(I’ve been searching for a simple statement that gets to the point of this blog site; maybe this is it. Most of you will think it far fetched, yet there is a Logic to it and it stretches way back into Philosophic Tradition. Complete with Garden Photos and a Poem at the end. A revision of the earlier post of the same title—but up-graded! Try it on for size, Please!)
In the spring and summer, each morning I take my cup of coffee and walk about our backyard garden. I carefully inspect its progress from the previous day: new shoots have appeared, old flowers fading, a weed to be pulled, new blooms opening and admired. Various birds fly by and others are calling. I stop and consider the weather, very pleasing, but other times not. Too cool, or too wet, we are often in need of a few sunny days. In either case, my plants soldier-on and I consider what I should do to improve this beautiful place, our garden, Our Backyard Sanctuary.
It is not a “strictly physical” place, not simply particles and chemical reactions and the qualities that those kinds of things directly exhibit. This garden of my wife’s and mine is a human artifact, a place of beauty with carefully selected plants, well considered placements, precisely cut borders and gently curved walkways. It is a chosen mixture of both sun and shade, privacy and open sky; a fairly complete composition, though always shifting.
It is a place of life. Plants exhibit the most marvelous design. Crocus poke up their heads in spring first, with their delicate little flowers. Then come the Daffodil with their yellow trumpeting flower, and then Tulip with its gracious cup, marked interior, and array of color. In the shade, the Ostrich Ferns are unraveling their fronds, rolling them open to the light. The Japanese Painted Ferns exhibit on each leaf detailed shades of green slowly verging onto blacks. In front of our long row of Hosta, my wife plants her border of Impatiens, an annual that flowers through the summer and produces best in shade. The Empress Wu Hosta is our crowning jewel. Sitting back beneath our cottonless (male) Cottonwood tree, the Empress crowns at over three feet into the air and spreads more than eight feet in diameter. She is a tremendous mound of foliage with each highly ridged bright green leaf running 18 to 20 inches long and a foot wide. All her bio-mass bursting forth each spring from below the ground and fully in place by mid June. By August, she has finished with her rather insignificant flowering (to the gardener) and by fall is ready to be cut back to do it all over the next year.
(The Tidy Packages: Daffodil, perennial Poppy, Columbine [Aquilegia] and Columbine, and finally Hosta. All photos by GWW from The Sanctuary)
Each plant is a tidy package. It circles about itself in its own little cycle. The perennials above — the crocus, daffodils, tulips, ferns and hosta — all have a prolonged cycle lasting many years, but go through a distinct annual cycle, also. The annual above — the Impatiens — completes its life cycle in a single season, but ends that cycle with a group of seeds, which are the Reproduction of “its form“— its tidy package — into the future. It is as if part of it — its Information — never dies!
Basically, fundamentally, essentially, a plant and its environment are a cooperative, self-enhancing effort. It is not that they — the plant and its environment — always “get it together” or always “keep it together”; they do not. There are “bad” seasons and difficult “spells”; but “at their core”, The Good MUST Out Weigh The Bad. That much is inherent in the idea of Natural Design.
Designs are real in nature; every design, if it exists, is Good at something, is Functional, is better than a vast number of alternatives, but maybe not quite as good as some Possibilities that we can vaguely imagine. This is the core of The Nature Religion Connection: If a lack of coordination and cooperation (Dis-Function, Chaos) were the predominant “tone” of the world, then complex entities like “plants” would not exist, nor would we! “The Living World” is fundamentally Good, at least from the point of view of Mother Nature.
And what of our own? So, let us Reflect. From our point of view, this world can be Like Our Backyard Sanctuary, if held in proper Respect. If nurtured. If understood. If thoughtfully criticized and accepted. If loved—-a reflection of us, and us of it.
To Reproduce is a distinctly living feature. To Metabolize is to be so open to ‘your’ environment; large parts of it are essential to ‘your’ continuation. As if in a Religious Gesture, You stretch forth into them, but not into some others; those seem completely irrelevant. Light, water, carbon dioxide and soil with minerals, all are open to the plant in a cooperative and informative way: They are essential parts of it; they are components of the plant’s Design. They Are It! Its FORMATION extending out-ward. It is, what we call, the In-Formation of the Universe!
And To Grow is to be alive, and that takes Time. A flowering plant only eventually flowers. An animal only eventually becomes sexually mature, and a human only eventually becomes emotionally and intellectually responsible. Life pulls together diversity into the unity of its form, and Time is essential to life: It does not exist in an instant. To Be Sensitive is the means by which living things distinguish this In-Formation from the noise; it’s Self from Others. Life is these unique qualities.
(Crocus in the Snow and in the Sun. Photos by GWW)
A star, a volcano, a galaxy, an atom, our solar system, the various chemical elements do none of these: No reproduction, no metabolism, no growth, no sensitivity. A star may swell and then collapse, as it runs out of (‘eats’) its fuel and ‘dies’. A volcano can grow larger and even blow or become dormant. An atom may bond. Our solar system certainly cycles. But none of these have all the characteristics of life, nor in as regular or systematic a way as do a living kind, and especially a person.
THE BACKYARD SANCTUARY No god is needed; My wife and I will do. We split and weed, and plant seed. We trim and choose, and rule our tiny spot, but not --- like one such other. Mother Nature framed this scene, and with her choices will be Queen. But at least, I see my debt and live to fill her offer. It is a special place, our world; The world of life and persons. It is our Response and Ability, to keep it such and More. And pass it to our future kind, for ashes soon we be. For after all, we are but 'food' in this Great Chain of Being. Of what shall come hereafter, we made a contribution, too.
All photos by GWW from the garden of Sheri and Greg. Zinnia, an annual to the right and middle–with yellow swallow tail.