The Vitruvian Garden

Hail spring, farewell winter, and a rousing welcome to the spring equinox for precisely positioning the earth—and us—in time and space. We watch in awe as the solar conductor rouses the vegetative orchestra to life, transforming fallow plots of land into flourishing gardens. Let there be life!

The equinox provides a YOU ARE HERE moment as our planet travels around the sun. Today the solar disk appears directly above the equator; the northern and southern hemispheres have equal amounts of day and night; the sun rises true east and sets true west the world over.

Every spring equinox, I think of “Vitruvian Man”, the enigmatic 1492 work by Leonardo da Vinci, the most recognizable drawing in the world. It reflects the tenets of Vitruvius (c. 80-70 B.C. c. 15 A.D.), the Roman military engineer, architect and author who wrote “De Architectura”, the earliest surviving treatise on architecture, in which he set out the necessary methods for designing temples, shrines and other public buildings.

Guided by the March equinox, Vitruvius calibrated his sundial with the sun’s location at noon on every first day of spring. Knowing the cardinal directions allowed him to align his buildings with the rising and setting sun for optimal sunlight and shade. Perfection!

Da Vinci’s drawing, true to the spirit of Vitruvius, similarly correlates the human body’s ideal proportions with the geocentric cosmos. He situates Vitruvian Man within perfect forms—a square representing the earth and circle symbolizing the heavens. This angular framework conveys that humanity is sacred, a microcosmic embodiment of the macrocosmic universe.

We post-moderns long to be one with both the earth and universe. In our marginless, 24/7 digital reality and cacophonous popular culture, we find ourselves remote from life and far from Eden. But the equinox grounds us. The first day of spring signals renewal, fertility and the drama of vegetation. From today on, we can re-engage with the plant kingdom from which our civilization has strayed.

Welcome to the Vitruvian Garden, a personal paradise where the spring equinox orients and connects us to the life cycle of plants, the earth, seasons, sun, time of year, and time of day. Here we allocate our botanical resources across myriad gardens, patios, hanging baskets, and windowsills.

Through green alchemy, our senses become alive and attuned. We collaborate with nature to create a pageant of shapes, colors, scents and flavors. Flowers elevate our mood without side effects; fresh garden air and exercise infuse us with physical and mental energy rivaling a week of March Madness.

Plants coevolved with humans, enabling us to quickly and completely metabolize their nutrients and minerals—no costly supplements needed. Are you searching for the Fountain of Youth? Look out your backdoor. Our new Eden benefits both mind and matter, body and soul and, considering our current economy, piggybanks and pocketbooks.

On the March equinox, we feel a joyous excitement in our gardens, as we begin to create a new realm of beauty, poetry, music, and movement—a new world within our world, a new self within our self.

Welcome, spring.

A version of this article appeared in The Roanoke Times

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2023 at 3:15 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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