Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pygmalion and Galatea

This might not seem herbal, but I'll get to that eventually :-).
The oil painting of Pygmalion and Galatea was created by Jean Leon Gerome around 1890. The first time I ever saw it, we were visiting friends in NYC (see LittleBigVoice in the blogroll), and a large print was in their living room. For 3 days, I was transfixed with the image. Many times, paintings and pictures convey a feeling or thought, but for some reason, this one is soul wrenching.
The painting depicts Pygmalion, King of Cyprus, who in abject loneliness sculpts his ideal woman from ivory. Aphrodite brings her to life with an arrow.
We returned home, and the image haunted me until that following holiday season there was a print under the tree with my name on it. It hung in our dining room until my daughter told me it bothered her. Nudity in the dining room, pre-teen embarrassment... ok, it went to my room.
The image is about longing, but it represents so much more to me.
When I look at it, I see how we each in our own way, sculpt our lives. We take what we have and chip away or add to, until it is what we want or need.
Take the garden, for instance. We take a place that may be barren - or overgrown, and within that space create something that was only present in our mind's eye. All of life is filled with this passion and yearning. We learn to make things from the plants we grow. Some of us enjoy cooking, some make medicine, some wreaths and potpourris, soaps, and toiletries. No matter what it is, we are all taking a "lump of clay" and changing it into something we only see inside or feel in our hearts.
It's probably been more than a decade since this image became part of my home. It still moves me each time I look at it, reminding me that reality is of our own invention. What we create changes reality into something it wasn't before.
Personally, of course, I think about the magazine - how it began as a yearning to bring together the herbal community and be able to write regularly, and how passionate our contributors are about what they do. It certainly changed MY reality, and when I read letters from herb newbies, they write about their new-found love of plants. My sister does the same thing with molten glass, visualizing and creating what pleases her, and I am fortunate to be surrounded by a farm that was dreamed in a most beautiful design, and manifested and nurtured by capable hands (and a strong back).
So today, rearranging the things on the wall, it dawned on me that this painting illustrates the very essence of life for nearly all of the people I deal with on a day-to-day basis. They are all dreaming and conjuring their lives, making their own reality as they go. What a fortunate lot we are!

1 comment:

Laura said...

Beautiful! I love this post so much! Thank you for this, for The Essential Herbal, for living your dream and living out loud! :)

Love you!