Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Matter of Balance

"To my blessing now give ear.-
Scorching blight nor singed air
Never blast thine olives fair!
Drouth, that wasteth bud and plant,
Keep to thine own place. Avaunt,
Famine fell, and come not hither
Stealthily to waste and wither!"
- Spoken by the Chorus, Aeschylus, Eumenides, (458 B.C.E)

The snakes writhing on the head of my Medusa Gourd remind me of the Eumenides (aka, the Furies) coming to terms with Apollo in Aeschylus’ play. The Eumenidies are the classical yin, embodying feminine elements like darkness and primal flux. In the play, Apollo, naturally, represents the yang of civilized man conquering chaos with reason.

Once you look, especially in nature, you can see metaphors everywhere of the swing between the extremes – seasonal change between cold and heat, growth and decay, reason and emotion, darkness and light.

It’s finding the balance which takes the practice, and which delivers the reward. Like the classical yin and yang, my garden has shady places and sunny ones, and finding the right home for the right plant can be a process that takes years.

Zen Frog lives in a tiny dish garden that I move seasonally and as whim dictates. Earlier in the year, I harvested moss from where it thrives in the shade on the north side of the house. Some of it went into Zen Frog’s dish, where it looked beautiful in the cool Spring months. Now that summer is here however, most of the moss has since down and turned brown in protest.

The lesson for me here is that moss apparently embodies all those shade-loving and unreasonable feminine yin elements. The thyme-covered arbor above ZF’s head represents the sunshine of rational civilization.

What was I thinking, trying to plant moss and thyme together in one pot, and then plopping ZF down between them? It occurs to me that I might have planted a challenge that even the most placid inanimate object like ZF won’t be able to reconcile.

I would love to transplant the arrangement, struggling moss, thriving thyme, ZF and all, to a secluded spot beneath some shade where the opposing forces embodied in the planting can achieve harmony. The challenge is to find a spot where shade-loving moss can thrive beneath a sun-loving thyme-covered arbor, and ZF can sit there between them and meditate on the perfect balance between the two. I’m not giving up, and although he might look a bit exasperated in the picture above, neither is ZF.

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