A Word Worth A Google: Petriverse


Pierre Jardin takes perverse pleasure in verbiage that reverberates or reverses on itself reflexively.  The petriverse “A Word Worth A Google: Petriverse” might initially be taken as a directive suggestive message to the viewer: ‘it might be worth your while to google the word petriverse.’ This meaning makes sense because strollers-by are unlikely to know the term, and whenever we encounter anything we haven’t heard of these days, we google it.  Viewers who do google “petriverse” find that the first link in the search results will direct them to this very page, and so when they click on the link and end up here, something will click (not just a mouse)….  So, there is a perverse reverberation achieved by the circular journey that starts by stopping to look at an eye-catching garden in the neighborhood, continues with a cyberspace word search, and ends up…back in the garden, only now the viewer who ogled the garden before googling it has the mind-boggling experience of reentering The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin through the virtual portal.

Petriverse is ideally verse that echoes in the ambulatory reader’s mind.  To get words to reverberate, they have to be worth reiterating.  Repeating the petriverse “A Word Worth A Google: Petriverse,” one might discover another possible meaning of the phrase, something to the effect of ‘the word petriverse is worth…a really big number.’  To arrive at this meaning, a stroller must know the meaning of the word google, which itself has two meanings.  In its first or popular usage, google is a verb: to use an internet search engine, usually google.com, or to search for the name of (something) on the internet to find out information about (it).  If you google the meaning of google though, you find an interesting second meaning, which is actually its original meaning, but attached to the original word: “The word googol means 10 raised to the hundredth power. Googol was going to be the spelling of Page and Brin’s company until at one time someone misspelled it as Google. It looked better to Page and Brin and the name has stuck ever since.  Google basically is a play on the word googol meaning a number followed by 100 zeros.”  And by all accounts Page and Brin have been banking mad bank mad with zeros ever since, laughing all the way to the bank, as they capitalize on perverting a word and thereby converting it into a word worth oodles of google.  To cogitate this is to surge towards a purgative urge to regurgitate….

At this point, things have gotten pointless; Pierre’s spin-doctoring is spin-cycling his brain.  He’s going in circles wondering whether googling ‘google’ is tantamount to squaring the already large amount of nothing going on—does googling google raise that word to the power of a number followed by 200 zeros?

In the end though, Pierre rests content knowing how hard it would be to put a price on the worth of the word petriverse, and hopes that the stroller-beholder or web-surfer who pays the price of pursuing the whole journey from reading the petriverse “A Word Worth A Google: Petriverse” to googling petriverse to entering The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin—Pierre hopes that such a valued, worthy person will have had an experience that was, well, priceless, if also perhaps pointless.


Paradoxical Petriverse: NOTHING is written in stone


This is the seed of one of Pierre’s prime pithy, playful, paradoxical petriverses.  “Nothing”—just on its own, it triggers any number of associations and ideas.  (For some, that number might be zero, of course, but such people are not the pedestrians Pierre prays for.)  Nothing connotes silence, death, peace, the void, zen/buddhist wisdom, refusal, stasis, origin, mystery….  Pierre placed it in the yard as a koan, a kind of question—with the notion that the enigma held an answer, like a clue in a crossword: the correct response being “Nothing is written in stone.”

Over the next weeks, the seed clue grew: first, to “Nothing is…,” a phrase that, by proclaiming nothing to be something palpable, perpetuates paradoxical ponders—nothing means non-existence, so what does the existence of non-existence mean? In “The Snowman,” Wallace Stevens posits a person who, “nothing himself, beholds/Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”  A pedestrian beholder gazing on the Nothing stones might begin to question not only the existence of things but of him/herself….  The ellipses only made the clue more elliptical (both brief and obscure), but perhaps it stirred beholders to fill in the rest of the phrase, hopefully with a chortle of surprise and delight.

The clue grew next into “Nothing is written….”   The tautological truth of the phrase—it demonstrates its own meaning to be true, since nothing is indeed written there—brings nothing, the blankness of absence, into the realm of writing, the presence of letters….


Finally, the full phrase was rendered, but with a twist or two: Jardin used the plant to plant a seed of doubt in the viewer—does it say “NOTHING is written in stone?” or “is NOTHING written in stone?”  The question mark evokes the questions that the petriverse provokes—because it is written in stone, the phrase is true—nothing is written in stone.  Yet, when not written with rocks, the aphorism means that there is never anything that is written in stone—it states that something is never the case.  Yet here, it is the case (that nothing is written in stone).

Does Pierre think too much about nothing? Possibly…. And the culprit probably planting these seeds in Pierre’s brain is a professor who teaches a course about nothing and wrote a user’s manual for nothing in a special issue of an academic journal about nothing….

In the end though, after all the hubbub died down, there was a simple solution to what the petriverse means when placed in The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin: in the rock garden where things keep changing, where new rocks and words and plants keep cropping up, nothing is permanent, and that is of course the basic sense of the aphorism “nothing is written in stone.”  Pierre didn’t need his professor pal to point out this solution—he had already learned it from his feline friend ….

The Composition of Place

In the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the composition of place is a specific component in contemplation.  In reflecting on a scriptural passage or event, one first imagines the scene in concrete detail, and then places oneself in the scene, and then attends to the thoughts and feelings that arise.  The composition of place also works as a general meditative technique.  You ask yourself, Where am I?  Really locating oneself takes time and unfolds across many scales—one’s immediate context and surroundings, rippling out to the neighborhood, town or city, country and so on out to the cosmos.  This is also a process of slowing oneself down to address authentically and deeply, literally, where you are.  The closer we examine the question, the more detail and complexity enters the picture, until we discover infinite riches and depths in the place we compose. Ignatius stresses that you should work to be surprised by where you are—that the intimacy necessary to prayer demands openness to surprise.

For Pierre Jardin, rock-gardening is a sort of literal implementation and embodiment of the Ignatian composition of place.  Each day’s work in the Petriverse begins with a contemplative composition of place.  Pierre enters the space; he moves and looks around slowly; touching stones, he pauses to think about the processes that gave form to and resulted in these rocks being made.  He traces the patterns on the rocks and the patterns made by placing rocks.  Composing place in the Petriverse also induces Pierre to reflect on the relations between rocks and other material around them—the living tissue of plants, the wood of trees and bark, and so on.  Contemplation becomes environmental tuning, becoming attentive to the forces flowing through materials, becoming aware of how the environment changes with each movement through it.


In the composition of place, to look at the Petriverse is also to inject oneself into that world. For instance, Pierre used blue aquarium pebbles to evoke a stream running through the gravel path in the garden.  He then placed groups of five, seven, and three rocks along the stream, consciously echoing the numerology of Zen Buddhist gardens such as the famous one at the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto. The juxtaposition of stones and stream was designed to evoke the interplay between rocks and water central to Chinese and Japanese traditions.

ImageContemplating the stream and the concentrically whorled stones arranged alongside it, Pierre performs a kind of fractal zoom to project himself onto a miniature scale—the three-inch wide stream becomes a river of time; the stones are gigantic boulders or geological formations bordering the river; he floats down a canyon cut through the stones.  This mental magnification in spatial scale has the immediate effect of slowing time down.  The composition of place becomes a decomposition of time….


The Petriverse of Pierre Jardin


Petriverse.  Noun.

1) A self-contained sphere or world being converted into stone, or composed largely of rocks, such as a rock garden.

2) Words composed of rocks, comprising a poem or aphoristic statement; the genre of verse written in stone.

[Latin petra, rock; Old English vers, from Latin versus a furrow, literally: a turning (of the plough), from vertere to turn]

Welcome to the Petriverse of Pierre Jardin, a rock garden featuring poems, sculptures, and designs composed of stones.  Producing the petriverse is a meditative practice through which Jardin grows closer to the earth and enters into intimate contemplative contact with rocks by arranging and balancing them. For Pierre, rocks are both geological and aesthetic–once properly and painstakingly placed in the petriverse, stones become bearers of meaning in an ever-evolving micrcosmos.   The rocks are collected locally and occasionally globally by Jardin; in integrating them into his garden, Pierre prompts the petriverse to provide a palimpsest of place–the small space houses traces of a life.


As a world of rocks, the Petriverse seeks to rock your world through its StoneDesign.  StoneDesign is Jardin’s word for evocative arrangements of rocks, or sculptures, towers, or small installations.  Blue-hued cylindrical rocks standing upright might mimic karst mountains in miniature.  Rock towers with concentric circle patterns juxtapose the instability and ephemerality of balanced stones with the deep time of geology embodied by water-washed rings, a petriverse equivalent of tree rings and dendrochronology. (click photo to enlarge)

As words of rocks, Petriverse is a genre of poetry.  Petriverse tends to the terse; it might pun in fun; it seeks to pique.  Petriverse’s primary peruser-group is pedestrians, so Pierre’s rock-words must attract the eye and be easily read.  This poetry often engages the spectator by speaking directly to them qua spectator, as in the top photo above: “U R C ing.”  The ultimate success occurs when words point to a meaning that clicks in the viewer after a delay, and produces in them a start or a spark, an insight or delight, a realization or inspiration.  The unfamiliar term “Petriverse” might spur speculative spectators to infer that “the birth of a Petriverse” could refer to the genesis of a micro-cosmic rock world.  Presuming anyone cares to let the words linger a bit, they might realize that the near rhyme birth/petriverse in words made of stones hints that in the act of seeing/reading, the viewer witnesses a rock poem coming to life.

Jardin crafts rocks and words in similar ways, trying to maneuver them so that they seem to fall into place in a fitting fashion.   The phrase “ROCK GROUPS”  in the second photo above is part of the petriverse ROCK GROUPS LIVE IN SILENT CONCERT.  The meandering line of words might denote ‘carefully constructed configurations of stones tend to co-exist in a quiet kind of peace.’  Or, for a music fan, the words “LIVE IN CONCERT” might evoke an image of the ‘Stones’ on view being rock’n’roll groups engaged in a soundless zen performance.  Such properly enlightened pedestrians would please Pierre by signifying applause with one-handed clapping….