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The Spiritual Garden

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“There is something so wonderful about putting your hands in the dirt,”says Chenue Colton Gill, creator of Deer Run Herb Sanctuary, in Napa, Calif. She recommends inviting friends over to help you dedicate your new garden—a wonderful way to acknowledge that you are now a protector, rather than a manipulator, of nature, as well as recognize the intricate relationships that exist between plants, animals, and all people. “We can all have our own little bit of Eden somewhere,” says Gill.

My friend Brenda feels that anyone who would like to create a spiritual garden of her own needs to begin with a point of focus. “No matter how corny it starts off,” she says, “a point of focus should symbolize something that is beyond us, something that can come to our aid.” It can be a single rock, a tree, a favorite plant, a pond, a trellis, a gazing ball, a wind chime, or an entranceway. Any symbol that can be built upon, evoke meaning, or create a sense of peace, awe, and wonder will work. For many gardeners, the simple act of walking through a gate, doorway, or trellis serves as a reminder that they are entering divinely inspired surroundings. Brenda’s point of focus started with a single birdhouse.

“I felt more relaxed while watching the birds come and go each day,” says Brenda. She began collecting all types of birdhouses and planting botanicals to lure even more birds, eventually planting a butterfly bush to attract butterflies as well. “The birdhouses gave me something to build upon,” she says. “Soon there was this beautiful garden centered around them. My family now affectionately refers to it as ‘Birdhouse Lane.’”

From “Birdhouse Lane,” a pathway lined with stones—some imprinted with words like Joy —meanders around her koi pond. In Asian cultures, these long-lived fish are considered to be playful representations of good health and prosperity. Beyond the pond, the path stops at what Brenda considers her most sacred space within the spiritual garden—a flower garden where a statue of Kwan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, stands. Here is where Brenda comes to be comforted, to reflect, and to put her challenges into perspective. She looks into the garden and sees that nature, too, has its struggles—a reassuring reminder that struggles have their place in the scheme of life. Past her flower garden lie the vegetable beds and a greenhouse. Each season Brenda has something to harvest, to share, and to be thankful for. “My gardens are a vision of beauty, color, bounty, and surprises,” she says. “A spiritual garden can be a mirror that reflects back to us what is going on inside of ourselves. And that,” says Brenda, “is its true gift.”

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