The Last Swallows: A Poetic Journey

For Hildegard, health and healing sought balance in all aspects of life. She honoured interconnectivity – of spirit, mind, body; of humanity, the earth and the universe. This is the heart of Hildegard’s healing philosophy, though not unique to her. Buddha emphasised the middle way as the path of moderation and the path of wisdom. The Tao always reminds us to move towards finding the balance as with dark and light.

What would eventually set her apart, however, was how she chose to embrace the middle ground set forth in the Rule of St. Benedict. This enabled her to engage in her individual passion while serving the stringent institutionalism of the Church.

It was within this middle ground that she pressed her will and intellect into the interconnectivity of the physical and spiritual worlds, culminating in her foundational work in natural medicine.

From her early years Hildegard worked with  garden plants and herbs for healing. This can be seen in the following poem when Jutta is dying. ( from Book 111 of Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey)    

 

 

 

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The Last Swallows  

Hildegard’s world stands bleak, 
bare.    The last swallows long gone.
In cold light 
dew drops hang on a blade of grass.
Lingering dread 
knots her stomach.

She enters the anchorage 
sighs deeply,
lights Advent’s second candle.
Its smoky glow 
reveals the pale beauty of Jutta’s face,
she lies stilled. 
Hildegard puts down some bowls, 
kisses her forehead.

 Jutta, my mother,
your ascetics are too harsh.
Your imprisoned cell here 
is mortification enough.

Let our spirits give praise 
with rhythm of music,
with song of jubilation.
Our God, the Just One, is she who offers life 
with all its bountiful gifts.

She nurtures Jutta, 
urges with sips of fennel tea,  
warmed broth, mulled honeyed wine. 
Oil from the olives, freshly pressed, 
she heats over the smouldering hearth,
gently massages Jutta’s hands and feet.
Her flesh wasted.
Jutta has her mind only  
on heaven, 
to be remembered as a saint. 
Hildegard kneels beside her
holds her cold hands,
listens to her trailing breath.
She loves this broken woman.

 

Colleen Keating from Hildegard of Bingen : A Poetic Journey

 

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Later Hildegard came to understand everything is given us
for our wellbeing. She would write later about the interconnection of all things.
There is no creation that does not have a radiance, 
be it greenness or seed, blossom or beauty, 
it could not be creation without it.  Hildegard of Bingen

In 1150, Hildegard left the Monastery at Disibodenberg and led her sisters to set up the new Abbey at Rupertsberg. There she embarked on deep and valuable work in lifestyle, nutrition, and well being for her sisters. Word spread around the  of her healing ways.

When Hildegard left the Monastery at Disibodenberg and led her sisters to set up the new Abbey at Rupertsberg in 1150 she embarked on deep and valuable work in lifestyle, nutrition, and well being for her sisters. And word spread around the Rhineland of her healing ways.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, declared “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be they food.” The concept of food as medicine is ancient. Hildegard was one of the first in Mediaeval Western civilisation that connected health and nutrition. 

Food as medicine is the core for Hildegard of Bingen. Her notion that a kitchen is also a pharmacy reflects a common theme among ancient traditions of healing: food is the first medicine. Medicines at the time were all plant based or specific combinations of foods prescribed according to their unique healing qualities.

Hildegard’s original work, was eventually split into two treatises, Physica  and   Causae et Curae –

“Physica” represents the history of natural remedies, which Hildegard had intended for public use. and in Causae et Curae Hildegard describes healing and treatment methods using humoral techniques along with traditional creation teachings, combined with ancient mystic cosmologies.

 

 

 

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Some of the books of the 21st century  Colleen has, that are inspired by Hildegard of Bingen

Today especially in Germany, Hildegard’s healing treatments have found a resurgence in holistic health and wellness.

Within this renaissance Hildegard’s philosophies around health and nutrition provide concrete ways to achieve a healthy spirit, mind, and body, which ultimately lead to a healthy lifestyle. From this healthy lifestyle we harvest many benefits, not the least of which is avoiding illness and unnecessary suffering.

Expansion to Eibingen: A Poetic Journey

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From my writing desk, in Bingen, looking down the Rhine

 

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At Bingen, looking down the Rhine.

 

Expansion  to Eibingen  

Hildegard’s fingers tap restlessly 
on the refectory table. 
A new plan consumes her mind.
She moves to the podium
tucks back some loose strands of grey hair,
smoothes her veil
waits for her sisters to end supper.

She looks around.
A hundred sisters sit close in lines
share their own produce, 
freshly baked spelt bread,
honey, warmed grape wine. 
Hildegard breathes the aroma 
of the delicious broth, 
a recipe she has created 
for their health. 

Her mind holds a bold horizon
as the shape of Rupertsberg
grows its silhouette into the sky.
Its soul is their singing, her music.  

Hildegard inspires their hearts 
again with the bravery of St Ursula.
Her voice lowers,

My gaze is drawn across the Rhine
to the hamlets and people of Eibingen.
To a destroyed, abandoned convent.
How the local people beckon 
for our sisters.

Chatter buzzes, hums
like a hive of  Odelia’s bees.
Excitement palpable.

They imagine the old buildings 
brought to life again 
by their efforts.

On the first Sunday of Lent

Hildegard crosses the busy Rhine 
with thirty volunteer sisters 
to found a new convent 
amongst the people of Eibingen.

Sister Inez,  chosen the new Magistra. 
The monk Volmar comes to bless them.
Carpenters and stone masons
follow, enthusiastic about a new project.

On the return journey,
the smell of the river captivates Hildegard.
Undeterred by the rough swell,
she turns to Volmar,
We will visit twice a week
to encourage and support them

The buildings and spires of Ruperstsberg
from the  perspective of the Rhine
catch warm rays of a sun, deep in their hearts.

 

 

 

Schwester Raphaela (l) und Schwester Maria Magdalena von der Abtei St. Hildegard bei Rüdesheim (Rheingau) lesen am Mittwoch (30.09.2009) Spätburgundertrauben im Weinberg. Das Kloster bewirtschaft 6,5 Hektar Rebfläche, die zu 83 Prozent mit Riesling und zu 17 Prozent mit Spätburgunder bepflanzt ist. Die geschichtlichen Wurzeln des Klosterweingutes reichen bis ins Mittelalter zurück, in die Zeit der Gründeräbtissin dieses Klosters, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). Schon damals betrieben die Schwestern Weinbau. Foto: Arne Dedert dpa/lhe +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Abtei St. Hildegard bei Rüdesheim (Rheingau) 2009  ( in 12th century situated at Eibingen

Touch of Silk: A Poetic Journey

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A happy photo of a Benedictine sister picking the grapes at  the  Eibingen Abbey.

This poem in Hildegard’s poetic journey  Touch of Silk is a transitional moment when she is inspired to showcase her sisters, singing, and her music, with her sisters dressing in beautiful gowns and flowers. It is a fact many of the women were quite wealthy and did bring jewellery maybe as part of a dowry,which they used to adorn themselves on special feast days. One must remember the 12 th century was a moment of Renaissance. Many frowned on her actions but it was still able to be done. In less then 100 years this would not be allowed.

 

Touch of Silk

There must have been a moment
when the idea arose.
Maybe it was the visions
when holy virtues spoke to her.

Maybe when all fifty sisters spent time
laughing together as they picked grapes,
for the winepress,
to make the sacramental altar wine,
and their sweet wine
to give warmth and strengthen blood,
as Hildegard says.

Maybe it was the day
the cousins Bertrude and Agnes
from a noble family joined her sisters,
proudly announcing they were seamstresses,
and donating reams of silk
for priestly albs and vestments.

Just maybe, the touch of the silk
gave Hildegard the idea.

Excitement drives her thoughts and words,
as she muses and then reflects out loud,
My sisters will wear silk gowns
as they sing our opera.
We will have it ready to perform
for the Bishop and his entourage
at the consecration of our new Church.

After Matins,
Hildegard gathers her sisters,
My sisters, God loves beauty.
For our concert we will dress,
as noble regal souls.
We will wear silk gowns that flow.
Gold wreaths and flower-circlets will crown us.
Let our hair loose under light translucent veils.
Our hair is our glory,
not a temptation to cut or hide.

Feverish as excited children
the sisters sing and sew
and with every practice
Hildegard watches their confidence grow.

Below is some special mementos I brought home from Bingen.
The wines I shared with Michael were special and my Hildegard candle energises me and the whole room while I write.

wine from Abbey

Hildegard’s wines from Eibingen

Epiphany: A Poetic Journey

 

 

 

 

tulip bud in Liz garden

Tulip bud by Elizabeth Keating -Jones

 

 

Epiphany

 

In the garden, Hildegard sings
of the soft hills
curved as a mother’s breast,
The earth is at the same time mother,
She is mother of all that is natural,
mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all,
for contained in her
are the seeds of all.

 

She sings of trees and plants
ferns, herbs, flowers and stones.

 

The greening power of God’s love
surges through her
palpable holiness
surging with vitality.

 

Hildegard learns
names of the plants, herbs
their healing properties.
The sisters’ garden explodes
a paint box come to life
spilling across a landscape.

 

Richardis follows her
discerns culinary and medicinal plants
bubbles intensely,
alive with the world.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor
 Photo taken by Elizabeth Keating-Jones in her spring back-yard garden, which we began while visiting in the past autumn.

Disibodenberg: Poetic Journey

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Disibodenberg

High in the forest
it sprawls in the clouds.
The last mile steeply uphill.
Secluded.

A white butterfly dips and lifts.  
Hildegard’s gaze follows it up
catches the glint of the sun 
on the first stone wall. 

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Stoic buildings unfold
cloistered around a cobbled garth. 
Their Benedictine monastery.

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A monk in cinctured black robe
walks from the signposted infirmary. 
From beneath his blinkered cowl
he extends a welcome.

They dismount.  
Jutta falls on her knees in gratitude.
Hildegard overjoyed, breathes
the space of leafless beech and elms
in the skinniness of winter.

White tipped branches 
disguise trees of apple and pear.
Grapevines cling bare along stone walls.      
Frosty breath hangs in the air.
Her new home,
a frisson of gold in the cool noon sun.

Hammer and anvil ring, 
chink of chisel, thwack of axe,
clank of well come to a hush 
as a bell rings.  Then the shuffle 
and hiss of sandals, 
forty robed monks file to chapel.
Hearing a deep, rich chant
Hildegard looks up, 
hearkened to the sound. 

 

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Michael on The Way to the ruins of Disibodenberg where Hildegard lived for 38 years.

We walked with our guide on our pilgrimage to Disibodenberg
and imagined  Hildegard arriving as a young girl with her mentor Jutta,
and Hildegard hearing the music of the monks for the first time.

Viriditas: Poetic Journey

 

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This is one of my reflective times in Hildegard’s Kapelle at the ruins of her
Disibodenberg Monastery in Germany where Hildegard
lived for the first 38 years of her Religious life. And the snowbells are a first of spring moment of viriditas taken by my daughter Elizabeth Keating-Jones in Sussex England.
Disibodenberg nurtured Hildegard. She listened to the vitality of the greeness and alivemenss of her world. She made the word “Viriditas” and heard the Spirit whisper to her but still young and fearful as a woman she clams shut. Even though this suppressing her thoughts and feelings made her sick many times, she still not know how to go forward.

Viriditas  A word coined and made famous by Hildegard. The word combines the essence of truth and green, meaning vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure and growth.  Hildegard  uses it metaphorically as vitality. She sees it in the moist fresh greens..In her writings viriditas means the ‘greening power of God’

Hildegard was one of the first to speak of nutrition being linked to wellbeing.
She saw food as medicine.  And as we will read as my story of Hildegard unfolds
she cares for her sisters well being.

 

Viriditas

After the rains
Hildegard tends the garden
knee deep
in wet grass,
up to her elbows in soil,
worms, snails
and ruff of leaf compost.

Marvels at the ramble
of a pumpkin vine,
a stray seed gone free.
Lingers in the fragrance
of chives and basil,
coriander, lavender and mint,
and the smell of parsley.

Savours their bouquet.
Being jubilant
with the flirt of white moths,
and the canticle of bird song
from an oak branch above.
Dwells on her knees
as if in prayer.

Hildegard stands
her hands on her lower back
stretches and arches
skywards. wisping clouds
ruffle and the  Light whispers,

I am the breeze that nurtures all things green
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits
I am the rain coming from the dew
that causes the grasses to laugh
with the joy of life. 

Fearful of her own mystery
she clams shut this light
into the tight knot of her gut.

 

Hildegard’s Highest rated foods
Spelt, chestnuts, fennel and chickpeas (garbanzo beans).

“Spelt creates healthy body, good blood and a happy outlook on life,” – Hildegard

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A website healthyhildegard.com is an excellent resource. Thank you to the creators of it . It is an inspiration.
Other resources that focus on Hildegard and health
Dr. Wighard Strenhlow, Hildegard of Bingen:Spiritual Remedies, Healing Art Press 2002
Dr. Wighard Strenhlow, & Dr. Gottfried Hertzka, Hildegard of Bingen’s Medicine, Bear & Co. 1988.
Jany Fournier-Rosset, From Saint Hildegard’s Kitchen Foods of Health, Foods of Joy, Liguori Publ. 2010.
Victoria Sweet, God’s Hotel, A Doctor, A Hospial, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. Riverhead Books 2012

Unearthing Heaven in Music: Poetic Journey

 

 

 

 

“Hildegard’s music is not easy. It is demanding with the breath…there are even a couple of songs that have two and a half octave ranges, which is extreme for music. In our day, we don’t even have most music like that.” ~ Linn Maxwell on Saint Hildegard’s music

This poem is set in Hildegard of Bingen’s new Abbey at Rupertsberg near the town of Bingen at the junction of the Nahr River and the Rhine in 1151. It is before her new Church is completed and before her sisters sing in flowing silk robes their Opera Ordo Virtutum  written by Hildegard (believed to be the first opera written by a woman in History. This poem is an extract from my up and coming writing on Hildegard of Bingen: A Poet Journey

 

 

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                                                          Unearthing Heaven in Music
Unearthing Heaven in Music

Seamless fold of seasons
Not so seamless, human endeavour.
Life is still comfortless,
harsh, rough.

Hildegard is invigorated
by harmonies of sound,
sees music in the dawn,
dance of light on the hills,
in the caress of the wind,
shape of the clouds
sound of the entwining rivers,
the patter of rain
chatter of verdant tendrils of vine.

Music sings in her mind
fills her writing
defines her day.

In giving voice to her poetry
Hildegard bursts into song.
Words of Divine Light,
sounds from the heavenly spheres,
O fleeting soul, be strong.
Clothe yourself in the armour of light.
You are surrounded
with the embrace of divine mysteries.

She sees creation, a symphony
of joy and jubilation,
a great chorus
of the cosmos itself.
She sings with her sisters.
Her sisters sing with her.
Singing softens their tired
discouraged hearts
like blossoms soften stone walls.
In the garden with her sisters around her
she draws lines with a stick on the earth
dots out the shift of sounds,
and with the stick as a baton and pointer
she teaches them her new music.
Their eyes shine.
Her antiphons and canticles
enrich the Divine Office.
Richardis leads, her voice ethereal,
the sister join, words and rhythms soar,
breathless notes, thin higher and higher.

The unfinished church
embraces their song,
a new heaven and new earth.

 

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Two Sets of Footprints by Michael Keating and Colleen Keating

TWO SETS OF FOOTPRINTS

by Michael and Colleen on autumn  beach walk

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CK            on the horizon
shelf of thick cloud
dawn lingers

MK            edge of the ocean
elements in balance
cone of awareness

CK                autumnal sun
catches the wet sand
our mirrored world

MK             gulls saunter
pattern the sand
we ease past

CK            olive-green seagrass
buzzes with insects
fresh from the ocean

MK             warm touch of sun
gossamer seaweed
dart of swallows

CK               the blue-grey heron
forages alone
we curve around

MK              photographers in position
board riders at play
wait for the moment

CK              near the headland
hang gliders colour the sky
autumnal breeze

MK            step through this autumn morning
extras on stage
accept our transience

CK               with incoming tide
two sets of footprints
are gone

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no footprint

 

 

 

awakening

Even in the darkest of times there is always hope

there is always possibility of a new day.

Words that speak of justice, that work towards peace,

that give  hope lifts all of us and we are then  truly human.

 

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awakening

when i hear words like this
there appears to be new texture
even bird song seems elevated

when i hear words like these
it occurs to me the dawn has an aureate glow
that the ocean sings in celebration

a heart on mute   beats again
on pause   wings again

from heart to heart like music in a round
into every dark corner like sparrows in a thorn bush
people will feel the chalice of humanity again
that is their gift to the world

Fire on Water

Fire on Water  is the first section in my new poetry book of the same title.

The first poem I dedicated to Michael .

The first photo is of our wedding day Saturday 24th September 1973.

The second photo is  breakfast Saturday 24th September 2018 45th Anniversary.

 

 

 

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forever

for Michael

caught by the gossamer of the moment

wrapped in seductive arms
we yarned and sang ate marshmallows
danced soaked in laughing rains and played
with rainbows frolicked naked in the sea
loved setting suns drank wine to the moon
thought this is forever

and dared a skerrick of doubt to creep in