Tending Our Gardens

Yesterday, the wind blew much of the day, tossing the leaves on the trees outside my window, pushing against the walls. I love the way the wind stirs the world, and reminding us things are about to change. Life is always changing, of course, but when you hear branches creaking, and see the birds swirling and turning in the sky, it’s a good visual reminder.

While reading yesterday, I serendipitously came across Antonio Machado’s poem, “The Wind One Brilliant Day”, that talks about the wind that comes into the speaker of the poem’s garden, calling out to his soul with a jasmine scent. The wind, however, wants his soul’s rose scent in exchange for the jasmine scent it offers. Sadly, the  soul realizes it doesn’t have a garden from which to offer up anything, so the wind takes the dead petals and leaves along with water from the fountain, and departs. Then is when the poem’s speaker recognizes he should have done something earlier on to protect the garden given him so that he would have something to give the wind when it came–an understanding that many of may have come to in our own lives at some point as well, especially during times of transition.

Filmmaker Chel White has a beautiful video of wind where Alec Baldwin narrates Machado’s poem in a way that makes the view examine what we have done with the Garden of our earth. For me, however, it seems that what we are doing to our planet is  a reflection of what is collectively happening in our inner world of our mind and heart, as the two are connected. I live in a very polluted city. There are few days when Delhi’s pollution level is below dangerous, and this presents a challenge to the spirit. How do we deal with our inner gardens when in the outside world, things are just not good, maybe even downright dangerous? There are some things in the world outside that aren’t in our power to change. Somethings we have to live with. But we can change our inner world so that in the midst of the difficulty, we can still feel alive, can still breathe. We can tend to the heart.

If you’ve ever kept even a single houseplant, you recognize that you can let a plant go for a few days, without attention, but plants need attention if they are to thrive. If you give them light and a bit of water a few days a week, however, they can grow happily for a long time. If we want to keep our inner gardens alive, maybe we don’t need to make grand plans–some light, some water, and some weeding now and then would be a good start–just one small thing each day so we know we are keeping ourselves alive inside. Robert Bly reads another of Machado’s poems, “Last Night As I Was Sleeping”, a beautiful poem, affirming that “sweet honey” can be made of our failures–that even in the midst of our shortcomings and incompleteness, beauty can grow.  Great mystery–light and love, as the poem suggests, are present even now in our lives, humming. The more we open to them, the more they thrive.

Though it’s winter now, spring is coming. Today, however, after several days of cloudy darkness, I need the reminder that there are gardens already blooming, inside my heart as well as in the world now, what I water is growing. For all of us who need gardens or the reminder of flowers today, here is Coleman Barks reading Rumi‘s beautiful, “What Was Said to the Rose”.

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