Poverty of the Soul Antidote

– Posted in: Garden Photography
Angel Unfolding - Tree Peony
Angel Unfolding – Tree Peony

Fran’s last post has prompted me to follow up with a couple of photos from a series I call “Angels Unfolding”.

She said in the previous post here at GGW: “Appreciating and connecting with nature is a profound way to vanquish the poverty of our souls. It can change our lives and significantly help transform our collective unconscious and the meaning of life on this earth, not only for ourselves, but for others.”

Fran worried that what she said “may sound hokey and New Age”, and yes it does – because I am right there with her.  Since I live at the very center of New Age hokeyness (Marin County, California) I think I am in a good place to take this conversation off the deep end of transformational thought.

Certainly for me, connecting with nature has vanquished many a dark moment and enlivened this soul. I work to share my connection with others; I think all of us here in this sphere of garden communications try to share nature’s astounding ability to transform our collective unconscious. But I remain cynical that we will transform the world. There is too much desperate poverty and starvation in places like Sudan and Bangladesh for our Western souls to even comprehend meaningful change in our time.

Yet, I will argue our very knowledge of the despair elsewhere in the world, just like the overwhelming amounts of knowledge we now have about everything from the origin of stars, to the html of computer programming, down to the income taxes of Joe the Plumber, means we as individuals are overwhelmed with information without meaning. Collectively we (someone) can handle all this information, but as individuals we need to attach meaning to something. We need not more and more information to find meaning, we need to simplify to get out into the real world and see, learn, and do with our own eyes, hands, and hearts.

I was once asked as a Waldorf school parent if I was worried about preparing my children for the real world. My answer was always “What ‘real world’ are you referring to?”. The big wide world full of overwhelming information is not my ‘real world’. None of us lives in the ‘real world’ – we create our own community and world of associations for which we hope to contribute, prosper, and give meaning to.

I worry that without nature to enliven our souls we will drift off into the virtual worlds that are now springing up as on-line universes. Indeed, I worry we who are reading and writing these blogs are contributing to poverty of the soul by these purely intellectual pursuits.

So, for me, to counteract this tendency to lose touch with what grounds us, to fight the poverty of the soul, to build a virtual community with a collective consciousness, and connect us with nature here in the blog world, I offer photos. Maybe once again the camera lies and creates meaning that the subject never intended. I do pray we find our own meaning in the beauty that surrounds us.

Angel unfolding, Rhododendron loderi

Blessings – and onward…

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic, a garden picture resource for photographs, workshops, and garden photography stories. A landscape photographer and award winning photojournalist with more than 20 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California.

Saxon Holt

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Nancy Bond October 18, 2008, 11:08 am

This is one of the most beautiful and most meaningful blog posts I’ve ever read. Well said!

One of my favorite quotes is by John Burroughs. “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” It never fails. I like to think, like you, that offering photos of Nature at her finest…or even at her worst, definitely is a small contribution to counterbalancing that “poverty of the soul”. Other’s photos certainly do it for me.

Great post!

Thanks Nancy and I appreciate the Burroughs quote I didn’t know. – Saxon

Rhonda October 18, 2008, 7:41 pm

this was probably the best post that I have read. Incredibly inspirational and so true. I did not feel that Fran’s or even your words were at all New Agey or hokey. This might be because I live within the realm of Hokey and New Agey..LOL Wonderful and insightful..bravo!

Thanks Rhonda – Gee, I don’t expect such high praise for my writing and hope you liked the photos too Saxon

Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com October 21, 2008, 5:52 pm

Hi. As an ex-Marinite (35 years) and ex-Waldorf schoolteacher, and a current gardening blogger–I would like to invite you to my blog where I personally am learning the expanded possibilities of blogging for change. In this case it’s through the Scarf Initiative, inviting bloggers and visitors to join in knitting scarves for Pakistani schoolgirls. We have commitments for 75 scarves. Please see blog for more details. (Scroll down three posts for update.) xox

Benjamin October 24, 2008, 1:11 pm

Nice 5th paragraph…. I just got done teaching Dwellings, by Linda Hogan. I wonder if you this book? A beautiful spiritual and REAL meditation on our place / role in nature, and vice versa. Some classes hate this book, feeling her depth and description and reflections are peachy, tell them how they should live closer with nature,; other classes see it as example to inspire, showing a new way in, a new perception into the world around us we feel distanced from and that makes us hurt all the more. Today, it was the former, and was sfrustrating. To see young adults, soon to be in positions of real power and change, feel alienated by “nature talk,” humility, and sensitivity to our thoughts and place in the world was simply shocking. Disheartening. I hope it changes.

Benjamin – I do not know the book but have just reserved it at the library. Sounds like something I should know – and my wife too as she is now teaching a Shelters block in her class. While Waldorf 3rd graders are not yet young adults, the students who come through that system have profound respect for nature and the spiritual side of things. New Age and hokey I suppose but they also teach gardening. I strongly suspect your students who “feel alienated by “nature talk,” humility, and sensitivity to our thoughts and place in the world” have spent no time gardening and little time actually in the world.

Thanks a lot for your thoughts – Saxon