Last Sunday my husband, Rick, and I biked along the Cannon Valley Trail, located about forty miles south of the Twin Cities and stretching 19.7 miles along the Cannon River. I can’t bike the entire trail—that would be almost forty miles round trip, and though that kind of pedaling wouldn’t be challenging for some, completing a little under half that distance was plenty for me and my tired legs.
Flanked by a rich variety of vegetation, the Cannon Valley Trail provides a gorgeous environment for bicyclists, roller bladers, and walkers. The trail’s website describes the area as having a “diversity of terrain [that] allows for a variety of environmental conditions and habitats.” On our ride yesterday, greenness, Viriditas, appeared everywhere.
Viriditas is a word coined by the 12th-century German writer, musician, and Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Viriditas means “greening.” Hildegard used the word to describe the qualities of the Divine and was likely influenced by the lushness of the environment in the German Rhineland area, rich and alive with signs of new life. The Cannon Valley illustrates Viriditas perfectly: Rich. Alive. Brimming with life.
Viriditas not only refers to the outer, natural world. Viriditas can also refer to the greening of our inner life, when the life-giving qualities of vitality and energy reside in our spirits. Viriditas is a renewal of mind, body, and spirit. We feel good when we feel “green.”
But our inner spirits don’t always feel green. When unexpected changes and losses drain us, we may feel less like the lush green of summer and more like the dull brown of winter. But might the wintertime of our spirits be a necessary phase that’s preparing the growth of new life within us? After all, all of creation has necessary times of winter rest before summer growth can emerge. Even the Cannon Valley.
But yesterday the Cannon Valley, in full radiance, exhibited the abundance of summer growth, fully alive, fully green. It was Viriditas at its best. What a beautiful ride it was.
By the way…I’m not a fast bicyclist, so Rick rides ahead at a speed that’s far beyond me and covers more distance than I can even attempt. But yesterday, when we finally reunited at the car, both of us exhausted and ready for dinner, Rick said, “I bet you passed some people on the trail.”
“I passed one person,” I said. “He was on roller blades.”
Rick laughed. Out loud.
So did I.