nature


Random quote of the day:

“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but Nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.”

—R. Buckminster Fuller, interview, Minneapolis Tribune, April 30, 1978

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“I said to the almond tree: ‘Speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.”

—Nikos Kazantzakis, The Fratricides

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“Because it is such a powerful force in the world today, the Western Judeo-Christian tradition is often accepted as the arbiter of “natural” behavior of humans. If Europeans and their descendant nations of North America accept something as normal, then anything different is seen as abnormal. Such a view ignores the great diversity of human existence.”

—Walter L. Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity In American Indian Culture

 diverse4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Green Men are found in many cultures. They are commonly a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, the spring greening that inevitably follows the dying of winter. I’m fascinated with them. I have two of them, one in the back yard garden near the peach tree:

IF

The lovely lady to the left of him is the Roman goddess Flora, and the lady on the right is simply named Ivy. The man himself is cast iron and ages gracefully, rusting in interesting patterns.

I also have a Green Man inside:

greenmancloseup-sm-1

He’s smaller, also made of metal, but I doubt he’s copper as the green of him suggests. I believe the “aging” on this one is artificial—but I still think he’s rather cool. I’d have more Green Men if I had the space and money (so it’s probably a good thing I don’t). I like the ones with serious and slightly sinister expressions, and I like them to be made of serious natural materials like metal, not these comical cast resin ones that you see here and there and everywhere (though I admit, Flora and Ivy are cast resin). Why am I so fascinated with these Green Man images?

I’m a city girl, born and raised. If I want to get in touch with Serious Nature, I have to drive quite a ways out of town, and when I was a kid we never left town, unless it was to drive to Pomona for the county fair or to Disneyland in Anaheim. There wasn’t enough money for anything else, nor any time and inclination with my parents working hard. It just wasn’t in the program. As a consequence, I was 18 before I ever went on a real vacation, and as for nature spots? Mom didn’t see much sense in going places where you had to sleep on the ground and cook over campfires. She’d had enough of that “nonsense” in her roughing-it country girl days and found no romance in the experience. Why would any sensible human being want to give up modern conveniences?

So I grew up having to take nature where I found it. Fortunately, back in the olden days of Los Angeles, there still existed patches of it here and there. An immense vacant lot existed on my block on Fourth Avenue in Venice, for one. (It is now a public storage facility.) For another, my father planted a magical garden every year, a place of communion and nourishment. (I’ll discuss that another time, in The Green Man, Part II.) Occasionally, I got to visit my older brother in the Santa Monica mountains, where my nieces and nephews (all mostly older than me) would lead me on fantastical trips over the hill and through the woods following streams…until we popped out of the rough onto the manicured lawns of the Bel Air Country Club golf course. Then we’d hightail it back into the woods. These things were extremely important to me, as were long walks on the beach, about five blocks west of where we lived.

I loved the beach best when it was cold and rainy, partly because the things that drifted up on shore—the glass, the driftwood, the truly odd and puzzling things, were more interesting and less picked over by other beach walkers. Mostly, though, it was because I could walk there on cold days without much interference from other people, thinking my thoughts, communing with the vast rolling heart of the sea, feeling the chill pierce me to the bones. That chill always felt purifying rather than cold. I could not return from those walks with any black spots in my spirit. The wind off the sea blew them all away and gave me bliss in return.

That garden and that vacant lot saved my sanity during childhood; those walks along the sea saved my adolescence. Nature, my small neighborhood version of it, never failed to renew me. That, I think, is part of why I am so fascinated with the symbolic representation of nature: I want to recapture, to remind myself, of that need for renewal, that need to physically get out and get in touch with something green and greater than the mere mortal.

In my twenties I went on long hikes in the Angeles Crest. It’s a great, sprawling wilderness within easy driving distance of Los Angeles. Some of it, like Dart Canyon, is at a low enough elevation that on smoggy L.A. days the bad air penetrates them. You have to hike higher up if you want to avoid the city pollution. But on lovely, clear days Dart Canyon is a enchanted place, with maple and sycamore trees, waterfalls, the ruins of cabins and of a lodge destroyed in a great destructive flood in the 1930s. Higher up, there’s pine forest, ski summits, abandoned mines, and scrambling over big boulders to cross streams.

Those hikes were literally peak experiences for me: cleansing, renewing, exhilarating.

My favorite parts of any vacation, whether in this country or another, have been those times when I get into the countryside, touch the green, listen to the birds, feel the wind sweep through my spirit and blow away the black clouds. Nature is my touchstone.

These days—and in the long years of caregiving—that touchstone is mostly limited to the back yard. There wasn’t much time for anything else when Mom was alive; these days I still seem to be decompressing from that experience, trying to recoup my energy and my creativity. I’m far enough away from the beach that I’d have to drive, find parking, and my legs…no.

But the funny thing is, it doesn’t really take Grand Nature for me to get that sense of renewal. The Green Man is alive, curling in every leaf and bud; his skin is easy beneath my palm in the smooth trunk of my peach tree; he dances in the swaying branches of the white willow that volunteered to grow in my yard. All I have to do is sit for a few minutes, enclosed by walls and trees and wildish overgrown patches, listening to the birds, smelling peach blossoms, feeling the earth and grass under my bare feet…and the magic still happens. I am there. He is there. I am lifted up, I am renewed. Maybe the Green Man is watching over me, I don’t know. All I know is that I am grateful.

giant veg

You’ve heard about the giant cabbages once grown in the poor, sandy soil of Findhorn, Scotland? Some people believe that was made possible by the intercession of nature spirits who, in conjunction with the mystic, Dorothy Maclean, wanted to demonstrate to the world what was possible when humankind cooperated with the spirits who ruled the natural world. In fact, the Findhorn Foundation website still tells the story:

Dorothy discovered she was able to intuitively contact the overlighting spirits of plants – which she called angels, and then devas – who gave her instructions on how to make the most of their fledgling garden. She and Peter translated this guidance into action, and with amazing results. From the barren sandy soil of the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park grew huge plants, herbs and flowers of dozens of kinds, most famously the now-legendary 40-pound cabbages.

But where does this notion of nature spirits as guardians and helpmeets of plants come from? It’s an important question because it underlies much of the philosophy of the New Age movement. However, it turns out to be a pastiche of things taken from here and there.

Once, long ago, in a post from 2012, Dr. Beachcombing of Dr. Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog wondered if this popular contemporary notion of nature spirits was a survival of old folklore beliefs or merely a modern interpretation. (It’s a interesting post. You should read it.) None of his correspondents (myself included) came up with what you would call conclusive proof that this was a belief of the common folk, or that it had anything like a long history in traditional magics. In fact, it was probably a belief amongst scholarly occultists rather than something a local cunning man or woman might adhere to.

Owen Davies in Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History explains this divide between folk magic and philosophical magic:

In the historiography of magic a distinction has usually been made between high or learned magic and low or folk magic. Learned magic is generally defined by its sophisticated theoretical, philosophical and ceremonial structure. It can be further broken down into two main categories, demonic and natural….Natural magic was considered by many intellectuals to be a branch of the sciences, as it dealt with the occult powers within nature. In our period [15th c. onward] it was primarily influenced by neoplatonism, which held that the universe was suffused and ruled by a hierarchy of spirits. All matter was interconnected by these spiritual influences, and sympathetic relationships governed all matter. Stars and planets possessed evil and good aspects, and radiated their benign or malign influence upon the earth like ripples across water….

Low, popular, or folk magic is usually characterised as a rich medley of indigenous beliefs, practices and rituals, some of them dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, perhaps even earlier, perpetuated largely through oral transmission. The use of “low” does not necessarily indicate that this type of magic was confined to the “low” elements of society, but those who employed it had no lofty pretensions about what they were doing….

Furthermore, there were specific individuals who straddled the worlds of both learned and low magic, and who were consequently thought to have more knowledge of the occult than those around them: these people were cunning-folk.

(This is a good book. You should read it, as well.)

Eileen and Peter Caddy, the founders of the Findhorn community along with Dorothy Maclean, were influenced by Rosicrucianism, which was strongly influenced by Neoplatonism. So it’s not a far stretch to say that their beliefs—and much of New Age philosophy—come from that root stock rather than folk beliefs.

W. Y. Evans Wentz (himself highly influenced by Theosophy, another Neoplatonist offshoot) says in The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries (1911):

In the positive doctrines of mediaeval alchemists and mystics, e.g. Paracelsus and the Rosicrucians, as well as their modern followers, the ancient metaphysical ideas of Egypt, Greece, and Rome find a new expression; and these doctrines raise the final problem—if there are any scientific grounds for believing in such pygmy nature-spirits as these remarkable thinkers of the Middle Ages claim to have studied as being actually existing in nature….

All these Elementals, who procreate after the manner of men, are said to have bodies of an elastic half-material essence, which is sufficiently ethereal not to be visible to the physical sight, and probably comparable to matter in the form of invisible gases. Mr. W. B. Yeats has given this explanation:—’Many poets, and all mystic and occult writers, in all ages and countries, have declared that behind the visible are chains on chains of conscious beings, who are not of heaven but of earth, who have no inherent form, but change according to their whim, or the mind that sees them. You cannot lift your hand without influencing and being influenced by hordes. The visible world is merely their skin….’ [From Yeats’ Irish Fairy Tales and Folk-Tales]

Wentz again three paragraphs on:

And independently of the Celtic peoples there is available very much testimony of the most reliable character from modern disciples of the mediaeval occultists, e.g. the Rosicrucians, and the Theosophists, that there exist in nature invisible spiritual beings of pygmy stature and of various forms and characters, comparable in all respects to the little people of Celtic folk-lore.

I find myself imagining some practitioner of the old folkways listening to all this and saying to his or herself, “La di da, la di da,” if not laughing outright. There is nothing inherently wrong with these high blown sentiments, with Theosophy or Rosicrucianism or New Ageism, any more than there is something wrong with the “lower,” more practically-minded folk traditions. But they are clearly different streams fed from the big, muddy river of magics, and wading in one does not necessarily tell you anything about wading in the other.

Random quote of the day:

“Everything in excess is opposed to nature.”

—Hippocrates, quoted in Catholic Morality: Selected Sayings and Some Account of Various Religions by E. Comyns Durnford

excess4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The emphasis of American Indian religions, then, is on the spiritual nature of all things. To understand the physical world, one must appreciate the underlying spiritual essence. Then one can begin to see that the physical is only a faint shadow, a partial reflection, of a supernatural and extrarational world.”

—Walter L. Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture

spirit4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“At bottom we discover nothing new and unknown in the mentally ill; rather, we encounter the substratum of our own nature.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

 nature4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The bitter and the sweet come from the outside, the hard from within, from one’s own efforts. For the most part I do the thing which my own nature drives me to do.”

—Albert Einstein, “Self-Portrait,” Out of My Later Years

 nature4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day: 

“Nothing could persuade me that ‘in the image of God’ applied only to man. In fact it seemed to me that the high mountains, the rivers, lakes, trees, flowers, and animals far better exemplified the essence of God than men with their ridiculous clothes, their meanness, vanity, mendacity, and abhorrent egotism…”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (tr. Clara and Richard Winston)

* http://www.bartleby.com/122/7.html

mountains4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Next Page »