewalks, paved alleyways. I was never aware of walking on the earth. We had no fields, no crops, no rivers, no lakes, no mountains or woods…. My rivers were the waters rushing in the gutters after a hard rain; my mountains, the mounds of snow my father shoveled in the back. Wildlife in Brooklyn consisted of Japanese beetles and mosquitoes and little black ants on the front stoop with which my sister Mindy would play; and inside the house there were silverfish. Not roaches, which are ugly and come from dirt, but translucent darting silverfish, which feed on books and glue and papers, a civilized diet.
It’s been a liberal education for the Hub and me to visit so often with our friends, for whom living and exploring and wandering in Nature is, well, second nature. But for this once-and-forever city child, books are my natural refuge, not Mother Nature. So it’s no wonder I needed a reminder that life goes on, the earth keeps spinning, the flowers emerge, and the universe is far vaster than the uglinesses humans can contrive to spoil it.
Evamaria’s garden got me thinking about flowers, and how I love all of them, especially the brightest and boldest. And I got to thinking about the symbolism of color, because beyond beauty there is also meaning. For instance, red:
Red to us most often evokes blood, destruction, and death. Blood for the ancients, however, had an opposite meaning. For them also, red symbolized blood, but blood itself meant LIFE, the lifeblood that flows through our veins so long as we live. Red stands for vitality, vita, the Latin word for life.
Purple was the color of royalty in ancient times; only rulers — emperors, kings, queens — were allowed to wear purple. “Born to the purple” means being born into nobility. Later on it became the color of the very highest Lord, symbolizing Jesus’ Passion on the Cross. White has always been the color of purity, at least in the West. (In China, it sometimes is the color of death. Perhaps purity itself can be a kind of death?)
Yellow, of course, is the symbol of the sun.
And blue symbolizes the sky, the vault of heaven.
All these flowers, of course, grow in bowers of green, and green is the color of growth. Green symbolizes Nature herself. So a garden is not simply a garden, it is also the pattern and glass of our universe. And so for me at this raw time, Nature’s greatness and our littleness becomes a comfort, and a source of hope.
Perhaps it is a source of hope for you also.