Sometimes it all feels like powerful magic. Weird stuff. Bordering on wizardry and witchcraft. There are for sure strange beings and strange forces at work here. Things we cannot quite explain. Elves and leprechauns perhaps. Tiny midnight helpers. The garden is never ever the same. It changes constantly. We walk around in dumb disbelief at the sheer wonder of it all. How does life work, who is making it happen, how come? And why? At times we sense a terrific conspiracy going on down there, deep in the belly of the garden - whisperings and rustlings, shimmerings and tremblings, whooshings and rumblings - things happening around us, through us, and, mostly, in spite of us. Gardening, we muse, is some kind of an ancient magical art, a science of transformation, an alchemy of sorts, where the hidden life force is corralled and shaped into a new power. It uses knowledge skillfully but is vitally nourished by the unknown. It relies on acute sense perception and combines the love of beauty and life with rigorous questioning and research. At the same time it is hugely supported by things we cannot see and hear, cannot touch or directly perceive, things outside of our common range of experience. Outside our ken. It recognizes the danger of knowledge too - and it has its own version of the dark arts and the dark lords - they who misuse their powers. For, knowledge is power.
Walk into the labyrinth below the fig tree and lose yourself in pathways that have riddles and visions around every corner. Feel the tug at your mouth, an irrepressible smile, when you meet some plants looking like they are out to have fun. Plants definitely have a sense of humour! Stand on the Tower on a windy evening and watch the forest quiver as if some huge sentient force were surging through it. Feel the unitive being that it is.
Well, it's all a matter of interpretation. We could be talking science too. Use a different set of terms for the same thing - species, diversity, forest ecology, emergent properties of complex systems, plant-pollinator dynamics ... it doesn't really seem to matter in the end! Between us here at the Sanctuary, in those quiet reflective communing moments between chores and responsibilities, we try now and then to explore our lives and work and concerns in different ways, using different metaphors. A complete explanation for what we do and why we do what we do defies us but there is always that hunch, that sixth sense, that intuited connection that lays the ground for every course of action. Usually it works! Magic is how we experience it. Science is the tool we use. And this tiny garden is our crucible.
Magic or science - the source of destructiveness seems to be the same. It lies within each of our human minds. And it is inextricably tied to the forces at work in society at large. We all know it well and it's got different names - ego, self-aggrandizement, greed, domination, exploitation, and rampant, inexcusable stupidity coupled with blind action. Maybe, in a roundabout way, what we are trying to say is that unless we are alert to the many influences at work from within and without, unless we awaken our self-awareness, over and above our cognitive, aesthetic, political and practical abilities, we risk our lives (and those of others) to entrapment and sorrow. A life without magic. Without meaning and joy.
In the light of recent world events, in America, Afghanistan, Argentina, India and Pakistan, our every action and thought and feeling, our own particular condition, is further fully exposed. We have no respite. No place to hide. Not even in this beautiful garden way out in the remote tropical woods. There is no one to call to task other than ourselves. We are the world, in all its glory and misery. We cannot pretend or believe or hope otherwise.
Our newsletters are a means of inviting common reflection and mutual challenge. A lighthearted examination and reworking of ourselves and the world. Of attempting to hone our sensibilities so that, together with our friends, we can grow Life, for one and for all. Of course, we invite (and expect) rigorous critiques. There's nothing like a lively debate! We were delighted to hear from many, many people after the last letter. Thank you all for the genuine feedback. Such varied responses from teachers, students, family, friends, scientists, environmentalists and government officials! Please do keep up the dialogue! The ball is now in your court!