Saturday, May 30, 2009

I found some cleome at Canadian Tire!! An annual, alas, but so gorgeous!

They also had my creeping thyme. Only in biggish pots, alas, but the internets tell me I can chop these larger plants up into smaller pieces and they will be undaunted. Hopefully tomorrow's promised miserable weather will yield an hour somewhere between showers for me to mess with them.

Is it completely weird for me to want a statue of St. Francis of Assisi in my garden? I have only the very remotest and embattled connection to catholicism. Once upon a time I was baptized because it was important to my father's parents, but when my sister's turn came, an idiot priest angered my dad into digging in his heels and walking away from it. Once upon a time my mother's parents got so much flak for their catholic/protestant "interfaith" marriage that it drove them almost completely away from either church - my impression is that although they continued to attend a protestant church of some kind (in that time and place, socially you had no choice but to go to church) the suspicion and cynicism generated by that experience has basically formed the family stance on organized religion ever since, even unto my generation.

Still, I find those garden statues of him more evocative of peace and harmony than the currently trendy buddha-heads. Some nice things I read about him on an online catholic encyclopedia:

There was about Francis, moreover, a chivalry and a poetry which gave to his other-worldliness a quite romantic charm and beauty. Other saints have seemed entirely dead to the world around them, but Francis was ever thoroughly in touch with the spirit of the age. He delighted in the songs of Provence, rejoiced in the new-born freedom of his native city, and cherished what Dante calls the pleasant sound of his dear land. And this exquisite human element in Francis's character was the key to that far-reaching, all-embracing sympathy, which may be almost called his characteristic gift. In his heart, as an old chronicler puts it, the whole world found refuge, the poor, the sick and the fallen being the objects of his solicitude in a more special manner...

The very animals found in Francis a tender friend and protector; thus we find him pleading with the people of Gubbio to feed the fierce wolf that had ravished their flocks, because through hunger "Brother Wolf" had done this wrong. And the early legends have left us many an idyllic picture of how beasts and birds alike susceptible to the charm of Francis's gentle ways, entered into loving companionship with him; how the hunted leveret sought to attract his notice; how the half-frozen bees crawled towards him in the winter to be fed; how the wild falcon fluttered around him; how the nightingale sang with him in sweetest content in the ilex grove at the Carceri, and how his "little brethren the birds" listened so devoutly to his sermon by the roadside near Bevagna that Francis chided himself for not having thought of preaching to them before. Francis's love of nature also stands out in bold relief in the world he moved in. He delighted to commune with the wild flowers, the crystal spring, and the friendly fire, and to greet the sun as it rose upon the fair Umbrian vale. In this respect, indeed, St. Francis's "gift of sympathy" seems to have been wider even than St. Paul's, for we find no evidence in the great Apostle of a love for nature or for animals.

I'm trying to remember what novel it was that (very engagingly) described Francis' preaching to the birds as an ironic, political act. Does anyone else remember this?

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