Viridissima Virga, Hildegard von Bingen,
Hail to you, o verdant branch
that burst forth in the rush of the wind
out of sacred prayers.
When your time had come
to blossom on all your branches
the word rang out:
Hail to you,
Hail to you
The sun’s warmth trickled into you
like the fragrance of balsam.
Now that the dogs have passed on, and our house isn’t filled with dog hair and a round space is missing on the couch from where Rosie sneaked up to sleep, we have decided to redecorate.
We have loved our “Santa Fe” look for almost 20 years -- orange walls, blue checkerboard painted floors. But with the passing of time, and the passing of our beloved animals, the couch and chairs went to the upholsterer, and Margaret went to the paint store.
But first we had to decide where we were going. If not orange and blue, then what? One recent morning, I sat looking out the windows into the woods and pastures below. Well, I tried to look into the woods and pastures below, but my eyes were stopped -- since we live in a tree house with so much green and brown right at the windows that it is impossible, in summer, to see anything else.
Water oaks and tulip poplars and sweet gum trees are the tallest in front of me, except for the pines that hover over everything to the west side. Dogwoods settle underneath. Pungent cedar and juniper and balsam filter in. I love them and they seem to love me, pushing into my living room as if they are part of the family.
St. Hildegard once said, “If you are feeling ill or weak of heart, go sit in the garden, among the green, and you will find rest.”
It was immensely restful, that green and brown. I felt an embrace of God’s green energy, what St. Hildegard named “veritatas” a Latin word that means the greening of the world is God. God’s greening. The surge of green in a blade of grass or a 50-foot tree looming into my window is all God manifesting.
So: Green and brown. It was easy from then on to find paint and fabric. Every season brings its own yellow, purple, red, gold, umber, black, white, gray. But beneath all the chemical processes that turn chlorophyll into every other color, is green.
Now we have a green sofa and brown chair. A green wall, a brown floor. Hildegard would find rest here.