O viriditas digiti Dei…!
Hildegard von Bingen, Symphonia armonia celestium revelationum
When I was a young girl, six or so,
The grand sycamore tree at the end of Grandpa’s long back yard
Was my sanctuary. Under its dense and spreading leaves,
If I positioned myself just right,
I could sit, unseen from the house,
And I was free to indulge my childlike thoughts,
Which—given my chronic reflective nature—usually turned
To thoughts about what God must be like,
For I had heard God’s name at every meal
And always on Sundays.
From my grassy pew one day,
Looking into those massive limbs,
I saw a sphere,
Green and translucent,
Contracting, expanding, breathing
(Of that I was certain),
Playing, dancing, bouncing among those leaves,
And then stretching Itself out so that it seemed as if
The electric air between us
Enveloped the tree
And it felt like More-than-Life itself!
Perhaps, even, like God!
The years following that day turned into what passing years always do—
Memories fade and disappear,
Theologies and philosophies and all manner of argument
Replace such silly notions
As a breathing green ball.
And so I lived, as best I could,
My very ordinary life,
Except that one day, a few years ago,
I found myself along the Rhine,
Across from Bingen, walking among ancient vineyards,
Planted centuries ago, just down the hillside from Hildegard’s abbey;
And suddenly, in some unexpected, electric moment,
I could hear the voices of the sisters at noon, singing in the abbey
Hildegard’s glorious melodies!
And for a moment,
I thought I could see her,
Walking there among the green and plentiful leaves,
Her head held in her hands,
Perhaps in pain, perhaps only trying to capture the sight:
All those angels!
Mandalas full of them!
Composing her thoughts—Viriditas!
Viriditas! I could hear her whisper. Greening!
We must all be at the work of Greening!
And in that moment,
There on that brilliant emerald hillside,
I swear this is true:
A breathing, living, green sphere wrapped itself around us,
Hildegard and the verdancy and me,
And I understood: This was surely the closest I had ever come,
Since that day under the sycamore tree,
To knowing God, to knowing life…
To knowing life!