“and your very flesh shall be a great poem” Walt Whitman
This work is a celebration of form and flesh--the presence and meaning they are filled with. Some ancient religions, such as Jainism for example, and tribal peoples throughout the world, understand that all matter is endowed with sentience. Plants are seen to have souls. The term vanaspati kaya is a description of this, meaning plant body souls. From the beginning, I have been captivated by the visceral nature of my encounters with cacti and succulents plants. They arouse both resonance and reverence, attraction and awe.
To become embodied, to come into material form, is to exist in the realm of duality with all of its tensions: birth/death; hot/cold; sharp/dull; light/dark; joy/sorrow; subject/object; pleasure/pain; expansion/contraction; and all the places in-between. It is a realm of existential anxiety and a realm of exquisite tenderness.
Cacti and succulent plants are archetypal incarnations of these dualisms--their flesh and thorns continuously seduce and repel; they have the ability to nourish and to harm; ancient grey decaying plants sprout tender brilliant blossoms. And, like the word bittersweet, they are an example of the mysterious space that opens when dualities are held or experienced together simultaneously.
Although the focus of some spiritual traditions is on transcending bodily experience--the materiality of being--there are other philosophies, as well as mystical traditions within many religions, that perceive that the gift of being incarnate in form is that it provides an opportunity--and a doorway--to enter REALITY. They understand that it is actually in the practice of entering sensation moment by moment, rather than defending against it, that we have the opportunity to wake up to an experience of consciousness within and beyond flesh.