by Mario Gerada

First Step

Room One: In the Beginning was the Garden
We are all yearning to go back to Sudan, apparently. Was Eden in Sudan or Sudan Eden? Or did we all drown in the Persian Gulf, and still recovering from that trauma? There is so much speculation about which fruit was responsible for humanity’s fall, though it seems it was bone-marrow after all. That which stimulated the human brain to become what we now define as homo-sapiens but ripped us apart really, an anxious disconnect, a long-lost bond we never recovered from.

So, G-d’s garden was planted in Sudan, or where the Persian Gulf is today, or was it Ethiopia? More recently it relocated to the USA or the European Union, perhaps Canada. Julian of Norwich wrote that G-d wishes to be known, seen, sought, waited for, and trusted. Did he move to another planet after he was exiled twice from Earth? Because on planet Earth flowers are trampled upon, bombed, or traded. Like the Cairo Sphinx, they remain enigmatic, looking at us.

Why does nature invest so much energy in creating flowers, when they wither away within a day or so? Beauty is so transient, or is it the only constant?

The garden is home, and home is where our own body is. I found mine in a cave in Umbria singing the song of beauty. Flowers grow there. Perhaps the heart is a mountain in blossom. Does G-d’s beauty ravish the human heart, or do we ravish his? Are we longing for the planet where G-d was displaced to? Do flowers love, is it desire that makes them wither so quickly?

And then there are feathers, those you see floating in the air spiralling down pulled by gravity, meandering until they hit the ground. Is that the reason why the ancient “Maltese” people kept sculpting the meander in stone temples? Because prayer, though wanting to ascend, takes you to your fall into the abyss. Is the sacred encountered in the depth of darkness rather than the clouds? And so, what happened in Paradise exactly? Was it bone-marrow, the first murder, the eating of flesh that exiled us for ever, or did humans exile G-d after tasting blood?

The body knows that the garden is home, it may have been a jungle, for us a desert. Is a tended jungle a garden? We only know parched land. Can we say that a garden flourishing in a desert is rewilding? It is an oasis really, what we keep looking for throughout our lives, and many are lost along the way. Though men know that their bodies are weaponized, and they relish in that, as they do in football and war. They know that life and violence are intertwined, in ways that make it impossible to separate them.

Room Two: Soil
It was in the twelfth century that Hildegard of Bingen wrote that the way of justice is urgent, and we are rather late now. There are things that never change, except for becoming more pressing. In the meantime, the bees are dying, and soon, there will not be much honey left on the honeycomb. Are the five gospels speaking of a utopian myth? It seems that the honey has been all eaten up now and the milk spilled over. Is Empire about to declare that the Empire is more resilient, outliving the words of the prophet, the son of Man? That in the end money wins, on Earth, as megacities keep sprawling, because we do not really know how it is in Heaven, and science is still grappling with all of that. Meanwhile we are heading for the Moon and Mars.

Ultimately, there isn’t much left except oneself, that self, falling downwards pulled by the centre of gravity, be it our genitals or despair, pulling us back to the soil, when all our soul wants is to fly, freed up from clay. Is it in this inferno that the human person receives a glimpse of light? What happened in these past centuries for existential angst to usurp the throne?

Room Three: Roots
The world is a hazelnut, or a hazelnut is like the world, in the palm of G-d’s hand and billionaires. What would Julian of Norwich say today as we are about to crack open the hazelnut? Will it sprout again after it has been destroyed?

It was at college, we called Sixth Form, where the daughters of the Sacred Heart School laughed at me, as I looked down in embarrassment, when our English teacher used my grammatical mistakes as an example... writing them on the whiteboard, handing me back my essay soon after that. It was not bad English really; it was only poetry. It was them who did not know how to read.

A couple of years before that, during a biology private lesson, in a damp garage, girls from that same habitat suggested I become a gardener, a hint not coming from a place of love nor biblical inspiration. It would later become a quasi-religious vocation. During those lessons I understood one thing, that the girls of the Sacred Heart, sacred were not, that beauty was something else altogether, and there was no reflection of it in their faces. Holiness was elsewhere and I had to look for it. My pen would eventually become my inked pointed feather, a weapon of sorts. The garden home, knowing that to be a gardener is to honour the Creator’s first job assigned to mankind, every human is called to do. We garden for flowers to bloom, for the birds to rest and “sing at dawn and dusk”, as we keep trampling on the Creator’s own desire.

Is the masculine merely performative, and the feminine about tending the cloister? Why is everyone performing today? Susanna was happy in her garden before tragedy unfolded, it keeps unfolding there. Men do not love women, they mostly love other men, who are violent in their own image and likeness. Are they able to love beyond their own image and likeness? Is it only the feminine capable of loving the other? Men do love their weaponized bodies and perhaps equality today is not far off from that ancient ideal, perfection is achieved in maleness, a pointed arrow.

Bulls do not aspire to become angels. That is a trap within which humanity keeps falling into. It is men that instigate the bull into aggression, an excuse for his public execution, a spectacle revealing what men do to each other, women, and the Earth.

And I bowed my head to the ground, the droplets of my saliva glistened on the skin of his feet as the sea in Dingli shimmers beneath the glow of a full moon.


Second Step

Room Four: Sunlight
Light feeds most plants, in its absence they perish. Walls around the garden help fruit trees thrive because we people of the desert know that too much light can burn them, as it burns our hair and skin. While too little of it makes all of us stumble back into oblivion. What is discernment if not resting beneath the shade of a large carob tree sifting through one’s own thoughts, between that voice that speaks of annihilation, the one that speaks of homecoming and the other one which does not know where home is. Are thoughts grafted as the citrus trees are?

How can home be found in love when love is fragmentation? How do you stay dry in a home that is a roofless room? When growing translates into shattering the glass ceiling, but watch out my child, the falling glass cuts you.

Room Five: Leaves
Desire is a tempest and worship a dark forest within which we get lost among the shadows. The night became my habitat because day told me there was no room left for me. I wore my bridal gown in secret and in the night I escaped. I befriended the moon and the stars but even they were not gentle. I had to keep running after the nightfall. I found out that the air near the seaside smells of salt.

It might be that Patriarchy is so difficult to overthrow because it is easier to kneel in front of men as we keep doing during Catholic Mass. Perhaps it is because men find it harder to kneel in front of a woman, the womb from which they came forth. The sacred jealously retaining its phallic form.

Room Six: Moonlight
It is fear that is at the root of all violence. They tell us G-d is always present, even in that moment of despair. Knowing oneself comes upon us while falling from flying. Jesus bridges the gap between the Divine and the human, the invisible and the material, the spirit, and the flesh, so why did he choose to become wheat in the end? Do we keep on teaching what we ourselves start doubting and get tired of? We know that on Earth, it is money that has the last word. We keep dreaming of a different kind of community, but the history of humanity is the history of the perpetual crushing of that same dream.

It is the birds that fly away and perhaps why so many Maltese men hate them, or is it love that makes hunters shoot them down? Patience is found in one’s own bone-marrow, we eat that. Temptation waits in the heart, hiding, waiting for rejection to set in.

To fly away we need two wings, and it takes a lifetime to grow them. It was easy to remember how to swim but we did forget how to fly, because our own wings got burnt and so we understood the nature of feathers. And so, we preferred fish scales to those, and abandoned the shearwaters to join the seahorse. It is easier to drown than the vertigo of falling, wings burning. Water holds you as it kills you.

All mystics write that it starts with self-knowledge but knowing oneself is knowing we are not. Emptiness makes the brain go queasy. All humans are looking for home, animals as well, and home is where he is, his face close to mine. The dandelion seems to find home everywhere, also on sidewalks. Jesus is seductive and we are ashamed to admit that his seductiveness led us to excess, madness really. He is the bridegroom or, so we are taught, but who takes that seriously nowadays? Quite a few married him becoming saints after they die. Sometimes, the Christian life feels like drowning while searching for pearls. I am sorry my Jesus, I burnt my wedding ring while praying, it was made of wood.

Room Seven: Flower
Gardenias bloom in silence, is that the heartbeat of the Earth? The sound of it is as silent as when I rest my tired head on his wounded chest, his arms around me. His love is as fragrant as the Earth’s wisdom distilled into orange blossoms. What does the Earth know that we seem unable to comprehend? If it is through prayer that we go up the three steps, how come we find an edge cliff in between those steps and drop into the dark raven, steps swallowed up in fog, no shabbat candles lit around. Clothe me in your skin dear Lord, because mine is too thin to endure this weather.

How did nature learn to defy death through blooming flowers? That light wind in the forest is the necessary condition to weave petals.

I kissed his chest as I was burning with desire, and I turned into a butterfly called Rosina.


Third Step

Room Eight: Chahar Bagh or was it Gajra?
The living flame of love is our origins and end, the place we come from and our final destination. Is that analogous to orgasm, la petite mort? Is it then in fire that we finally find our contentment?

In the beginning G-d planted a garden and built walls around it to protect it from harsh winds and scorching sunlight. A murmuring fountain in the middle, later turned into a well because the Earth was hit by droughts. In the beginning there was a garden and then there was exile and the flood. And later a cloister, the anima mundi, silence, where flowers blossom because love and flowers require those same conditions. Peace is a dwelling place, and it needs a home where to dwell. Silence gave birth to the Word: Radiant light, consuming, vivifying what it consumes. It started as fire, the Earth ablaze.

Do we flower like the almond tree as we set foot on that third step, to receive Jesus’ own kiss on our lips?

I wanted to die to never die again, to flower and never wither, returning to my own origins, nebula.


© 2023 Mario Gerada

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