Spirit Matters: ‘Go Green’ (not exactly what you’re thinking)

“Humankind, full of all creative possibilities, is God’s work. Humankind alone is called to assist God. Humankind is called to co-create. With nature’s help, humankind can set into creation all that is necessary and life-sustaining,” Hildegard of Bingen.

Hildegard of Bingen was — is — a female powerhouse.

Calling her “perennially relevant,” Pope Benedict XVI named her a doctor of the church in 2012 — one of only four females with this title.

“Perennially relevant” is a profound understatement.

Hildegard was a German Benedictine abbess and polymath active as a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and as a medical writer and practitioner during the High Middle Ages.

Hildegard’s voice remains powerful and alive, more than 800 years after she left this world.

She is rightfully regaining intense interest from people of all backgrounds, as the wisdom she embodied echoes into our crazy, chaotic modern world. More specifically, she is a genuine role model for contemporary women, as she was multi-talented and stood up to the powers-that-be in the name of speaking spiritual truth.

Hildegard is well known for her concept of “viriditas,” the “greening power of God.” Viriditas, translated from Latin into English means vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure, or growth.

As someone who is highly creative by nature, I belong to Hildegard’s tribe.

This week, the greenness of nature went overboard in wooing me with its lushness and vitality, as I drove the back roads to Bloomington-Normal. I tried to “be present” to the moment, and breathe in all the wild beauty.

While there, my family member took me on a tour of State Farm Insurance’s corporate headquarters, where I had worked in my early 20s. I had not stepped foot on the property since the last day I worked there in the spring of 2001.

It just so happens the company is celebrating its 100th year of business this year, so the atrium is decked out in huge celebratory banners, and a mosaic of the company logo that is as tall as the atriums’ four floors, composed of photos of employees who have worked there throughout its history.

The inside was not at all what I remembered, as everything has been updated into a modern, electric vibe, whose focal point is that familiar red logo.

(Note: “Jake from State Farm” made a surprise visit to the atrium recently to celebrate the anniversary, and to energize employees.)

When I left State Farm back then, I went into a work environment 180 degrees different from the typical corporate office space.

I worked at a summer camp, tucked into the green and lush woods of Lake Bloomington. My office was in a remodeled four-room cabin, with green shag carpeting.

My new work environment was technologically behind the times from where I had come.

And, it was glorious.

It gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my heart to the people, and the world around me.

On my way home yesterday, I took video of the last leg of my daily commute to the camp, which amounted to three minutes of curvy roads and green landscape.

When I eventually turned on to the main highway to head back to Streator, I noticed a baby deer leaping through the overgrown ditch next to me.

I later thought of that baby deer sighting as a metaphor for where I am now, and where I am going.

My life has changed considerably since I lived and worked in the Bloomington-Normal area.

I moved home to Streator because I was in a state of disabling depression and anxiety. I didn’t think then I would ever regain the independent life I had enjoyed while there.

But moving home to Streator from the larger Bloomington-Normal eventually opened doors for me I never would have been given had I remained there. I worked as a reporter at The Times Newspaper for nearly nine years, and I was and am very proud of the work I accomplished there. But even more, I am grateful for the lush growth that experience generated in my character, stretching me far beyond my comfort zone.

Later, I opened a bookstore, and I have dipped into giving spiritual talks occasionally. And just a few weeks ago, I did an interview on a podcast for Catholic Spirit Radio about this column, and other spiritual topics.

As I drove home, I realized yesterday’s visits were a way for me to proverbially close the door on my life in BloNo. I still miss living there, and I visit often, nostalgic for those early adult years that included so much self-discovery and growth.

But my life is here now. And, as I prepare to say goodbye to the single life, and get married in March at the age of 50, it is time to move onto a new “greening” period in my life.

I like to imagine myself now as that baby deer I saw yesterday, leaping through the overgrown green ditch, starting a new life and ready to explore all of nature’s gifts.

It doesn’t matter how old the calendar says we are, life offers us the “greening power of God” until we take our final breath.

It is up to us to harness that power that comes from the Designer-in-Chief, and make our lives vibrant, lush and fertile.

Just like Hildegard of Bingen did.

  • SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.