For those who love Asian design and spirituality, Tibetan prayer flags are a fun and affordable way to add meaning and bright color to gardens. They can be seen draped in villages and base camps on documentaries featuring Mount Everest. A string of them is a beautiful and thoughtful way to add color and festive looks to off season gardens when flowers are limited. At well under $20 for a string of them, it’s a great solution for renters that comes with you if you move. Prayer flags may be printed in the original Tibetan or in English to make them more meaningful to the west. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the lovely spirituality behind prayer flags: Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to ‘gods,’ a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all. By hanging flags in high places the “Wind Horse” will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
Creating a shrine in the home garden is a beautiful way to express your spirituality. No matter your faith, the shrine makes a focal point that’s unique to your own sense of the sacred. This age old practice dates back to the recognition of earthen deities believed to exist within the spirits of the vegetation. In Catholic countries the Christian imagery was adopted and in these cultures they are a staple of even the most modest home. Shrines are an ancient idea for recycling found materials in a whole new way.
Round the spruce top the blue was deepened, concentrated by the fixed point, the memory of that spot, as it were, of the sky is still fresh – I can see it distinctly – still beautiful and full of meaning. It is painted in bright color in my mind, color thrice laid, and indelible; as one passes a shrine and bows the head to the Madonna, so I recall the picture and stop in spirit to the aspiration it yet arouses. For there is no saint like the sky, sunlight shining from its face. –Richard Jeffries, The Open Air 1863 Winter skies are among the most expressive, for they change so dramatically from day to day. From the inky dark before a snow or rainstorm to the incredibly bright, clear air of a cold winter day, there is always something to admire. Yet we tend to take the sky for granted until autumn fires cloud our view or summer humidity lays a haze on the land. Only in winter do we find skies almost fluid, like clear water flowing from under the snow. When coupled with evergreens, the startling contrast can arouse us in something close to religious devotion.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines. Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1906 In winter we long for summer, and in the heat of summer we dream of the cool days of winter. It is the same with age: the old long for the strength of youth and the young are impatient for the freedom of adulthood. The art of peaceful living, as Thoreau so aptly says, is to live each season for its own unique qualities, without always wanting something different. In this season savor the scents of burning wood in the hearth, feel the icy wind on your bare cheeks, and marvel at the beauty of the frozen landscape. For only when you have reveled in the depth of winter, resigning yourself to its influences, will you discover the tranquility of your spirit and the soul of this quiet season.
No two trees are alike. And their individuality is no imperfection. On the contrary: the perfection of each created thing is not merely in its conformity to an abstract type but in its own individual identity with itself. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do. Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation, 1949 The sanctity of individual life is among the most beautiful creations of the world. Whether it is a tree or a child, each has a destiny, each is recognized by its unique strands of DNA. This suggests that every one of us should make the most of our talents and abilities, cultivating them as deeply and thoroughly as we cultivated the kitchen garden. We must add good compost in the form of spiritual attention and exercise to fertilize our potential and bring forth a good crop. And whether that crop is a quiet, contemplative life or one one steering a revolution for the good of humankind, it is of equal value, for it is the result of vigorously living out our greatest potential.
Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee! He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the pathmaker is breaking stone… Meet him and stand by him in toil and sweat of thy brow. –Rabindranth Tagore, Giotanjali, 1913 God is in the field, in the garden, in the meadow, and in the woods. He is everywhere: in the sun and the moon, in the wind and the ice and the winter barren trees. Though temples and churches have their place, the great apparitions of gods and goddesses have occurred in in nature, not indoors. This alone should speak volumes about the value of spending time in the garden to renew the soil. For there, as tiller, path maker, and laborer, we are blessed.
A thin coat of ice covered a part of the [Walden] pond but melted around the edge of the shore. I threw a stone upon the ice which responded with a shrill sound, and falling again and again, repeating the note with pleasing modulation. I thought at first it was the ‘peep’ ‘peep’ of a bird I had scared. I was so taken with the music that I threw down my stick and spent twenty minutes in throwing stones single or in handfuls on this crystal drum. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal 1936 Nothing is as eerie and beautiful as the sound of ice, with its range of tones so like the haunting melodies of migrating whales. Emerson discovered he could make the ice sing and tested the range of Walden Pond’s voice that winter afternoon. This is one of the hidden beauties of the winter we miss when we hide indoors where it is war or fly past the landscape in heated cars. Yet when we hike in the country during this quiet season, we discover much more than the view, for it is the greatest therapy for aging. The body loosens up with every step and the mind is awakened with sounds of breaking surf, crunching leaves, the rustle of tall grasses, and the singing of ice.