The Cloud of Unknowing: Mystic Peace in the Garden


GOD, unto whom all hearts be open, and unto whom all will speaketh, and unto whom no privy thing is hid. I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee, and worthily praise Thee. Amen.

A medieval book on Christian mysticism begins with this prayer.  It speaks of cleansing of the heart with an unspeakable gift of divine grace which perfects love and praise of the Creator.  It’s ironic that the mystic practice is explained, and yet cannot be explained by words.

Today I spent time in my own garden at home, digging up the last of the lilies and a few hollyhocks that I won’t have to start from seed, took them over to the garden, and began to plant.  I realized that the vegetable garden is going to be bordered by perennials so that a wall of flowers will surround it, making it an even more pleasant space to work in, and to be in.  With a small trowel, I lifted what has to be a 50 year old stump of irises that was so close to a gas line that I couldn’t use a conventional shovel to lift them.  Slowly, like some kind of herbaceous archaeologist, I moved the soil further and further from the root ball until it lifted like a giant plate of green and light brown jewels embedded in fragrant soil.  The lady bugs crawled over everything like sparkling red jewels, and I had to carefully move them lest I squash them.

I poured water out of a tap, let rust run out of it, drank from an old plastic cup I found in the garage, watered in the plants that I moved today and on Friday past.  Without realizing it, there is a sensation, a feeling, not unlike exhaustion but not limiting like exhaustion.  It is a peace that, once having left the garden, remains with me and draws me to go back to work the soil, continue to plant and get to know the yard.  The trees are coming into bud, and snowdrops will soon be coming out of the ground.  Slowly, the garden is coming to life and with it, my soul is with each trowel of soil moved, with each weed pulled and moved to the compost pile, I draw closer to an inner peace, a stillness that I only notice once I get into the car and come home.

One of the gardening groups I subscribe to on Facebook had a question posted, asking how to clean one’s finger nails.  I had to laugh, because every day that I put my hands into the soil I can’t wait to get dirt under them.  I find it strange in a way that people would want to somehow distance themselves from connecting to the life that exists in that dark loamy presence under our feet; gloves somehow distance the connection between the presence of the spiritual in our gardens and our bodies which experience it.

When I set myself into a place that is connected to possibilities grounded in fear, or peculation, rather than in solid reality (things grow, things tended thrive, things not connected to electronic devices carry a peace unmatched by anything else in the world), I carry this serene connection with me further into the day, hopefully into the interactions I have with other people.  To make matters even more amazing, an ivy geranium that I’ve cared for for the last 6 years living here in Gladder Park has decided to bloom.  I’ve forgotten how deliciously coloured the blossoms are, almost like a deep burgundy wine or a grape candy that I could sink my teeth into.  It’s given me a smile, a feeling of warmth and assurance that every motion, every work that is spent in green things is summed up by one adjective:  good.


The Cloud of Unknowing: Mystic Peace in the Garden

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