Recent weeks have seen several days of heavy rain, and have turned my mind to the endless flow of what medieval people would call the vis naturae, the power or healing force of nature. As Lowell Duckert recently discussed in his paper ‘When it Rains’ at the New Chaucer Society in Portland, rain infuses and co-composes, filling the world with its nutritive power. I have watched water with a new respect with this talk in mind, feeling it soak my skin, wet my clothes (I lost my umbrella!), run down the road past my home into a drain, fall as hail, and make the leaves glisten. I love the feeling in the air before rain, the freshness of the cold, the sounds of countless tiny beads of water falling and making impact.
Most of all, I love the effect of rain on my garden. I have a series of vegetables growing: pak choi, kale, chinese broccoli, sugar snap peas, potatoes and spring onions. In the rain, the nutritive force of water, coupled with the rays of the sun, have prompted a vivifying burst of life in my back yard. I have been eating, enjoying and watching my vegetables, and feeling a great personal satisfaction in the gardening experience.
This, as many things do, turned my thoughts to more abstract gardens. I often think of my thesis as a fertile soil to be cultivated, the seeds of words bursting forth into new life. This is an image that resonated within medieval thought, within the allegorical evocation of Eden, the first of gardens. In a passage I am using in my current chapter on hydrological language and the narration of Cistercian Space, Aelred of Rievaulx evokes a garden of the soul:
If we should wish, my brothers, to have this [second] Adam [Jesus Christ] dwell in our heart, we must there prepare a paradise for him. May the soil of our heart be fertile and fecund, abounding in virtues like spiritual trees. May the Spirit be there, like a never-failing fountain which irrigates us spiritually with grace, devotion, and all sorts of spiritual delight. May the four virtues be there, like four rivers which wash us clean of all the grime of vice and render us unsullied and unstained. All this so that we may be fit for the Lord’s embrace!
p.s. Now anyone can have some rain in their daily life! Take a look at rainymood.com. It’s amazingly good for one’s concentration and workflow.