I am in a place of blossoms and dozens of shades of green this week. After six months of winter in Ottawa, well, I think if there is a heaven, this is it. Nature’s spring palette on the westcoast is something to behold. It provides an injection of spontaneous well-being.
You can’t arrive here in April from the colder climes and not want to fall down into the magnolia and camellia blossoms covering the sidewalk. These petal carpets are magnified by the Japanese cherry and plum trees providing canopies on the streets as far as the eye can see.
As you stroll, you pass one front yard after another, where lawns have been transformed to flowers, herbs and leafy things to eat, gardens.
Strolling around Vancouver and Victoria seems to me like “flower bathing,” the urban version of Japanese “forest bathing.”
Over a decade ago, when I was ill, I received a surprise gift of a book by Marjorie Harris: The Healing Garden: Nature’s Restorative Powers. At the time I sat down and read it cover to cover. It hasn’t been on my mind in years, until this trip.
Here is an excerpt:
“My garden is not a hobby. It is a fascination, an amazement. It is, occasionally, an obsession. What else do I really want to think about? When I make the transition into the garden – stepping across the deck, dodging the mess that seems perpetually to lie about-I’m conscious of a feeling of expectation. Something will happen here. When my stomach roils, work becomes impossible and the world has gone mad, I know I must go into the garden to destroy a few bugs, stir up the compost, break fallen branches into pieces.
I fling myself outside...to find I am absorbed by this Other that I rely on implicitly. I may have started out to pull a weed, absorb a scent or sit, briefly, and feel the sun on my body. But whether I’m conscious of it or not, I’m here to be rescued. It is this same sense of need that affects people who are ill-this ability nature has of distracting us from ourselves, making us forget who and what we are by drawing us away from whatever troubles the world presents…
…What is it about the garden that makes it such a place of healing? Perhaps we project hope into it each time we set foot into this place. ‘How wonderful this new plant will be next season when it comes into its own.’ we think. How truly amazing that anything will survive because it is too cold or too hot, or there is too much or too little rain. And yet survive it does…
Whenever I come into the garden I am determined not to spend all my time here. I should do the laundry. Nothing, however, seems quite as important as spreading mulch, even though the day is windy and cold. It takes a painfully long time, but the sense of exhilaration with this kind of hard labour is indescribable. All the cobwebs are swept away. My logy body is refreshed…
By approaching plants as part of the health of our own bodies and spirits, not as a mere hobby or way to fill in time, we can continue on refreshed in our own journey through life, connected to our own past and our present. Plants heal, gardens heal, nature heals. It’s absolutely necessary to value them highly for what they can do for us, and to treat them with the respect they deserve. To learn how to respect and love ourselves, we have no further to go than the garden.”
I no longer have my own garden to design and tend, yet I flourish still from all the gardens that surround me. Most importantly, the Central Experimental Farm garden near where I live, is a favourite. In this garden, I walk, admire, smell, photograph, sit, muse and enjoy the beauty. Consequently, when the time comes to leave, I am thoroughly refreshed.
Nature’s beauty, in all of its guises, is a restorative. Let’s celebrate that.
Of course, a garden may not be your favourite place. Rather it may be the mountains, the fields, the seashore or any of the myriad wonders of nature.
Pay attention to the world around you. In fact, make it a priority like eating and sleeping. Spend time outdoors in spots you love. Take advantage of the healing properties of breathing fresh air and watching the sun come up or go down. Take solace in the ebb and flow of the tides. Become a moon viewer, a rainbow noticer, a bird watcher. And if you can, take a stroll everyday, wherever you are, and see how many different shades of green you can spot. See how our hearts lighten and strengthen, with the gifts of nature.
Note1:) I am on Gabriola Island now, for the occasion of my Mother’s 99th Birthday this Saturday. My entire extended family consider ourselves lucky to still have this gentle, inspirational, wholehearted and vital woman in our lives.
Note 2:) Every city has amazing gardens. Furthurmore, a few are hidden and virtually unknown, yet, what a thrill to find them. Consider a secret garden hunt this April, in addition to your Easter egg hunt. You may find a treasure.
Note 3:) Thank you for coming by and reading these musings. I appreciate your care and interest. See you next week. Warm greetings to all, Trudy