I’ll bet you’re going to go home now and have a glass of wine.”
That’s what I said to my friend Deb after we toured my slightly chaotic prairie gardens.
“Oh, no,” she replied, “I’m going to need the whole bottle!” We giggled. Deb is my compulsive, type-A friend. She’s the one you see in her garden at sunup, coffee cup in one hand and tweezers in the other, searching for any errant weed that dares to appear. Every plant has a purpose and a place, making an orderly succession of blooms from crocuses to chrysanthemums.
Deb’s father is an alcoholic. Her gardens give order and security to her life. When she’s not in the garden, she’s often walking her dog, Abby, in the woods. Her spirit finds rest in nature.
Another gardening friend lost her parents at a young age. Doreen suffers from depression. She favors bright yellows, hot pinks, and stunning reds in her garden. She tries to get as much color and vibrancy in her life as possible, enough, she hopes, to get her through her dark days. In winter, her friends bring her flowers and try to lift her spirits. She’ll sit at her window and look out at the woodlands.
My sister, Alana, has cognitive and physical disabilities. She lives alone in an apartment, surrounded by houseplants. The plants have become like children to her, something she can nurture and love. She now has a small dog—something else to love. She and the dog walk along the shoreline at a nearby park. Even before the dog, she would take long walks in the fresh air. “I feel better outside,” she told me.
Duane, my brother, Alana, and I were raised with an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who did not have the strength to leave. We all still suffer from nightmares.
Duane married Annette, who comes from a large family that has been plagued with cancer. She has spent too many days in hospitals and funeral homes. She knows cancer could someday take her, as well.
Duane and Annette built a beautiful home on a lake. They are surrounded by woods. They garden, fish, kayak, snowshoe, and hike, spending as much time in nature as possible. They watch eagles fly, hear loons laugh, and spot woodland deer.
They find peace where they live.
On all but the coldest days, my dogs and I walk in the park. After the walk, I return to my gardens, my slightly chaotic prairie gardens. Sometimes the stress—bad days at work, family squabbles, nightmares—gets to be too much, and I feel as though I will explode if I don’t get time to myself in my gardens. I need to feel the soil in my hands. I need to smell the freshness of the earth. I need to hear the birds sing and to feel the sun and breeze on my back. Digging, planting, weeding, and just being in the garden soothes my soul. Tending houseplants, forcing bulbs, and starting seeds in basement trays get me through the long winter.
My friends, family, and I find rest, hope, peace, and healing in nature. I’ve painted a quote I found (I don’t remember where) on my garden gate:
I go to nature to be soothed and healed
And to have my senses put in order.
Yes, that’s it. That’s it exactly. ❖
This article was published originally in 2015, in GreenPrints Issue #104.