Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Landscape as Archetype...

  Sometimes I think my life is one big synchronistic dance!  I have been thinking a great deal about my little meditation garden and design possibilities for it.  I wanted it to be more than just another place with plants.  It triggered a series of connections that ended, as many do for me, with photography. 

  First I got my weekly newsletter from A Sacred Journey where Lacy mentioned a website that allows you to plot out your own archetype chart.  (Which is really fun to do by the way.  Try it here...)

   That got me thinking about the possibility of discovering archetypes in the landscape.  The next thing I knew, I was ordering a book, The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy.   In it, she identifies seven archetypes in the landscape...the sky, the sea, the cave, the harbor, the promontory, the island and the mountain. (Of course, I saw my little meditation garden as the harbor.)

This whole chain of events happened a few days before I left for St. Joseph's Abbey.  It primed me to experience the landscape around St. Joseph's in a whole new archetype.

   As I drove up the one mile long driveway to the abbey I was immediately taken by the rolling green fields that surrounded me.  The monks chose the center of the 2,500 acres, on a crest of a hill, to site their buildings.  From that vantage point you gaze out on vast seas of green.  It was the exact same "oceanic effect" I had on Star Island only now it was green rather than blue.

   In her book, Messervy also equates the sea with "withinness" associated with our first sensation of floating in our mother's womb.  With the immersion effect of the real or symbolic sea of the landscape we experience that inward world which was our first experience of space.  Very powerful and evocative thinking.

   The sky also seemed bigger to me here.  There was a kind of interplay between height and distance going on that was very appealing. Messervy calls it the "transcendent world". Now, I have a lot more reading and thinking to do about this idea of archetypes in the landscape as I immerse myself in this wonderful book but the seed has been planted.  (Oops!  Back to gardening again!)

   One can find connections everywhere you look.  The important thing is to recognize that interconnections exist in the world...visual as well as literary.  Thoughts, ideas, images...all are a great well the contemplative photographer can draw from. (Hmm, could that be another archetype?)

   I found that adults remember vividly their childhood contemplative places, and long for such spaces in their contemporary lives.  These images from our early lives carry strong physical, psychological, and spiritual meaning forever.
 The Inward Garden, page 26

   Do you  have special contemplative places from your youth?  One of my favorites was a tree house my Grandfather and I built in an old apple tree.  It was a place I could withdraw to...pull up the ladder and escape.  That memory has stayed with me all my life.  One of my saddest childhood memories was when my Father knocked down the old tree with his bulldozer as he leveled the backyard.  Something quite special was also leveled that day and I think I have been seeking that place of retreat all my life in some way or another.  My little meditation garden will be my recreation of this youthful sanctuary.


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