I want to draw your attention to ‘The Stendhal Syndrome’–the condition of being dangerously overwhelmed by beauty in either art or nature. The condition was first described in 1979 by the Italian psychiatrist, Gaziella Magherini, after studying more than 100 cases among visitors to the Uffizi in Florence. A concentration of particularly beautiful art can cause rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations. It’s named after the 19th century French author, Stendhal, who described the experience in his 1817 book, Rome, Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio. In my case, it happened when I first laid eyes on Monet’s panoramic water lilies in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. At the time, I thought my breathless confusion and pounding heart was akin to the opera buff who jumps so far out of his seat that you can see the entire orchestra pit beneath his bottom. In other words, I figured it might be a form of self-applause for my own sensitivity. Apart from the excitement of finally seeing in the flesh what one has so often seen in books, I concluded there was more to the condition than I originally thought. Life is a passage through a museum of beauty. While the presence of art may be disarming, for artists and others the experience of the wonders of Nature may even rival other high exaltations. “As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart; the wellspring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground.” (Stendhal, nom de plume of Marie-Henrie Beyle, 1817)…..Robert Genn
how wonderful to be awestruck and fundamentally changed by a mystical experience…..a profundity only imagined in a superficial world…..let us dive down in the loam to feel the depth of paradox, the kinship with roots and the heartbeat of flowers…..a truthful beauty only found in the many seasons of the soul….
Let me define a garden as the meeting of raw nature and the human imagination in which both seek the fulfillment of their beauty. Entering a garden is like passing through a mystical gate. Things are not the same on the other side, in the interior where nature has been arranged, whether formally or casually, to suggest to our senses and our subliminal imagination a midrealm somewhere between the conscious, known world of ordinary life and the less conscious, mystery world of the garden. In a garden the soul finds it s needed escape from life and its entry into a space where eternity is more evident than time and where the ritual arrangement of life is more important than the business of surviving and making progress. The garden is a proper place of the soul, where concerns of the soul for beauty, contemplation, quiet, and observance take complete precedence over the busier concerns of daily life. There you will likely see the butterfly, an ancient image of the soul, and the bee, representing the kind of work the soul does- unheroic, hidden, mysterious, and sweet. The garden reconciles human art and wild nature, hard work and deep pleasure, spiritual practice and the material world. It is a magical place because it is not divided. Gardens do not make these balances intellectually, but rather they take us in our senses into the liminality, a mundus imaginalis, a special place in the imagination that is neither wild nor cultivated, neither human nor otherworldly. This liminality, felt physically and emotionally as we walk in a garden, is analogous to temenos and it, too, is a rare gift to the soul, because liminality presents a window onto eternity and offers epiphanies and deep sensations of transport that are of greatest importance to the soul….Thomas Moore
How strange and mysterious
are the ways of God.
Not greening, not flowering
may be a path
to the center as well.
Acceptance of yourself as you are
and others as they are
is the true potting soil.
All growth starts there.