|Rosa 'James Mason' & Magnolia grandiflora 23 June 2021|
EL SUR – Jorge Luís Borges
Desde uno de tus patios haber mirado
las antiguas estrellas,
desde el banco de
la sombra haber mirado
esas luces dispersas
que mi ignorancia no ha aprendido a nombrar
ni a ordenar en contelaciones,
haber sentido el círculo del agua
en el secreto aljibe,
el olor del jazmin y la madreselva,
el silencio del pájaro dormido,
el arco del zanguán, la hemedad
–esas cosas, acaso, son el poema.
To have watched from one of your patios
the ancient stars,
from the bench of shadow to have watched
those scattered lights
that my ignorance has learned no names for
nor their places in constellations,
to have heard the note of water
in the cistern,
known the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle,
the silence of the sleeping bird,
the arch of the entrance, the damp
–these things perhaps are the poem.
Translation by William S. Merwin
In this 21st century of intense polarization, in my blog I am circumspect about my beliefs in politics and religion.
I was born and baptized in the Roman Catholic Church and both my mother and grandmother raised me in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
When I finished my 8th grade in a small school in the mining town of Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico, my teacher (my mother who taught in one room grades, 6, 7 and 8) realized that there was no high school that was nearby except a Roman Catholic boarding school called St. Edward’s in Austin, Texas. Off I went.
Even while there I was aware of the excellence of the education I was being given by the Brothers of Holy Cross (the same order of priests, nuns and brothers that hold court at Notre Dame in Indiana). Looking back I can safely state that my education was a liberal Roman Catholic education. I learned well my American civics, American history and world history with what I now understand was neutral and free of indoctrination.
But it was Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. who taught us religion and it did not take me long to figure out that it was not religion he was teaching us but theology with a heavy dose of philosophy from Aristotle to St. Thomas Aquinas.
It was Brother Edwin who put into our head Aristotle’s “proof” of the existence of God with the idea that He was the Unmoved Mover. Brother Edwin explained it by citing a bowling ball being returned at a bowling alley that comes up to the line of balls on the rack, and which all moves except for the last one. This started my path into my love for the thought problems of philosophic thinking.
In 1996 I traveled to Memphis to consult with the art director of a book called Vancouver – The Art of Living Well (By Peter Newman and Alex Waterhouse-Hayward). I was the photo editor. Brian Groppe was a pleasant and religious art director. On a Sunday he told me as hopped into a car from my hotel, “I am going to church. Do you want to come?” I spotted a Magnolia grandiflora in bloom across the street. I told him, “As soon as I smell one of those flowers I will have been to church.”
This magnolia, commonly called the Southern Magnolia (it also grows well in my native Buenos Aires) has a scent that in my opinion not only rivals the best roses but surpasses them all.
In my trips to Washington, DC I like to linger by a huge magnolia on one side of the Capitol. Since it is a very large and old specimen I can imagine Abraham Lincoln stopping to sniff.
Today 23 June 2021 I noticed the first flower of my magnolia (it did not blossom last year, has it this year, in honour of my Rosemary?). Right next to it was the last bloom of Rosa ‘James Mason’. This Gallica blooms only once in May and until mid-June. For me it was kind of neat to see one of Rosemary’s favourite roses, tipping its hat to say goodbye until next year while the magnolia is here with a scent that for me is ample proof that the unmoving bowling ball might just exist.
And of course, Brother Edwin would have smiled.