Aug 24

The Forest for the Trees

Flower-Flames ~~ Aspiration-Plants ~~ Service-Trees

Three of the epic series of poems penned by artist, writer and spiritual visionary Sri Chinmoy contain imagery from the plant kingdom in the choice of title for the series. Flowers, plants and trees. Was it a coincidence that three series of poems (comprising 87,000 poems in total and composed in a 24 year time period) looked to the natural world for titles that married creativity and spirituality?

I must confess that I am a bona-fide nature-lover. I find much fascination in taking photographs of birds, animals and flowers. You are usually hard-pressed to find a photo of a person in my online photo albums unless perhaps that person is reading a story to a therapy dog.

That tendency noted, I still surprised myself with what happened to me yesterday as I sat in an outdoor setting filled with beautiful flowers while on spiritual retreat with the International Sri Chinmoy Centres.

I was watching musical performances, absorbing the life messages in moralistic plays based on Sri Chinmoy’s writings and sharing meditation with the hundreds of people surrounding me during an afternoon function.

Slowly but surely, my attention was drawn to the climbing and unfolding greenery that I sat alongside of and up into the sky I was drawn to look at the tree limbs and myriad variety of leaves that dappled the sunlight and shaded us from the hot summer sun.

The more I looked at the greenery right next to me, the more it seemed to pulsate with life and I became convinced that these plants were striving upwards and aspiring in much the same fashion as the people who sat in their midst. The tendrils of the climbing vines and other plants were in various states of unfolding just as surely as those of us gathered together were all embodied in perfect divinity within regardless of how much it had yet to actually blossom. I started to feel that the plants were more than simply alive, but actually sentient and spiritual in some unusual way.

As my own meditation embraced the natural beauty and, spirit if you will, of the plants around me, a sense of contentment and completeness heightened within and I began to feel convinced that if I was ever so lucky to experience Heaven, this is what it must be like.

Later I wondered if it could be that plants are like people and have feelings and strivings just as we do. Lo and behold, the online library of Sri Chinmoy’s writings produced the following question and answer on precisely this subject. I think my sentiments were “barking up the right tree” after all.

Bob: What is our relationship to the plant kingdom in our aspiration-life?

Sri Chinmoy: Our relationship to the plant kingdom should be extremely sweet. The plant kingdom has real aspiration. We don’t see the seed; it is under the ground. But when we see the plant, we see how it aspires to become a tree and then how it aspires to have flowers. The Indian scientist J. C. Bose discovered how plants quarrel and fight for their own existence. But here we are dealing with their aspiration.

The relationship between the plant kingdom and your own existence is extremely important, extremely deep, extremely intimate. First you are a child. Because you are a child, you aspire to become physically strong, tall. You are a seed that germinates into a plant. Then you become an adolescent, and all the time you are dreaming of becoming a tree, a spiritual tree. So there is a child in you, a soul, that aspires to become a spiritual banyan tree. Plant life and human life are like two brothers. One human brother and one plant brother are here together. Your plant brother is reminding you of your aspiration. The plant brother is going upward to reach the sky and this helps to increase your own aspiration. It makes you feel that you also have to grow into your divinity to reach the highest.

Sri Chinmoy, Father’s Day: Father With His European Children, Agni Press, 1976.

And I can further console myself that this unusual sentiment towards plants is explored in a May 2011 scholarly publication from the State University of New York in a book titled, Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany by Matthew Hall, a conservationist affiliated with the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. He explores many religious traditions and their attitudes towards plants as well as scientific studies that posit plants have feelings and are sentient.

The next time that I think about the natural world as a symbolic and tangible aid to spiritual practice, I will have to remind myself that the plants themselves could be part and parcel of the process. Think twice before you step on that plant. It is a living, breathing organism in the interconnected web of life.


In the case of the Flower-Flames, ten thousand of them were composed over a five-year span begun in 1979 and completed in 1983. In the spirit of transcendence so central to Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy and life, the next series of poems called Aspiration-Plants numbered twenty-seven thousand in all and started the same year that the Flower-Flames  were finished (1983) and continued until the 27,000th aspiration-plant was composed in 1998. The final series of poems  called Service-Trees began immediately after the Aspiration-Plant series completed and the final poem composed in this series was the 50,000th and was published posthumously in 2009.

Nov 09

Another Reason to Love Rhode Island – Little Compton

Fall Pumpkin with Ocean Waves and Rocks
Fall Pumpkin with Ocean Waves and Rocks

Fall Pumpkin with Ocean Waves and Rocks

Is it Indian Summer when there is a beautiful day almost 70 degrees F just after some real cold nights with frost and flurries?

Whatever the qualification, one thing was certain – on a sunny warm Sunday in November it was imperative to spend time outdoors communing with nature.

So off to Chase Point in Little Compton – an area right on the coast of the ocean where the friend of a friend lives.

This was my first visit to Little Compton and it was certainly love at first sight. See if you agree in the slideshow of my visit there today:

Nov 01

Fall Photo Collage

Happy Halloween!

This collage contains photos taken around the library where I work in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and at Bishop’s Orchard in Guilford, Connecticut.

Happy Halloween 2009
Happy Halloween 2009

Happy Halloween 2009

Mar 20

Crocus and the First Day of Spring

Since my favicon for this blog is a miniature of a photo of a crocus that I took in my front yard last year, it only seems fitting that I herald the first day of Spring and the first flowers to bloom in my yard a few days ago – some purple crocuses.

Here is a photo of this year’s crocuses:

Crocus blooming in my yard March 2009
Crocus blooming in my yard March 2009

Crocus blooming around my house is a fairly new addition even though I’ve lived here in East Providence, RI for ten years. Squirrels had typically eaten crocus bulbs I planted until I tried waiting until December to plant them. Now they are the first flowers to bloom at my house in the barely arriving season of Spring.

The crocus is part of the iris plant family and is most noted for the variety of crocus that is used to produce saffron – used for its dye, medicinal purposes and for its use in cooking.

Emily Dickinson called the crocus “Spring’s first conviction.” Here is an Emily Dickinson poem about Spring that is the perfect usher for today’s Vernal Equinox.

Spring is the Period
Express from God.
Among the other seasons
Himself abide,

But during March and April
None stir abroad
Without a cordial interview
With God.
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, poem no. 844

Read about Crocus Lore at The Butterfly Barn Nature Center Website in Pennsylvania.
Read my post about success with the squirrels not eating the bulbs.

May 25

New England May Forecast – Cygnets, Ducklings, Goslings with 50 Percent Chance of Rainbows

Baby Ducks in Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Baby Ducks in Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the latest tragedies, the local news headlines focused on the local sightings of baby swans, ducks and geese during the month of May? And when passing showers proliferate, the weather could offer the chance of rainbows during Spring in New England? The cuteness quotient could not be higher at this time of year. Every May around Memorial Day I can usually find cygnets, ducklings and goslings in area ponds and rivers in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
Canada Geese Family at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Canada Geese Family at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
This year I explored the Buttonwood Park pond in New Bedford, MA. where there is also a zoo. In two visits to the park, I have seen two families of Canada Geese – one has older goslings than the other. There is a family of swans with two cygnets. One Mallard duck family has six babies and another has one baby. It’s all happening at the pond.

Yesterday at the park, dark rain clouds dotted the canvas of blue skies with white clouds. A passing shower found me taking shelter under the canopy of a tree’s branches and I was on high alert for a rainbow but I did not see one. Nature’s beauty was hardly tarnished by its absence. The abundance of water fowl parading their children across the pond served up a heady dose of cuteness and charm all by themselves. Families with children reaching out to give bits of bread to the ducks was equally adorable. I flashed back to my own childhood trips to a park in Michigan to feed the ducks.

Cygnet at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Cygnet at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani

As May fades into summer, I bid it a fond adieu. It is definitely one of the best months in New England.

“Daughter of heaven and earth, coy Spring,
With sudden passion languishing,
Teaching barren moors to smile,
Painting pictures mile on mile,
Holds a cup of cowslip wreaths
Whence a smokeless incense breathes…

Where shall we keep the holiday,
And duly greet the entering May?
Too strait and low our cottage doors,
And all unmeet our carpet floors;
Nor spacious court, nor monarch’s hall,
Suffice to hold the festival.
Up and away! where haughty woods
Front the liberated floods:
We will climb the broad-backed hills,
Hear the uproar of their joy…”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, May Day