What does a walk in the woods or a stroll on the beach do for your spirit? The benefits are not just the change of scenery, but also the fresh smell of the air, breeze in your face, the sounds of the birds or how the sunlight changes the colors and hues minute by minute. When we can move from observation to interaction with nature through touching, tilling, planting, harvesting, walking or photographing there are additional rewards.
I come from a family of gardeners. My mother also used her garden to destress when life got too hectic. She never wore gardening gloves, loving the direct contact with the coolness of the healthy soil. She had something growing in her Pennsylvania garden in spring, summer and fall. At the first citing of crocuses sprouting, she proudly announced to all that spring was on its way. Her garden was also home to garden statues and sculptures, so even during the winter, her garden was not bare.
My mother had breast cancer three times. She lived 20 years after the first diagnosis and eight years after the third, which then had metastasized to the lining of her lung. I know my mother’s garden was key to her survival. She was a changed woman after working in it. After gardening, she would emanate a sense of peace that was not visible at any other time. At the end of her life, as she became more frail, sitting on her deck looking at her garden was almost as good as being in it.
I grew up on an organic farm surrounded by gardens of all types. The beauty of nature is food for my soul. I can’t live without a regular dose of it. After my own experience with melanoma, I groomed my outdoor oasis, with the addition of more shade, to accommodate my needs of limited sun exposure.
I can see my flower gardens from several large windows in my home, which brings the outside views inside. My garden has also become an artistic expression where I feel as though I am an artist painting with flowers. Each year the canvas looks different, as I am not the only artist. Soil, plants, insects and weather work with me. Whatever the masterpiece, my garden is where I find peace, inspiration and joy.
When I can’t view the gardens, I can enjoy the peaceful healing aspects of virtual gardens in books and photographs. There is something about the January arrival of seed catalogs that makes spring seem not so far away. At least it gets us thinking or dreaming of what we would like our gardens to be next season.
If you do not have a garden at your home, spend time with these books or visit public gardens or nature preserves. Some special outdoor places are not necessarily gardens but beautiful and fun spaces.
Therapeutic Landscapes Network www.healinglandscapes.org
Ackerman, Diane Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden (Perennial, 2001)
Ashmun, Barbara Blossom Garden Retreats: Creating an Outdoor Sanctuary (Chronicle Books, 2000)
Browning, Dominique and the editors of House & Garden The New Garden Paradise: Great Private Gardens of the World (W.W. Norton & Company, 2005)
Bruce, Hank Gardens For the Senses: Gardening as Therapy (Winner Enterprises, 1999)
Druse, Ken Planthropology: The Myths, Mysteries and Miracles of my Garden Favorites (Clarkson Potter Publishers 2008)
Farmer-Knowles, Helen The Healing Garden: Nature’s Remedies & Cures (Sterling Publishing Co, Inc. 1998)
Fell, Derek Cezanne’s Garden (Simon & Schuster, 2003)
Goldman, Connie and Mahler, Richard Tending the Earth, Mending the Spirit: Healing Gifts of Gardening (Nodin Press, 2006)
Grossman, Warren, PhD. To Be Healed By The Earth (Seven Stories Press, 1998)
Harper, Peter The Natural Garden Book: A Holistic Approach to Gardening (A Fireside Book, 1994)
Harvey, Clare G. and Cochrane, Amanda The Healing Spirit of Plants: An Illustrated Guide to Plant Spirit Medicine (A Godsfield Book, 1999)
Jay, Roni Gardens of the Spirit: Creating Your Own Sacred Spaces (Sterling Publishing, 1998)
Jiler, James Doing Time in the Garden: Life Lessons Through Prison Horticulture (New Village Press, 2006)
Kowaguchi, Yoko Serene Gardens: Creating Japanese Design and Detail in the Western Garden (New Holland, 2008)
Marcus, Clare Cooper, Barnes, Marni Healing Gardens: Theraputic Benefits and Design Recommendations (John Wiley & Sons, 1999)
Mitchel, Keith The Garden Sanctuary: Creating Outdoor Space to Soothe the Soul (Hamlyn, 2000)
Minter, Sue The Healing Garden: A Natural Haven for Body, Senses, and Spirit (Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1993)
Mosko, Martin Hakubai and Noden, Alxe Landscape As Spirit: Creating a Contemplative Garden (Weatherhill, 2003)
Murray, Elizabeth Cultivating Sacred Space: Gardening for the Soul (Pomegranate, 1997)
Rapp, Carolyn Freas Garden voices: Stories of Women & Their Gardens (Water Dance Press, 2005)
Rawlings, Romy Healing Gardens: Aromatherapy, Feng Shui, Holistic Gardening, Herbalism, Color Therapy, Meditation (Willow Creek Press, 1998)
Sternberg, Esther M. Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009)