Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
March. What a frustrating month. It’s like waking up at 6 am on Christmas morning as a child, and being told by your parents to go back to bed…it’s too early to open presents. Dreaming of summer, desperate for spring, disgusted (by this time) with winter. This year, March seems to be particularly cruel. After relentless, deep, biting cold, snowstorm after snowstorm, and the periodic coating of ice, most of us on the East Coast are pleading “Uncle”. (I actually saw a sign with this single word on it, decorated with icicles.) And yet, the best that March has offered us so far is a sunny day with a cutting, cold wind. Spring, with your blades of newborn green and sparrow chatter, where are you?
Perhaps the Green Man knows.
The Green Man is a mysterious figure commonly found in the decorative architecture of medieval churches and gardens of Europe, especially Britain. Typically depicted as the image of a man’s face with greenery sprouting from the mouth, or a face surrounded by foliage, the Green Man is thought to be a symbol of rebirth, the spring cycle, fertility, and the natural world. Theories of his origins abound, as there are similar representations in ancient Rome and Greece, the Middle East, the Byzantine Empire, and India. In Britain, it is thought that he is likely a variation of a Celtic nature deity incorporated into medieval churches as a way to integrate familiar Celtic symbols into the rapidly expanding Christian beliefs. Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel, outside of Edinburgh, boasts over 100 Green Men worked into its intricate, symbolic architecture. According to rosslyntemplars.org.uk, that is more that anywhere in the world.
Friends in Scotland report that their wild winter winds and rain are calming and that they can feel the season changing. Maybe that’s due in part to the strength of the shoots of green springing from the mouths of one hundred stone faces adorning the Rosslyn Chapel. Stretch your roots, unfurl your leaves, and curl your vines to our shores too, Green Men, and bring the promise of spring!
To pass the waiting, I’ll leave you with a few memories of the Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine, and the incomparable Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.