Sunday, July 20, 2008

Flower quotations

Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson

A flower's appeal is in its contradictions - so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect. Adabella Radici

Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of their character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning. Lydia M. Child

The actual flower is the plant's highest fulfilment, and are not here exclusively for herbaria, county floras and plant geography: they are here first of all for delight. John Ruskin

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. Jean Giraudoux

A flowerless room is a soulless room, to my way of thinking; but even a solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it. Vita Sackville-West

Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul. The Koran

Perfumes are the feelings of flowers. Heinrich Heine

In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends. Kozuko Okakura

Can we conceive what humanity would be if it did not know flowers? Maurice Maeterlinck

In the cherry blossom's shade
There's no such thing
As a stranger. Kobayashi Issa

What a desolate place would be a world without a flower! It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome. Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our stars the flowers of the heaven. A.J. Balfour

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life. R. Search

If you pass by the colour purple in a field and don't notice it, God gets real pissed off. Alice Walker

If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars? G.K. Chesterton

Often the prickly thorn produces tender roses. Ovid

Flowers bring to a liberall and gentlemanly minde the remembrance of honestie, comelinesse and all kindes of virtues. John Gerard

Where flowers bloom so does hope. Lady Bird Johnson

Little flower - but if I could understand, what you are, root and all in all, I should know what God and man is. Alfred, Lord Tennyson

For a vast and beautiful collection of flower quotations and poems (some of which I have ‘picked’ for you here), visit Flowers – Quotes and poems for gardeners

Friday, July 18, 2008

Flowers - a world aflame with desire

While ‘digging’ for some uplifting quotations about flowers, I was astonished to discover the full significance of flowers in the spiritual world (not to mention the material world). I am a gardener of sorts. I am a practitioner of what I call ‘extreme gardening’: I have transported truckloads of soil in a day; I have transformed an asphalt wasteland of driveway into a cedar hedge-lined garden oasis; I have planted 6 trees and innumerable shrubs and plants around my house. But I was not aware of the full extent of the moral significance of the flower, or that there is a vast knowledge out there of the healing properties of flower essences and aromas.
I think we all love flowers in a natural, subconscious way: how often have we been overcome by the scent of a flower and felt the weight of stress fall away from our shoulders, felt ourselves being whisked away to peaceful childhood memories of innocence and happiness? But quotations like this one, opened my eyes further:

A flower's fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile, available, and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar. Its smell reminds us in vestigial ways of fertility, vigour, life-force, all the optimism, expectancy, and passionate bloom of youth. We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages, we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire. Diane Ackerman

And this:

Who can estimate the elevating and refining influences and moral value of flowers with all their graceful forms, bewitching shades and combinations of colours and exquisitely varied perfumes? These silent influences are unconsciously felt even by those who do not appreciate them consciously and thus with better and still better fruits, nuts, grains, vegetables and flowers, will the earth be transformed, man's thought refined, and turned from the base destructive forces into nobler production. One which will lift him to high planes of action toward the happy day when the Creator of all this beautiful work is more acknowledged and loved, and where man shall offer his brother man, not bullets and bayonets, but richer grains, better fruit and fairer flowers from the bounty of this earth. Father George Schoener

These quotations and others can be found at the worthy Michael P. Garafalo’s site: Flowers – Quotes and poems for gardeners

I have also provided in the links some healing flower essence sites that I came across.

So, I don’t know about you, but I am now filled with a ‘growing’ desire to install some full spectrum lamps in my dimly lit living room. I will not go without flowers any longer. Of course, first I will have to clean that desk…
Photo by Claudia Meyer

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are there flowers in what you feel?

Flowers and stories of flowers crop up (is that a pun?) everywhere when one studies philosophy. Flowers represent the fleeting, impermanent, transcendent beauty of this life. They have no purpose but to be beautiful. (Yes, I know about pollen, but do they have to be that beautiful to get the job done?) Flowers, like cats, are proof that not everything in this world is useful. Beauty is purpose enough.

In this world
We walk on the roof of hell
Gazing at flowers

Kobayashi Issa seems to say that even though we are walking on the roof of hell, even though we are a thin 2-inch plank away from death and evil, gazing at flowers makes it all worthwhile; ‘gazing at flowers’ is what it’s all about.

The following text expands upon this admirably. I came across it in Horst Hammitzsch’s ‘Zen in the Art of the Tea Ceremony’. It is a passage from Matsuo Basho’s travelling diary U-tatsuo-kiki. Matsuo Basho was the most famous poet of the Edo period of Japan. Here is his description of ‘the Way’:

In my body there lives a certain ‘something’. Let us tentatively give it a name and call it ‘a little monk in his wind-torn robe’. But do we really mean the tearing of a thin robe in the wind? For a long time this fellow loved to compose short poems. In fact, he finally made it his life’s task. Sometimes, however, he regrets it and would like to give it up: sometimes he is overcome with enthusiasm and experiences the ambition to do better than others at it. Now this, now that, the emotions are at war in his heart, and as a result he is left restless. For a while he was keen to get a job for himself in the outside world, but this ‘something’ restrained him from doing so. At another time he nurtured the wish to take up the study of the Zen teachings and to enlighten his ignorance, but here, too, the ‘something’ caused him to give up the idea. And so he has remained unskilled and incompetent, apart from the fact that he has remained constantly bound to a Way. It is the self-same Way sought by Saigyo in his poems, by Sogi in his linked-verse, by Sesshu in his ink-paintings and by Rikyu in his Tea Ceremony – the one, single Way that is operative in all their works. And whoever loves this Way follows the laws of nature and becomes the friend of the seasons. Whatever he sees turns out to be flowers. Whatever he feels turns out to be the moon. When there are no flowers in what he does, he is like a barbarian. When there are no flowers in what he feels, he is like a wild beast. Forsake the barbaric, cast aside the brutish, follow nature’s laws, return to her again.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What flowers like

I read an article some years ago that stated it had been proven that plants grow better when we talk to them (nicely of course), which many gardeners knew already. Not only that (said the article) but if a plant is harmed – say, by burning a leaf - the other plants in the room can ‘feel’ it. And, believe it or not, the plants can even sense who harmed them and they can recognize that person again when he or she walks into the room. I find that pretty amazing. What will they be telling us next? That the love and care we lavish on our plants is reciprocated by them in mysterious ways that have a subtle influence on our health and well-being? Some gardeners would probably say that that is certainly true.

Be that as it may, gardening does tune us into the beauty and the cycles of nature, and implies and expresses a love and respect for living things, all of which can only do us good. And there is no room, be it ever so humble, that cannot be transformed by a plant or two; no spirit so worn that it cannot be lifted by the sight of flowers.
Having read this article about the incredible sensitivity of flowers, I was not in the least surprised to find Lin Yutang (quoting from a treatise by Yuan Chunglang) talking about ‘conditions that please flowers’ in his book ‘The Importance of Living’:

Conditions that please flowers:

A clear window
A clean room
Antique tripods
Sung ink-stones
“Pine waves” and river sounds
The owner loving hobbies and poetry
Visiting monk understands tea
A native of Chichow arrives with wine
Guests in the room are exquisite
Many flowers in bloom
A carefree friend has arrived
Copying books on flower cultivation
Kettle sings deep at night
Wife and concubines editing stories of flowers

Lin Yutang goes on to quote 24 ‘conditions humiliating to flowers’, of which I list a selection:

Conditions humiliating to flowers:

The owner constantly seeing guests
A stupid servant constantly putting in branches, upsetting the arrangement
Common monks talking zen
Dogs fighting before the window
Ugly women plucking flowers and decorating their hair with them
Discussing people’s official promotion and demotion
False expressions of love
Poems written for courtesy
Flowers in full bloom before one has paid his debts
The family asking for accounts
Writing poems by consulting rhyming dictionaries
Books in bad condition lying about
Trailing marks of slime left by snails
Servants lying about
Wine runs out after one begins to play wine games
Being neighbour to wine shops
A piece of writing with phrases like the “purple morning air” (common in imperial eulogies) on the desk

From these lists we can see that flowers are not only sensitive but have very good taste, if we will only listen to their wisdom, as the ancients listened. Of course, we may ask is it the flowers’ wisdom or is it our wisdom? Perhaps it is a bit of both?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Heaven and Hell

A samurai warrior, seeking enlightenment, called upon a Zen master.
‘What is the essence of Heaven and of Hell?’ asked the samurai.
The Zen master looked at the warrior keenly and then laughed. ‘How can a great oaf of a samurai like yourself expect to understand the essence of Heaven and Hell?’
The samurai’s brow furrowed into well-worn grooves of anger, as the Zen master continued to laugh. He reached instinctively for his sword to cut off the Zen master’s head.
‘This,’ said the Zen master, holding up a finger, ‘is Hell.’
The samurai stopped. The furrows disappeared, as the samurai was filled with the liberating truth of this insight. He composed himself and bowed humbly to the Zen master.
‘And this… is Heaven,’ said the Zen master, bowing in return.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ship's log - 7 July 2008

We are three months into the voyage. I don’t know about you but it is quite a journey for me as I revisit some of the shores I touched at during difficult times. Here I am dusting off old sea charts of dangerous shoaling waters long left behind, but at the same time I am discovering how soon we forget the lessons we learned and how we need to remember them, as I am remembering them now. This site is becoming a storehouse of all the best philosophy that helped me in the past and it feels very satisfying to record it and to share it with you. It is a reflection of what I would have liked to find when I was in need of guidance. And as we continue the voyage it will transform, I hope, into a voyage of discovery, as we leave familiar shores and head out into the open sea.

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond