I opened Dag Hammarskjold's Markings this morning, a Goodwill find, purchased because I remembered that my father admired him and because W. H. Auden wrote the foreword. Hammarskjold, Secretary-General of the United Nations for two terms in the 1950s, and a handsome Scandinavian, pulls no punches in this book. He writes:
"You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn't reserve a plot for weeds."
Them's powerful words! And what a title for a book or movie--A Plot for Weeds. I don't know about you, my friend, but R.H. and I do not set out on purpose to grow a fine crop of weeds, although if you could see our front garden by late July each year, you might think we had bought many packets of seed labeled "Various Weeds," and sowed them liberally. No, weeds may run rampant here due to neglect but we didn't set out to cultivate them. It is the nature of weeds to proliferate when your back is turned.
Now you know that I could easily write a parallel lecture here to myself and you about the "weeds" we let into our life--from television, movies, life itself, purely from neglect or apathy--soon sending out roots until the perennial beds of our lives are savaged beyond repair. I'm not going to because we already know that, don't we? And I need a bit of cheer here in Tennessee where our few days in the 70s said "bye-bye" today, and it's dark, cold, sleeting and the first mention of the dreaded black ice has been mentioned on the local news for tonight.
Although Hammarskjold is not always a cheerful chap in his book, I stumbled across some mighty pretty picture words he wrote that make me think this man might not be as intimidating as I thought:
"A line, a shade, a color--their fiery expressiveness.
The language of flowers, mountains, shores, human bodies:
the interplay of light and shade in a look,
the aching beauty of a neckline,
the grail of the white crocus on the alpine meadow in the morning sunshine--
words in a transcendental language of the season."
I sigh. Ah, he gets it. He's not only brilliant and discerning, he is a man of sensitivity and tenderness, too. Obviously he has seen and remembered and can visualize not only nature's infinite beauty but "the aching beauty of a neckline." Have you ever read a more innately pure yet more sensual description of what a woman's décolletage can be when it's done right? I'm glad that Secretary-General Hammarskjold included this line. It helps me like him more, this man who doesn't suffer fools gladly.
What does this last have to do with weeds? Maybe not a thing, but one does have to keep the weeds pulled from around the lilies in the garden in order to appreciate their lines, their color, their aching beauty. Weeds. Does anyone actually like weeding? Scout's honor?
It's a jungle out there!