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Flor y Canto: Flower and Song

Elaborate academic dissertations have been written about this pre-Columbian concept. In the Nahuatl language, “In xochitl in cuicatl,” or among the descendants of Central America, “Flor y Canto” (Spanish), the metaphor of flower and song often refers to sacred hymns, chants and songs inspired by animistic beliefs for communing with nature. What is available about this information has been passed down from generations, drawn from the Mayan codices and from indigenous people who shared this with others. This philosophy was originally musically performed to communicate with the spirits of nature. The most prominent scholar on the subject matter is Miguel Léon-Portilla (2000, 1992, 1963).



Many, many generations later, the meaning of Flor y Canto has been readapted in contemporary times, and in urban settings. Some of my peers do have drums, conches, and ancient dances to share, but most often it refers to mystical poetry of the written kind. Today, I have also heard the term Flor y Canto used to explain great creativity borne of few resources and hardships, a term of admiration and marvel. Elders are known to be guided by Flor y Canto; these long-walkers have come to know the world and offer solutions. The majority of them are unnamed naturalists. This expression also contains a sense of creative magic—it is implied that one can make something out of nothing. I’ve yet to meet a gardener who does not have this magical skill.



Those ancient people spoke to the sun and moon, asked the winds and sea for mercy. They understood that a visit from hummingbird was neither a casual event, nor an accident, as they have been feeding her with their work. Even In recent times, when the bees were found dead, in Guatemala, a healer sang to them and beat his drums, asking the cosmos for help. Flor y Canto is an inter-dimensional awareness of life conditions of all that is perceived and in the invisible world. This is a departure from the narrow human-centric viewpoint. Instead, everything is alive and aware of itself as a collective “us:” the creepers, crawlers, the swimmers, the winged ones, the two-legged and four-legged beasts, plants, stones, earth, water, wind, fire and the stars. Therein lies the muse, we are inspired by our connectivity. The creation story is now, and is always, in a state of flux. A different way of thinking from modern times.



More linguistics. The word garden comes from an old 13th Century French derivation of “jardin” which meant curtain or enclosure, matching today’s view of what a garden is. For the ancient Nahua, the name for garden, in general, was xochitla, literally “flower place.” An alternative mind-set. As we use our gifts of Flower and Song, it may be that we are in the habit of putting a curtain or enclosure on nature. We are hiding, exerting excessive control, or trapping actual life forms. We have normalized the domestication of plants and animals to such an extent that there is no moral red flag that has been raised, “because everyone is doing it.” Yet, the excessive disruption, caused by this habit, has created the current long list of ecological disturbances. We live lives of convenience and speed at the expense of acknowledging the whole picture.



The moment I realized a dream of holding a space, having a home of my own, I felt the substantial opportunity and a responsibility to be reverent to it. We become caretakers of a piece of land and sky. From below our feet to the upper realms, we are causing a shift by the choices we make, influencing the micro and macro surroundings. In our flower places, we have the option to create an unselfish beautiful space that teems with a definition of thriving. Otherwise, it’s only a real estate investment, something to anxiously guard or sell in the end. This thought is disenfranchised from its original purpose, to be in a beautiful habitat for the living. It is up to each of us to notice the greater scheme, to demonstrate reverence, create what is noble and decide the indelible legacy to leave to future generations of livings organisms. Sometimes the children ask me what will happen to the garden when I am gone. The answer is, “it will be your turn, please take care of it.”




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