"Faith," according to Bradford Keeney, "is not an understanding that prepares us to take the leap. It is the leap itself, the plunge into the soulful rhythms and energies that promise to awaken our spirit and bring new life into our everyday." In this wonderfully imaginative and soul-stretching memoir, Terry Tempest Williams uses her seven-year exploration of Hieronymus Bosch's painting "Garden of Delights" as a catalyst to her faith as a Mormon.
The author of Refuge: An Unspoken Hunger and Desert Quartet sings the praises of the fifteenth century Flemish painter who was an avid naturalist and who, like her, especially loved birds and plants. She sees this medieval triptych as a map of the human mind and a testament to the rich inner landscape of imagination. Best of all, she celebrates the painting as "a hymn to the sensual pleasures of the earth."
Williams spends time with Bosch's masterpiece where it is housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. She talks with a Japanese woman who has been working on a reproduction of it for four years. She converses with a professor who's obsessed with the Flemish painter and his relationship with Philip II. He warns her: "Don't spend too much time with Bosch. He'll overtake you. You'll never find your way back out. Trust me. He casts a spell difficult to break." And lastly, Williams watches the work of two gifted sisters hired to restore Bosch's famous painting.
This devotional book is rich with insights into heaven, hell, the garden, choice, freedom, sex, the senses, beauty, nature, and ten thousand other things. Williams models for us ways in which spiritual introspection can be spurred by the glories of art, nature, and a thirst for meaning.
In the end, the author ponders her Mormon faith while hurrahing its strong points and lamenting its dogmatic and exclusionary aspects. She notes: "In trying to wrap my arms around my own religious beliefs, I am aware I pick and choose what feels right to me, adapting as I go, adopting what I like and discarding what I don't within my own ethical framework, which is a simple one, to help more than harm and contribute to the well-being of my community with love, good works, and compassion."
Leap is the best book we've read on faith in many a moon. Terry Tempest Williams makes the plunge an experience of sheer exhilaration!