I decided on a Green Man for the deck of my townhouse, a place from which I could see trees, birds, deer, even an occasional red fox.
The Green Man is an ancient symbol of the intermeshing of human beings and the natural world. Although my Green Man was molded of unpainted faux-stone, many “representations are of a leaf-mask – green and gold, signifying nature transformed, in harmony with heaven.”
One of the Green Man’s haunts is Bardsey, an island off the coast of the Llŷn peninsula in northwestern Wales. R. S. Thomas calls it “that green / island” with “anointed air,” where “there was a resurrection / of nature.”
The Welsh poet Christine Evans, who lives on “that green / island” half of the year, uses the word “Veriditas” to express the “resurrection / of nature” – the freshness and creativity of the natural world.
Veriditas is, in the words of Hildegarde of Bingen, “the power of springtime, a germinating force, a freshness that penetrates all creation.”
A theology of Veriditas is what R. S. Thomas, a priest of the Church in Wales, finds missing in many parish ministers. The Reverend Elias Morgan, in Thomas’s poem “The Minister,” self-cloisters himself from the natural world, the world of flowers and birds . . . and love:
A few flowers bloomed beneath the window,
Set there once by a kind hand
In the old days, a woman’s gesture
Of love against the childless years.
Morgan pulled them up; they were untidy.
He sprinkled cinders there instead.
In the pulpit, Morgan ranted and Bible-flapped and rained down cinders on . . .
. . . sex, sex, sex and money, money,
God’s mistake and the devil’s creation.
In the end, Morgan’s spirit failed, then his body, for he had self-cloistered himself in the Black Book, and declined invitations to go walking with the Green Man:
Morgan . . .
. . . never listened to the hills’
Music calling to the hushed
Music within; . . .
Morgan never experienced what I did when I stepped clumsily off of the Bardsey boat and noticed
. . . sudden, welling
quiet, and how here the breeze
lets smells of growing things
settle and grow warm, a host of presences
drowsing, their wings too fine to see.
Morgan never walked the gravel tracks of Bardsey as I did, guided by a woman who lives greenness, and realized that . . .
. . . nature’s truth
Is primary and her changing seasons
Correct out of a vaster reason
The vague errors of the flesh.
Quotes used in this post:
“representations are of a leaf-mask” – Burning the Candle by Christine Evans (2006), 88.
“that green / island” – “That Place,” Laboratories of the Spirit (1975), 8.
“the power of springtime” – Burning the Candle (2006), 90.
“A few flowers bloomed beneath the window” – “The Minister,” Song at the Year’s Turning (1955), 82-83.
“sex, sex, sex and money, money” – “The Minister,” 83.
“never listened to the hills’” – “The Minister,” 92.
“sudden welling / quiet” – “Enlli,” Selected Poems by Christine Evans (2003), 85.
“nature’s truth / Is primary” – “The Minister,” 93.