Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Color in the Garden: Indigo

Surprisingly, I haven't yet written on indigo in the garden. I've mused on blue and violet and purple, but not indigo, which is more prevalent in my garden than any of those other colors.

And I'm not talking about False Indigo (Baptisia), and my first miserably insulting experience with it!  (Though now I relish in the fact that my Carolina Moonlight Baptisia, seen here in communion with Corydalis lutea, situated between Blue Fescue Grass and May Night Salvia, with spikes of about-to-burst creamy white/pale yellow flowers, is performing remarkably well in my front garden!)

Indigo, from the Greek ινδικόν (indikon) meaning simultaneously "dye" and "from India," silently screams its substance. Not mere color, but transformational experience (turning something into something else). Not merely from somewhere else, but transoceanic, trans-spatial journeys.

Indigo is, in the Vedic chakra system, the third eye or brow chakra. Ajna. The center of spiritual understanding. The portal for sight in both its physical and intuitive senses. Clarity in the brow chakra--which is code for clarity of mind--allows us to "see things anew," "to see the big picture."

The symbol for the brow or indgo chakra is the pyramid, much like the Iris with its 3 sepals.

I wonder, then, if the expression "out of the blue" really speaks more to the Vedic (indigo) rather than the Western tradition. The idiom is, etymologically, an adaptation of a line from Thomas Carlyle's 1837 The French Revolution: "Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the Blue, has hit strange victims."  

"Out of the blue" speaks to the unforeseen, the unplanned, the jolt of clarity as one thinks and writes. 

It is a bolt of indigo Iris 'gainst a backdrop of Citronelle Heuchera sunshine.

Yet in the Western tradition writ large, this democratic meaning of indigo/blue is countered by an elitist strand.

Sumptuary laws--laws designed to restrain the display of luxury or extravagance--in Elizabethan England regulated use of the color indigo. Associated with wealth and power, indigo (a.k.a. Royal Blue) could only adorn the fashionable, and fashionable was code for royalty and the landed aristocracy. 

This all seems so Hegelian now...for there is a power inherent in indigo: at once democratic and royal, accessible yet reserved. And therein the two traditions, if I may cal them that, converge.  (To what synthesis I have not yet been struck out of the blue to indicate...)

Clarity of sight--literal and figurative, physical and spiritual--is open to us all. That is the democratic element.

Yet there are forces, internal and external, that hamper our vision. That is the elite element.

I'm not so convinced that the choice--to be democratic or to be defeated by elitism--is always up to us.

Perhaps that is the synthesis: the out of the blue moment when democratic and elite combine to forge an inestimable moment of perfect vision.

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