Saturday, August 7, 2010


Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Garden of Paradise, 1530

I want to direct the viewer's attention to the upper left portion of the painting, where we see not just the angel expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden, but, to the right of that scene, the Tree of Knowledge and what is perhaps the most cute Serpent ever. Seretta Martin pointed out that this serpent looks like a mermaid. The word "mermaid" of course makes me think of a siren, in this case one with the face and upper body of Eve (a common tradition in the paintings of Garden of Eden). The serpent may not be singing a "siren song," but certainly has better lyrics than the Homeric sirens. 

Note the disembodied head of God in a wreath of clouds, seeing Adam and Eve trying to hide in the bushes now that they've eaten the Forbidden Fruit realize they are naked. Note also the graceful unicorn and the sexy lion. 

"Knowledge" is a left-hemisphere activity. If Jill Taylor is right, then the loss of Eden meant giving dominance to the left hemisphere. Dr. Taylor thinks the right hemisphere is the seat of bliss. In her book, The Stroke of Insight, she counsels "Step to the right" -- into right hemisphere activities -- whenever we are tormented by overthinking. 

Here are two poems from Linda Pastan’s sequence, “The Imperfect Paradise”


Which season is the loveliest of all?
Without a pause you smile and answer spring,
Thinking of Eden long before the fall.
I see green shrouds enclosing everything
And choose instead the chaos of the snow
Before God separated dark from light.
I hear the particles of matter blow
Through wintry landscapes on a wintry night.
You find the world a warm and charming place,
My Adam, you name everything in sight.
I find a garden of conspicuous waste –
The apple’s flesh is cold and hard and white.
Still, at your touch my house warms to the eaves
As autumn torches all the fragile leaves.

Somewhere in the Euphrates

Somewhere in the Euphrates, buried, lost
The rusted gates of Eden still remain,
And archeologists at awful cost
Search for a snakeskin or an apple stain,
Talk of Atlantis and the walls of Troy
As if they had to prove each legend real
Or else, like fools of science, must destroy
Geographies of what we only feel.
While sometime watching at the window here
I see you in the garden on your knees;
It is as close as you have come to prayer,
Planting the shadblow and the peonies,
Making azaleas, hollies, dogwoods grow,
Digging up Eden with a single hoe.

 ~ Linda Pastan, from The Imperfect Paradise


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