Cultivating a Cosmos

In the last several weeks I’ve frequently been posed the question, “what are your religious or spiritual beliefs?” and what I would like to say is, “Stanley Kunitz”, but that would leave most people confused.

“The unconscious is very much akin to what, in other frameworks, I call wilderness. And it’s very much like the wilderness in it that its beasts are not within our control. It resists the forms, the limits, the restraint, that civilization itself imposes. I’ve always felt, even as a child, that there was the decorum of social structure, the family structure, and so forth, and then there was the wild permissiveness of the inner life.

I learned I could go anywhere in my inner life.”

–Stanley Kunitz


Stanley Kunitz is a poet and gardener and philosopher. The Wild Braid is a collection of poems, photos and conversations he had in his hundredth year, reflecting on the nature of life and order and chaos and wilderness. Kunitz writes how to garden is to cultivate a cosmos, to participate in the cycles of life and death. “The garden isn’t, at its best, designed for admiration or praise, it leads to an appreciation of the natural universe, and to a meditation on the connection between the self and the natural universe.”

I believe life is an unlikely, divine thing. I suppose the odds of anything existing the exact way it is may make people think that the world can’t actually be so random, and there must actually be some higher power. I believe that divinity is everything that coalesced to create us and this moment, and we have that wild, beautiful chaos in ourselves as well.


“The garden is, in a sense, the cosmos in miniature, a condensation of the world that is open to your senses. It doesn’t end at the limits of your own parcel of land, or your own state, or your own nation. Every cultivated plot of ground is symbolic of of the surprises and ramifications of life itself in all its varied forms, including the human.” Stanley Kunitz





“…the oldest of living trees, why did I want that in my garden? To me they were correspondences to my own sense of being, with its love for the whole history of the race, and of language– from the very beginning, the accumulation of sense within the syllables of a word, for example. The antiquity of a tree is a concentration of cosmic energy. That’s always fascinated me.” Stanley Kunitz


It tickles me, the nonchalance with which he writes of such a humble but profound life.

“Part of the fascination of a gardening is that it is, on the one hand, a practical exercise of the human body, and, on the other, a direct participation in the ritual of birth and life and death.” Stanley Kunitz


These notions are all so simple but the significance of them is amazing. That we have wilderness in us, and we can foster and grow it no matter what our physical location is. That we can participate is the rituals of birth and life and death by simply growing something. Cultivating life is a divine experience that links us with everything and everyone. Beautiful!


plant1Photos courtesy of Cactus Mart, an incredible garden center in Palm Springs, CA. Can’t recommend it highly enough!

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