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excerpt from THE HEALING GARDEN by Marjorie Harris


    The garden heals. We hear these words and recognize they are true. Those of us who garden see what we do as creating a sanctuary from the forces of darkness, within and without. A haven of serenity, a respite from the noisy civilization around us. ~     It is through the mythic search for the rejuvenation of one's soul that we discover the healing garden. In some way, we all need to recognize our place within nature. We echo nature because we are a part of it. But we are also beginning to be aware that gardens have a much more powerful hold over humans than we had previously imagined. Our curiousity about how we relate to nature means we have begun to study the natural world around us with great intensity, revealing a seemingly endless number of astonishing discoveries.
    We shouldn't be so surprised, though, at the intimate link between ourselves and growing things. Our bodies offer a parallel to the biological structure of plants in several ways. We both have a vascular system (our blood, their sap); they are affected by the pull of the moon, as are not only the tides but the movement of cytoplasm in our own bodies; we, too, respond to warmth and cold. We are dependent on water. When we think of plants, we feel empathy.
    How we go gently into decay endlessly fascinates gardeners. I sometimes meditate on the miracle of renewal in observing something as simple as the immense forces at work in compost. I wonder how minute creatures can, out of dead and dying detritus, manufacture such extraordinary, life-giving material as humus. And it leads me to ponder: Where will my own body go? ~     Henry David Thoreau told us that not only is nature our limit and maesure, but the world can be revealed in our back yard if we give it a chance. perhaps that's what I'm looking for revelation. I know I am part of this place like no other, and that it reflects me and what I am.
    The garden is the only place I'm confident that I can see properly into the heart of things. I look intensely at each plant, my eyes darting about, picking up a small combination of colours here, a chewed-up leaf there. All of it must be minutely examined. I smell the roots, caress the leaves and sniff the air constantly like some alert animal. I am alert, much more so than I normally am. I am infused with a kind of supersensitivity.
    My spiritual and physical life are completely entwined with the garden. It's a nourishing wellspring of energy and strenght. It impels me on into the future. It is here I do my worshipping. ~ 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. It is impossible to be weary of life here. There is far too much to be done. Even in the dead of winter, mulching goes on. Summer or winter, something has to be picked up, reorganized or dug into physically, or, when all else fails, there are magazines to be read and plans for the future to be made on scraps of paper.
    The mind is worked, but so is the body. Our instinct for pleasure leads us to enjoy the humble act of digging in the soil or getting our hands dirty. But intellectual content is also important. You can't garden without deliberation and study. There is always something to learn from a book or from a person who is far more expert than you are. You become clearer in your thinking, about the garden and thus about life. A garden slows you down long enough to make connections that can bring a much fuller, more sensual existence. ~     Why do we derive so much pleasure from nature? The most obvious reason is because it is where we come from and where we return. But we've managed to objectify it so completely that we often lose sight of the fact that we are one with nature. We've developed a whole culture that tries its best to subdue nature rather than live within it.
    But when we are sick - sometimes in mind, sometimes in body - we flee to the garden to make ourselves better. As we step away from the rigid concrete into the silent forest, perhaps the atavistic past lurking in our genes tells us we've come home. We're in the natural place for us to be. ~ Marjorie Harris