When I was in my late teens, I ended up in the hospital for over a month with lungs that kept collapsing. The glare of the fluorescent lights and the constant beeping and thrumming of the various machines invaded my consciousness, and seeing the great outdoors again after a month of sterility was overwhelming – equal parts glorious and alarming.
Barely able to stand after a month of laying down, one of my first obsessions became tending my small container garden. I’d totter out, deadhead a few annuals, then sit back down to catch my breath. Plunging my hands into the damp soil, smelling the fresh duskiness of leaf mold and the soft sweetness of my violas – the world came alive again with brilliant colors, textures and smells.
Can you imagine losing one of your senses and experiencing gardens and the world forever differently? I wonder what it must be like to be blind in a world of flowers… Do scents leap from the blooms and leaves and mulch with greater feeling and significance?
What must it be like to be in a nursing home – with the brisk efficiency of the nurses and the acrid smells of infirmity? How amazing would it feel for residents to get to go outside and focus on the rough crumbles of the soil and the bumbling goofiness of the bees for even a little while, as they plant or weed or just sit?
Gardening is an act of hope. It’s a statement of our faith that life goes on, with or without us, and that our actions in it have meaning, however small. And that statement of faith, hope, and optimism can be incredibly restorative, not only to those who are weak or ill or experience their senses differently, but also to those of us who work inside all day and need that grounding reconnection to things that feel real and sane.
Tomorrow’s Garden Designers Roundtable topic is Therapy and Healing in the Garden. I hope you’ll join us for some diverse takes on a topic very close to my heart.
Till then, check out this article on Creating an Enabled Garden that I published in 2008. It’s got some gift ideas for helping people stay active in the garden as well as some guidelines for creating a garden that will be easy to access and work in, even for those with limited mobility or gripping power.