i am here

When appreciating the quality of a place we are often not alone. Walk a few steps and usually you will find some kind of shrine nearby. Nestled in some rocks, hidden in a tree trunk, off to the side of a waterfall. Maybe it’s a gathering of figurines, gems, flowers, a stash of little gifts that say to you, and this place here, you are treasured.¬† It says this place is hollowed, this place is sacred, observe and be reverent and you will be rewarded. I suppose we don’t need the treasures to tell us this, we already feel it, and yet we still feel inclined to make an offering. This might be the urge from which sculpture first arose, a karn on the side of the road marking a spot that in time becomes something much more. It seems a far cry from a Alexander Calder or a Noguchi which may occupy or even over take a spot, and yet they are of the same family. As a girl I remember tramping about the woods to come across shrines and being truthfully frightened. The forest felt deep even impenetrable and here were signs of life that seemed to exclude me if not purposefully at least practically. There was a very dangerous edge I could feel – not unlike like the edge of a knife – treading on somethings meaning. Even ordinarily gentle objects like a doll could take on a new character or disguise depending only on which side of the circle you stand.

Having built some of my own shrines now the weird vacum of such places seems to have lifted. I see a shrine like this and I know that someone else cares as much as I do about the spot. The old religions know something about who we are in this regard, you can see it and feel it in the high desert country of a place like Mexico or perhaps also in Nepal, where resting stops and shrines are near the path. There’s a language of walking in these places that accommodates a hand held out to touch a stone.¬† Taking note of the spot in your mind and body and then moving on. This orienting of self to place, of soul to place is more difficult in a car. We have to strive to be more like the machine than ourselves – keeping our eyes on the road – in order that it function smoothly. We make our language about ourselves also to be about our cars. And yet there is some disconnect, my body is more like a tree than a machine. The veins, the nervous system, the reproductive organs, the pollination… “Filling¬† up my tank” doesn’t quite convey all the subtle needs that are experienced when I sit and have lunch with friends. A car certainly doesn’t need a glass of wine, or does it? On a fine walk home I contemplate whether alcoholism might not have been singled out as an issue unless cars had entered the picture. They really have changed so many facets of our life in this way.

Therefore gardening today has a whole new set of problems than it did only a century ago. It is often the one opportunity in a hectic life of running to and fro to not be a stranger to ourselves, and rather signal “I am here”.


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