“And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
“And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic Mills?
“Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire.
“I will not cease from Mental Fight
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand
Till we have build Jerusalem
In England’s green & pleasant land.”
William Blake, Jerusalem (1804)
This doesn’t have much to do with my garden. Unless, it’s from my garden that I learned the personally therapeutic and rejuvenating peace of mind gardening promotes. And how gardening tunes me into the world’s heartbeat, and how ill our planet is. The news on the fifth of July was dark: filled with headlines like “Fireworks Celebration Turns into Tragedy” and “Three Year Old Dies in Hot Car: Step-Grandmother Nabbed.” The whole world felt like a prickly cactus plant.
It seems as if beyond the green and pleasant land outside my garden gate, those dark Satanic Mills are everywhere. They produce base metal that man beats into weapons of mass destruction, The mills employ starving copper miners from Nigeria, overweight teamsters from Pittsburgh, immigrant working mothers from the UK. Everywhere there are prophecies darkly fulfilled, and promises desperately failed.
I was in this mood when I finished Medusa Gourd. Intending to plant the cactus in her head, I painted a beautiful maiden, her hair alive with waving twisting snakes, her seductive glance, beckoning peacefully from beneath a crown of writhing serpents. Once she was painted, I was reluctant to insert her cactus brain because I didn’t like to think how the weather and the water would eventually ruin her.
Reading Blake’s poem about Jerusalem, while creating Medusa Gourd made me pensive. Blake’s Jerusalem became a metaphorical place where mankind lives in peace, divorced from the dysfunctional marriage of capitalism and consumerism on which Americans have grown fat and bloated. Medusa Gourd took on the aspect of rampant American imperialism, and our war, and our fears, and our dark visions.
So, instead of cactus, I got some artificial plants and a small blue bird for Medusa Gourd’s hair. I confess it wasn’t just the thought of ruining my creation by watering a live cactus. I was also worried that the mythical Medusa Gourd might come to life, and that she might take on Medusa’s magical properties and turn to stone all who gazed on her. Which would probably be a bad thing to have outside my front door.
Or would it?