The Spiritual Garden
By Maggie Howe
Tending to flowers and greenery can enrich the soul as well as the soil.
There is peace within a garden, a peace so deep and calm
That when the heart is troubled it’s like a soothing balm
There’s life within a garden, a life that still goes on
Filling empty places when older plants have gone
There’s glory in the garden at every time of year
Spring, summer, autumn, winter, to fill the heart with cheer
So ever tend your garden, its beauty to increase
For in it you’ll find solace, and in it you’ll find peace.
—Rosamond, Lady Langham
Several years ago, the son of my dear friend Brenda was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Brenda, an avid gardener with a passion for orchids (friends refer to her as the “Orchid Lady”—there is even an orchid named after her), turned to her garden for spiritual healing and emotional support. And during the past four years, both Brenda and her son have tended to the garden. “It became a sacred place,” she says. “A place of growth not only for plants and trees, but for our inner selves.”
For centuries, Christian and Buddhist monks have retreated to the quiet of monastery gardens to seek inner peace and contemplate the miracles of nature. Brenda, too—like generations of gardeners before her—has come to see gardening as a metaphor for life’s regenerative cycles. “From the appearance of a shoot to the fading of a flower, from gathering seeds to planting them, my garden represents the process of life,” she explains. As she looks out to the garden she and her son have tended together, Brenda is reminded how a little bit of nurturing can manifest itself beautifully in the future.
For Candis Cantin Packard, founder of EverGreen Herb Garden School of Integrative Herbology, near Placerville, Calif., taking time to watch the daily and seasonal changes of the garden and the phases of the moon is even more important than sowing seeds and pulling weeds. “Too many people are isolated from nature,” she says. But students who come to her depressed and full of anxiety and worry, she says, invariably, by the time they leave the garden, feel less alone or separate. “When we take the time to reconnect with nature in some fashion, we’re better able to feel ourselves as an integral part of the whole universe,” Packard assents.