Category Archives: buddhism

Poetry & Zen

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Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream, so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies. Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally into it. Poems are a bit like this too. The experience of a poem gives both distance and involvement: one is closer and farther at the same time.

Traditions of deliberate attention to consciousness, and of making poems, are as old as humankind. Meditation looks inward, poetry holds forth. One is private, the other is out in the world. One enters the moment, the other shares it. But in practice it is never entirely clear which is doing which. In any case, we do know that in spite of the contemporary public perception of meditation and poetry as special, exotic, and difficult, they are both as old and as common as grass. The one goes back to essential moments of stillness and deep inwardness, and the other to the fundamental impulse of expression and presentation.

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I started writing poetry in my adolescence, to give voice to some powerful experiences that I had while doing snowpeak mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest. At first I wrote “directly as I felt.” Then I discovered the work of Robinson Jeffers and D.H. Lawrence. Aha, I thought, there is more to poetry. I became aware of poetry as a craft—a matter of working with materials and tools—that has a history, with different applications and strategies all over the world over tens of thousands of years. I came to understand poetry as a furthering of language. (Language is not something you learn in school, it is a world you’re born into. It is part of the wildness of Mind. You master your home tongue without conscious effort by the age of five. Language with its sinuous syntax is not unlike the thermal dynamics of weather systems, or energy exchanges in the food chain—completely natural and vital, part of what and who we are. Poetry is the leap off of [or into] that.)

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I think I had come to understand something about play: to be truly serious you have to play. That’s on the side of poetry, and of meditation, too. In fact, play is essential to everything we do—working on cars, cooking, raising children, running corporations—and poetry is nothing special. Language is no big deal. Mind is no big deal. Meaning or no-meaning, it’s perfectly okay. We take what’s given us, with gratitude.

The poet in us can be seen at both the beginning and the end of a life. Everybody knows a child can come up with a rhyme, a song, a poem that will delight us. At the same time, the old priest on his deathbed will write a poem, his last act. The most refined and accomplished people will express their deepest understanding in a poem—and the absolute beginner will not hesitate to try to express a transient transcendent moment. There is no sure way to predict which poem will be better than the other.

Poetry is democratic, Zen is elite. No! Zen is democratic, poetry is is elite. Which is it? Everybody can do zazen, but only a few do poetry. Everybody can do poetry but only a few can really do zazen. Poetry (and the literary world) has sometimes been perceived as dangerous to the spirit career, but also poems have been called upon to express the most delicate and profound spiritual understanding.

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Beyond wild. This can indeed include language. Poetry is how language experiences itself. It’s not that the deepest spiritual insights cannot be expressed in words (they can, in fact) but that words cannot be expressed in words. So our poems are full of real presences. “Save a ghost,” you might be asked by your teacher—or an owl, or a rainforest, or a demon. Walking that through and then putting a poem to it is a step on the way toward realization. But the path has many switchbacks and a spiritual journey is strewn with almost as many land mines as a poet’s path. Let us all be careful (and loose as a goose) together.

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Spending time with your own mind is humbling and broadening. One finds that there’s no one in charge, and is reminded that no thought lasts for long. The marks of the Buddhist teachings are impermanence, no-self, the inevitability of suffering, interconnectedness, emptiness, the vastness of mind, and the provision of a Way to realization. An accomplished poem, like an exemplary life, is a brief presentation, a uniqueness in the oneness, a complete expression, and a kind gift exchange in the mind-energy webs.

Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder lives in the northern Sierra Nevada and practices in the Linji Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist tradition.  Pulitzer prize-winning poet and essayist, his most recent book is Practice of the Wild (North Point Press).

An extract from the Introduction to Beneath a Single Moon: Legacies of Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry. Edited by Kent Johnson and Craig Paulenich (Shambhala Publications).

The first image is a detail from Felicity Aylieff’s Lotus Flowers (2006) at the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, and the second and third are from Akio Suzuki’s wonderful show at the Globe Gallery, Newcastle, part of this year’s AV Festival.  The fourth and fifth are Alstromerias and a reclining Buddha on my window sills at home.

 

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Perfection

photoA renga from Harnham Buddhist Monastery yesterday; the genius loci schema adapted to incorporate the Ten Perfections (paramis – positive qualities to cultivate as part of the Buddhist path – generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolve, kindness, equanimity).  Ajahn Sucitto calls them ‘ways to cross life’s floods’:

The parami take spiritual practice into areas of our lives where we get confused, are subject to social pressure and are often strongly influenced by stress or stress-forming assumptions.  Providing alternative ways to orient the mind in the stream of daily events, the ‘perfections’ can derail obstructive inner activities and leave the mind clear .  Cultivating parami means you get to steer your life out of the floods.

Tomorrow night we’ll gather for our ritual of Forgiveness and Aspiration – the best way I know to begin a new year.  The New Moon, traditionally a good time for setting fresh intentions, falls on 31st so this year our usually rather arbitrary ‘new’ beginning should have added resonance.  May you have a peaceful and clear crossing of the threshold at the dark of the moon.

Getting Used To Darkness

Brief blue scatterings

lighten the limbo

at the end of the year

*

cold gates clunking

mark the way in

*

the open water

receives sun, breeze

and a lone swan

*
getting used to darkness

I know you are there

*

how even the body relaxes

when you enter a house

full of good people

*

Emma watched the pull

to text back many times

*

fear’s sour taste –

not having

not being enough

*

we sit with the impossibility

of nothing

*

these walls built from stone

out of the fields

they now enclose

*

two gardeners

on their hands and knees

*

the bleached tree guards

stake out a promise

of soft glade and birdsong

*

crossed fingers behind your back

won’t do it

*
spines on cacti

fine and scarlet

beneath dim light

*

grant me a spider’s skill

her slow spun wheel

*

he listened

with complete attention

to the difficult guest

*

geese graze tight-in

amongst the Cheviot ewes

*

dark clouds

arced glow

rippling at the shore

*

a rumour of snowdrops

instead of first snow

*

the young oak

have yet to learn

to shed their leaf

*

two hundred kilos of salt

awaiting the weather.

 

A genius loci/parami renga

at Harnham Buddhist Monastery

on 29th December, 2013.

 

 

Participants:

Ajahn Abhinando

John Bower

Chandra Candiani

Linda France

Geoff Jackson

Linda Kent

Eileen Ridley

Tim Rubidge

Christine Taylor

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An Unfinished Story

Living, as distinct from literary, speech is continually interrupted, and there is never a single thread.

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What can happen in twenty-four hours may outlast a century.

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Silence can be like a hand extended.  (Or, of course, under different circumstances, a hand cut off.)

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Write by hand with a knuckle bleeding.  Like this blood underlines some of the words.

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Every story is about an achievement, otherwise there’s no story.

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Hope today is a contraband passed from hand to hand and from story to story.

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from John Berger’s Bento’s Sketchbook (Verso 2011)

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Full Moon

photoToday gathering kindling in the woods behind my house it was lovely to see the drifts of wood sorrel bathed in sunlight.  Now the season’s a little more sure of itself, I’m starting to enjoy exploring the contrasts between Home and Away, North and South and City and Country – a strong impulse for my writing.

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Oxalis acetosella (wood sorrel or common wood sorrel) is also known as Alleluia, as it generally flowers between Easter and Pentecost.  Like everything else, it’s late this year but the coolness will also keep it in bloom for longer than usual.  The acetosella part of its name refers to the tart citrusy flavour of the leaves; heart-shaped and folded, they are a particularly vivid green.  The white flowers have fine mauve lines pencilled inside each petal.

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Tonight it’s Vesakha Puja – the full moon of May being the traditional time to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday.  Blessings on all beings this holiday weekend!

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Cherry Blossom in Tokyo

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Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a 15-minute walk away from Shinjuku Station, the busiest in the world.  I was staying halfway between the two.  The 144 acre green space belonged to a feudal lord of the Emperor in the Edo period (16th/17th centuries).  In 1879 it was officially named a Botanic Garden, primarily concerned with experiments in fruit, vegetable and orchid cultivation.  Even though it is now used more like a park (opened to the public on 21st May 1949, redeveloped after most of it was destroyed in a World War II air raid), there are still many different varieties of trees (20,000 specimens) and shrubs, a French formal garden and an English landscape garden, a traditional Japanese garden and several tea houses and pavilions, as well as a splendid greenhouse (just finished last year) with some wonderful tropical plants and its own rock-hewn waterfall.  It has been a favourite place for cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami) since 1917.  All these layers played a part in my choosing to make Shinjuku Gyoen my base while I was in Tokyo.

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It was my friend Alec Finlay who suggested I make a renga while I was there.  I loosened the form to allow me to write it as more of a journal, a record of my impressions.  The sections (divided by asterisks) represent the passage of the days.  The final part was written more formally at three different locations over the course of my final afternoon.  Fortuitously, the whole thing fell naturally into 108 verses, auspicious in Buddhism – the number of beads on a mala, used to count the reciting of mantras, or prayers.

Sakura is what the Japanese call the cherry blossom and this covers all the varieties, flowering at intervals throughout Spring.  I arrived just past the peak – they opened unusually early this year – but there were still plenty in bloom and people out watching, and picnicking when the weather was fine.  Ordinarily there is much carousing at a hanami party but this being a State garden, bringing in alcohol is forbidden and bags are searched on entering.

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Cherry blossom is associated with clouds – a teaching on impermanence.  Watching the petals fall – hanafubuki – is thought to be even more beautiful and special.  If a petal lands on you, it is supposed to bring good luck for the rest of the year.  As far as I could see, it was impossible not to be covered with petals when a breeze blew.

Sakura marks the beginning of Spring and a New Year in Japan: this is the start of the academic and financial years.  The shops are full of diaries that begin in April and there is a wonderful sense of freshness and excitement that winter is finally past.  The whole family goes to see the cherry blossom – walk, eat, drink and take photographs.  To me it seemed like some sort of natural phenomenon and I was very happy to be part of it.

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My journey started in January with the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore, talk of Spring and images of cherry blossom everywhere.  It seems fitting that it ended in April with my getting to see the Real Thing.

reflections

Sakura Renga Journal

From the train
bamboo
and wild cherry

the sight of a pagoda
announces my arrival

in back gardens
trees pruned
cloudwise

flatlands
agricultural, rectilinear

already blossom
breaking
my heart open

an ‘accident’ creates delays
no mention of suicide

a deep bow
from the buffet guy
at the end of the carriage

spiked trees
pollarded, leafless

*
woken by rain
my first thought
cherry blossom!

even wet and jetlagged
my meridians lift

the umbrellas
of Tokyo
precision choreography

enormous black crows
raucous against pink

falling rain
makes the garden
more beautiful

lawns, ponds, stones
everything just so

for the first time
I see how dark
the bough is

the downpour easing
only the occasional petal

as many blossoms
as people
on these islands

paths dredged
with sugar pink

close-up
three, four or five flowers
on each stem

branches’ entrechats
a dancer’s grace

as soon as you walk in
voices call out
to greet you

the most photographed trees
in the world

in Restaurant Yurinoki
even the cake
is floral

soundtrack of cool jazz
unexpected, perfect

a man smuggles
whisky in
with his bento box

hanafubuki
cherry blossom blizzard

because we can’t talk
I offer what I hope
are my best smiles

ancient trees
swaddled and propped

stems are shedding
their petals
I’m not wearing enough clothes

wrapped in plastic
guards patrol the avenues

daffodils dying
a different spring
closer to the bone

no sense of the city
briefly elsewhere

*
the pergola roof
a bird’s nest
of clipped vines

boulders strewn with petals
spring snow

puddles echo
the outline of the ponds
or vice versa

ginkgo majestic
in its original home

stepping stones
invite you
to approach the water

so much on the ground
still so much on the trees

branches bow low
they so want to touch
us, the earth

reflections in the ripples
pixelated pink and green

crows cawing
command
the park’s four corners

no fresh clever way
to talk about sakura

a gap in the rain
the space
between two trees

like the traveller
it comes and it goes

a bottle
of hot green tea
soothes my hands

the crackle of my poncho
the keening of sirens

in the minority
western faces
wear their own lostness

always another view
to be discovered

there are the trees
and what the trees
make possible

in the absence of rain
everything changes

a spring
like no season
I’ve ever seen before

speckled membrane
skimming the ground

because it’s new
no one knows
what’s about to begin

the rain stops
the people appear

why’s it easier
to love away
better than home?

below a certain temperature
the mind seizes

if I sat here
long enough
I’d start talking Japanese

wind picks up
blossom lets go

a discipline –
staying faithful
to the cherry blossom

everyone still
watching the storm of petals

what falls
is only what’s necessary
to fall

the luxury
of not belonging

this garden
owned by a government
given to the people

one encounter
one opportunity

bearing the cold
for the pleasure
of warmth later

the colour of trust
unfolding

hooped railings
alongside the paths
are also clouds

dramatic and subtle
simultaneous

blossom
baby soft
just born

all the girls gorgeous
round-cheeked and straight-backed

4pm and a ringing of bells
a woman’s voice
the park is closing

the tannoy’s last tune
Auld Lang Syne!

*
the return
of the sun
an old friend

the garden alive
with voices, laughter

cherry blossom
in sunlight
universal happiness

the trees’ shadows
still in full bloom

that pink
darker, rosier
from a distance

a million moths
petals flying

sakura
and the people
are one society

my pages blessed
with the petals’ luck

stripped sepals
clustered tufts
flushed

the smallest children
already enchanted

two ants
forage
among the scatterings

the only response
joy, rapture

turtles bask
on the margins
of stone and water

carved from granite
the sunlit lantern

throats warmed
high-pitched birds chatter
hidden in the maples

billows of box, yew
fringe the pond

paper boats drifting
petals float
under the bridge

a single pine
on the peninsula

the tiniest blue tits
acrobats
on the tallest branches

grateful for the veil
of latticed shade

east meets west
the poet
is photographed

the pavilion roof
flows down, flicks up

out of nowhere
a white egret
alert, inquisitive

a shoal of fat carp
mouths agape

a pause between
two bridges –
where we live

old ladies painting
in sunhats and pinnies

sprays of yellow
compete with the pink –
pink wins

the heat summons
all of Tokyo’s insects

a fetid smell
the opposite
of sweet

a pale grey caterpillar
dangles from my hair

some trees
kept neat
a cherry hedge

her red kimono
embroidered with blossoms of gold

not a place
to be alone in
asking to be shared

meeting the sakura
a heart’s wedding

the leaves
will come later
irrepressible chlorophyll

clear-eyed this is
what hope looks like.

A 108 verse renga
from Tokyo,
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden,
1 – 4 April 2013.

LF

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Hanami!

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Today the sun came out – and so did the people, catching the last few days of cherry blossom. I was able to do a proper Hanami Renga, which I will publish later…

…but now to the airport – the beginning of spring well and truly gloried in. I look forward to seeing what it looks like in my neck of the woods.

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Sakura

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Despite the rain, the cherry blossom in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden here in Tokyo is very beautiful – all 1500 trees’ worth.

More hanafubuki than hanami today – watching the petals fall on the wet ground rather than picnicking beneath the boughs.

Part of the significance of the cherry blossom for the Japanese is the way it embodies transience, the ah-ness of things. There’s something melancholy about rain and it added to that sense of fragility and fleetingness.

Especially as I am nothing if not transitional just now. Dropping about ten degrees is one of the ways I’m feeling it. Moving from Autumn to Spring doesn’t sound as if it should involve getting colder, does it?

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A Hinge for the New Year…

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Flower Renga

New year’s day
lilies flush
with unspent pollen

risking themselves, the first
snowdrops, a hellebore

how to describe
the scent of hyacinths
sweet, intense, alive

an infusion of rosebuds
in a glass pot

picking out the stars
by name like flowers
in a night garden

rhododendrons bud
like birthday candles

along Oystershell Lane
brown buddleia rise
above fences painted green

all buckle and tilt
the empty garden

each bud on my magnolia
wrapped
in a pair of miniature wings

iris reticulata
the familiar strange

blue sky and sunlight
birch tree glittering
a fog in my head

poems about my mother
the first flowers

as if I’ve swallowed the city
concrete and metal
cherry, forsythia

so many flowers
furred, miaowing

I sow self-heal
Prunella vulgaris
heart-weed

puffs of smoke
are cypress pollen

her clever way
with daisies
pressed in clay

the room’s a garden
my thousand-petalled heart

six hours of gardening
my winter-stiff body
learning to bend

amaranthus in the hothouse
its crimson dreadlocks

above the birches
a buzzard’s wings
filtered sunlight

planting out mimulus
‘fear of unknown things’

buds plumping
on leafless branches
the foxglove tree

five red freckles
inside the yellow cup (Cowslip)

the garden gathers us in
like children
wanting their mother

too many words
nothing to do with gardens

we walk across
to Dunstanburgh
sea pinks and kittiwakes

a garden transformed
with words and work and weather

‘Derrick Cook’
unpromising name
for such a delicate geranium

ash trees’ pinnate leaves
ripple in the sky

a bumblebee
rings the bells
of the foxglove

in the Tropical House
a lesson in adaptation

all evening
the smell of lilies
before I find them

collecting elderflowers
a gap in the rain

ivy-leaved toadflax
tangled on the wall
yellow lips, purple lips

as if I have no choice
dancing to the tree’s tune

amber? vanilla?
we press our noses
into its white petals (Encyclia abbreviata)

Hylde-moer, Hylde-moer
what is she calling for?

half-Rothko, half O’Keefe
I paint the light
of the flower in oil

Ward 9 – flowers forbidden
he takes his Nanna plastic

five hours
in the meditation garden
a cat’s cradle

gathering mullein flowers
remedy for earache

he splits a root
of meadowsweet
the smell of germolene

dong quai
Chinese angelica

orange and blue petals
in my tea cup
a pot pourri

a day of gifts
a calla lily, chocolate, Patti Smith

coming home
to a crescendo
of white gladioli

trimming the privet
housework outdoors

despite the rain
the fragrance
of sweet peas

in one envelope
a whole garden

harvest mites
berry bugs
chiggers

a sliver between clouds
to cut the grass

sixteen poets
sixteen renga lilies
in the sun

we cut a tray of violas in half
‘yellow duet’

our last day in the garden
is like a wedding –
photographs and cake

Anaphalis – ‘pearl everlasting’
its name a lie

the stink of rot
from the compost bin
clings to my hands

elderflower, lemon, sage
for an equinox cold

seeds of light
on chandeliers
of cow parsley, hogweed

the fern by her bed
an emerald flamenco

petals so gorgeous
you can’t get close enough
like silk, like skin

a glory of an afternoon
calligraphy of thorn and ash

time already up and away –
planting bulbs
I won’t be here to see

everywhere you choose to sit
there is a fountain to cool you

a grass labyrinth
loved and glittering
in russet light

one fallen frangipani
the smell of sex

counting the trunks
on Goethe’s palm
a poet’s blessing

I can’t help but love
her love of the garden

‘a beautiful tree
we sometimes forget
to admire’ (On Radio 4 – the ash)

you paint your toenails
the colour of parma violets

the haiku master
named after a banana
Musa basjoo

bravado of mistletoe
alien, unapologetic

safe in my pocket
the biggest conker
I’ve ever seen

persimmons – like people –
sweeten when they ripen

his reindeer ears
more like flowers
birds of paradise

he draws me
the circle of Ryoan-ji

flowers of glass
a bower
round their door

frost redefines
roadside ivy

a wasp’s nest
enough
for my winter garden

pine and bamboo
keepsake from the cloud gallery. (British Library)

*

Flower verses extracted from the renga journal I kept throughout 2012 – slightly rearranged to fit the requisite patterning in a different context, but pretty much as they were written.  A way of stepping into the new year – reflecting on where I’ve been already and clearing a space for where I might find myself in the months ahead.

Warm wishes to you all for 2013 – a thousand flowers!

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Renga at the End of the Year

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The Gate of the Moon

Nowhere left

for the rain

to run to

*

solar panels capture

a dull grey sky

*

this hill

rising above

winter earth

*

three hundred thousand miles

reflected in a puddle

*

a quick burst

glimpses of red

waxwings scatter

*

assorted woollen socks

circle the rug

*

in awe of grammar

we follow the rules

we have never heard of

*

the white Buddha

mossy round his knees

*

the poetry master said

if you don’t understand anything

it’s all right

*

how convert digital

love to analogue?

*

while the clock ticks

memories chime

to a different rhythm

*

a year’s worth of tears

spilled before breakfast

*

she draws

small villages

when she’s lost

*

the language of light

tells the garden its season

*

how to be an artist?

invite someone dangerous

for tea

*

the fox in Brian’s garden

weighing his options

*

what we’ll see

when it’s all over

the gate of the moon

*

seedheads of honesty

waxy, translucent

*

the mouse carefully sniffs

the air outside

the opened trap

*

budding black already

ash branches, tips uplifting.

A Renga in Winter

at Harnham Buddhist Monastery

on 27th December 2012.

 

 

Participants:

Ajahn Abhinando

John Bower

Chandra Candiani

Linda France

Geoff Jackson

Martha Jackson

Neda Popovic Bras

Christine Taylor

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4 x 4

The Botanical Garden in Padua is all about the number 4 – four quarters, four fountains, four gates, four compass points, four seasons.  This patterning gives the garden a sense of stability, a solidity close to the earth.  Strong physical groundedness is matched with a pleasing intellectual rhythm, an orientation in both time and space.  There is the feeling of being located within a wider order, reminded of the four elements, the four winds, the four humours, the four phases of the moon – Renaissance ideas of harmony, the music of the spheres.

In a place so thoroughly governed by the number four, things make sense: it feels comfortable, secure, natural.  Even though, of course, it is all man-made.  But the men who made it (and in 1545 it would have been men), designed and dug and planted it, were looking at and listening to the world as if they’d just been born, asking questions, alive to their close connection to the land, the universe and their dance within it.

Vice-Prefect Antonella Molla gave me a book, a facsimile of L’Horto de i Semplici, published in Venice in 1591.  After a foldout plan of the garden, there is an alphabetical list of plants growing there, followed by a series of empty, numbered lists, arranged under the headings of the garden’s four quarters, for the students of the time to locate the plants in the garden and enter their names in the right place on the lists. A wonderfully simple way to encourage close observation and the process of identification.

What we don’t know, this being pre-Linnaeus, is what many of the plants listed actually are.  Venus’s belly-buttons?  Light hearts?    Bearded priests?

Here’s an extract from my notebook, written in the garden on Saturday 13th October:

This morning there are gardeners where yesterday afternoon, there were none.  They are planting and pruning, raking and barrowing – purposeful but relaxed.

I’ve come to sit by the statues of Solomon and the Four Seasons – intrigued by the way they’re placed just outside the circle and although set at some distance from each other, seem to look at each other:  Busts of Spring and Summer (female) and Autumn and Winter (male).  Solomon in the middle, holding a book and looking up to the heavens, as if for inspiration.

Spring is a young woman with flowers in her hair.  Summer is older, plumper.  Both women bare one breast, their left – but still manage to look serene, elegant, draped in carved folds of cloth, jewels in their ears, round their necks.

They are set against a tall, curved hedge of clipped bay, glossy with last night’s rain, sweet and aromatic pressed between my fingers.

I can hear the fountain trickling into its pool of water, contained within a circle of stone bracketed with metal bars.  The green surface of the water is almost covered with lily pads, a different green, submerged at the centre, lightening and rising towards the circumference.  And then the gardener, patiently raking leaves from the gravel paths.

To the right of Spring, there is a weeping white mulberry (Morus alba pendula).  Standing inside it, you are held in a circle of green light.  At her feet (if she had any) a small box tree with fresh new growth at its tips, trimmed into a small sphere.  Instead of feet, Spring has a cream-coloured pedestal topped with another, smaller, carved from pink stone.  She is marble, streaked with black dust from the cones of the Cupressus arizonica above her head.  She is less pretty close-up, slightly worn and no jewels as I’d thought earlier.

I prefer the maturity of Summer, on the brink of ripeness.  Her marble’s streaked with soft grey veins and she has a dimple in her chin that makes her look more human, less of an ideal.  She is looking at Winter (her seasonal dance partner?), an old man draped in furs with what look like winter fruits in his hair, maybe gourds or cones?  He has a tight mouth, thin lips, as if he’s lost his teeth, but is still noble with his strong nose and luxuriant beard.

Autumn clearly fancies Spring.  He has a touch of middle-age spread, a bon viveur, grapes and dates in his hair, a fleshy mouth and laughing eyes.  But there are bags under them, hinting at a vulnerability beneath his carpe diem attitude, knowing Winter’s not far behind.  Each season doesn’t look at the one next to them – perhaps too redolent of their own demise, preferring the symmetry of the Other, their polar opposite by which they might measure and balance themselves.

And then in the middle of the group, Solomon, making some sort of judgement with his book and what was once a sword.  Choosing between seasons?  Between male and female?  Between youth and age?  An impossible decision.  The circle of the pond in front acts as a sort of answer – unintended or not – a Zen-like taste of union and openness, continuity and change.

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