Friday, June 4, 2010

Color in the Garden: Violet

An unexpected pleasure appeared in the shade garden this year. The Lady-in-Red Hydrangea, which sports strikingly intense red stalks, red veins set within deep green leaves, and pink lace-cap flowers, has this year produced most ethereal, fluorescent violet flowers. This is botanically odd, since the backyard shade garden soil is highly alkaline, which affects certain plants (like my Nikko Blue Hydrangea) by turning blue flowers pink. Pink flowers ought to remain, I thought, pink.

But this year's display is decidedly violet. Each day produces a more vibrant, slightly deeper hue. The camera cannot capture its incandescent glow. Only visitors to the garden can experience it; the best times for viewing are at dawn and at dusk.

And now I surmise why this most luminous of colors is so elusive: violet is the color of unity—but not just any unity.

Violet, I have learned as a fitting follow-up to my previous entry, is associated with the seventh or Crown Chakra, the Sahasrara, which links the individual (the immediate) with the universal. Violet, in the Vedic tradition, is the inescapable essence of the cosmos, the infinite, and as such cannot be arrested in finite time by a camera. We can only hope to be entranced in its presence, yearning to break free if for a moment of the pressures and demands of the finite world in which we live.

This primal unity, or enlightenment is, to be sure, available only to a select few. This is not to imply enlightenment is, from the standpoint of admission, an exclusive, regulated club. It is to imply that we humans lack purity of self and soul, and thus are constrained (or constrain ourselves) from achieving a non-theoretical, spiritual Oneness. Our words, our actions, our thoughts fracture our consciousness and our relations with others. 

True, some have what we might call a bodhisattva complex, and willingly and graciously refrain from entering that Promised Land, that nirvana, that unitary consciousness, all in an effort to help us more fallible beings get from here to there in basically one piece. How kind of them.

Perhaps violet is my bodhisattva. It certainly is the first thing I look at early in the morning (yes, dear reader, it now distracts me from my prize Nikko Blue Hydrangea), radiating as it can only do at particular times of the day. It arrests me; I find myself having to consciously break my trance. 

But like anything in life, violet in the garden simply is. What we do with it, how we interpret it, is up to us. Sure: culture ascribes particular meanings to particular colors. Our inclinations and interpretations are most likely influenced by that which is external to us. Yet in the end, meaning only attains resonance and import upon deeper reflection, when we have unified the external and the internal, the immediate and the universal.

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