Third day musings

“The garden is the only living art work that men can do, and in which the walker enters an experience that transforms him by returning to his own origins.”

Fernando Caruncho

Like our bodies, plants don’t lie. And yet, many of us seem to have been completely disconnected from that Third day: Tuesday – the day ascribed to the creation of plants in the first creation-narrative in the book of Genesis. This first story presents us with an image of G-d, as a cosmic designer, who brings about the conditions for life out of void and darkness, here on planet Earth; establishing habitat, paradise, for the human species to enjoy, along-side the rest of creation. The Creator gives human beings the gifts of life, pleasure and rest. In the second narrative of creation we find a stronger focus on the idea of the pleasure-garden, an image of G-d as a cosmic gardener and landscape designer, who enjoys strolls in this garden and yet is trying to make man happy, as he struggled with loneliness in this paradise-garden. Possibly, the roots of the second story of Eden was inspired by the Persian walled gardens in the middle of the arid desert, and later infused with Jewish theological wisdom.

But let’s return to the first narrative, to Tuesday and the creation of plants, particularly Maltese plants which we risk banishing out of existence. Over these past years, I became increasingly aware how little we know and care about our indigenous flora (at a popular level) – of course with the exception of professionals, experts and farmers whose job leads them to study and work with plants. Yet most of us don’t, and because of this, we don’t know our plant-context, and therefore, show very little care and concern towards them – some of them now risking of being entirely lost, like the Tulipa Sylvestris Australis[1], or Maltese heritage vegetables[2].

While, safeguarding these flowers, plants and seeds is important, we keep returning to our fundamental issue; as people living on these Maltese islands, yet quite unclear about our true genesis. Personally, I dedicated most of my life to issues of sexuality and faith, and yet more recently turned to plants and gardening, because the fundamental question remains the same one, what are our true, given identities? Who are we? How do we inhabit planet earth, our bodies, our sexualit(ities), our families, our communities, our faith and our Churches, Mosques, Synagogues or other Temples, in a way that does not violate the other? Who is the other that we as people living on these islands are violating? And the list possibly ranges from the perceived Arab Muslim other to the Zaghfran selvagg (Crocus longiflorus)[3].

Perhaps, dwelling some more time on Tuesday – the third day, will help us reflect more about our geographical location, an important element in the process of de-colonizing and re-constructing our identit(ies), to be able to relate to ourselves as we are, away from illusions, fantasies and other stories of grandeur, fed to us over years. And maybe, we can finally learn to embrace our semi-arid land and soil with reverence in our hearts. We may find out, that paradise is in the here and now, and it’s only a matter of gardening, inclusion and a little hanami[4].


[1] Recently the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society organised a botanical art exhibition to raise awareness about the ‘Maltese Tulip’: http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2016-10-24/newspaper-lifestyleculture/The-Maltese-Tulip-and-a-Diplomat-s-Brush-6736165607

[2] The National Hub for Ethnobotanical Research, an entity within the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society is carrying out research about the vernacular knowledge and uses of Maltese heritage vegetables: http://www.pfws.org.mt/en/ethnobotany-research-entities

[3] Zaghfran Selvagg (Crocus longiflorus) http://www.maltawildplants.com/IRID/Crocus_longiflorus.php

[4] Hanami is a Japanese tradition of enjoying flowers, particularly the cherry blossoms.

 

Mario Gerada has a Master in Christian Spirituality from the University of Malta. He has a keen interest in issues relating to sexuality, spirituality, ethnobotany and non-violence. Mario Chairs the National Hub for Ethnobotanical Research, an entity within the President's Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.

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