A personal mission

I was asked recently what brought me into the field of designing Healing Gardens. It really is a very personal experience, just like every client who shares their story with me.

When I was growing up, we lived in council housing until my parents could afford their first home in their late 40’s. In each house, my mother would get frustrated and despondent at the lack of garden as these places were always just lawn, with a single tree in one of them being an absolute treat. For some reason, she never planted anything and I guess lack of money was a big factor in that but she did believe it was a waste to do so. Sadly though, she really needed to garden and have flowers around her to feel good in her world, to cope. So for many years until I was 15, it was tough at home and we learnt to keep out of the way.

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The new house felt like a palace. It had a huge garden, big trees and its purchase was a massive achievement. My mother set about making the garden hers, taking cuttings from around the neighbourhood, planting bits she dug up from relatives and rearranging things. As the plants grew, some fruit trees went in. Years and years of suppressed green thumbs was unleashed on the land that was now hers. She bloomed with the flowers and I began to be able to talk to her as long as it was in the garden. I learnt the botanical names of everything because this was the language she spoke.

It was when I was giving a talk last year that I realised why I do this work. If only my mother had started planting cuttings, bits of plants and trees when she arrived in each home, before she was beginning to feel stressed as small children arrived, I believe her ability to cope would have been quite different. The effect of having a garden changed her outlook and resilience – it was the place she would go to whenever something was bothering her and we all benefitted from that change. Sometimes we just don’t realise how connected we need to be to nature, until we are and then it’s a desperate scramble to keep connected while carrying on with life. I want to help people make nature, beauty, the joy of watching something grow and bloom.. an everyday necessity because it is.

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The fear of pandora’s box.

As a 20 something, I saw the chains around my mother’s life one day and she told me that her baggage from childhood was stopping her from making friends and had done all her life. So I asked her, why don’t you get some help and deal with it? She stiffened, up came the wall and as she walked away I heard ‘Not opening that pandora’s box’.

Is this you?

Sure it can be painful to go there, that’s why you buried it in the first place. But here’s a point to ponder: you most likely buried it as a child when you had few skills to do otherwise and lots of adults telling you that’s what you should do. Now you’re an adult. You may have developed ways of avoiding that pain, avoiding situations where memories of the pain might surface, avoiding people who might inflict that same sort of pain and living in fear of who you might trust or not. So is the burying thing really helping you now?

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Uh huh. But what if in dealing with it, you have to feel the pain all over again? Well what if the fear of reliving the pain is way worse than the actual event? Remember, it’s had many years of you creating added layers to it so it’s quite possible that what’s in the box is actually manageable with some changed thinking. When you’re on the other side of letting it go, you might just wonder why you gave half your life to dodging it and be in awe of yourself and your ability to change.

At this point you may decide to gingerly stick a hand up out of the doona and ask how? How do you navigate through the box of pain? My journey was very long winded. I wasted a lot of time finding the people who would support me hiding in illness. When I got sick of being sick and faced the reality of another 50 years of that, I decided I was ready to find people who would give me the truth of what I was doing to keep myself sick. Confronting? Yep.

Guess what? You are stronger than you have learnt to believe you are.

I have a client who is blooming right now and it is sheer joy to watch. 2 years ago she was full of anxiety, limiting her life at every opportunity, surrounded by the walls she had built. We started with a garden, building hope and beauty that spoke to uplifting, loving memories. We fed excitement in winter with plans for spring and talked of a quiet retreat space to curl up and just be.

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In time, the garden became reality and she buried herself in planting, tending, nurturing. It brought such joy that the contrast between the feeling of being in the garden and not was unbearable. With the strength from this joy came the desire to unpick the anxiety and so we began with confronting what creates it. She is now aware of when her behaviour is an old reaction to a well worn button someone has pushed inadvertently. Now the choice is to react differently. The smile on her face when she does it and does it again is just priceless. The effect on her life is beautiful.

I work as a Healing Garden Designer, a Spiritual Counsellor and a Hahnemann Healing practitioner and trainer. It makes sense. I can’t help someone open up and then not share the road out. What’s in your pandora’s box and how much life will you give to it?

 

Natural Valium

We all have emotional pain. Things happen, feelings overwhelm, mistrust of our ability to cope arrives and we are coaxed to divert, bury and avoid so others find it easier to be with us and we continue to function as we must. I learnt as a child to use nature to soothe myself and unlearnt it as a young adult when chemical prescriptions were offered as the answer. Pustulent eruptions of unexpressed pain, anger, sadness and grief broke through the chemical numbness to inflict physical pain as my body screamed for emotional relief. More pretty pills prescribed by well meaning doctors failed to halt the demise of a body at war with itself. I needed soothing, I needed safety and I needed to let go of the biggest pustule of all; the pain from childhood.

As I child I ran to the creek and sat with my back against the huge trunk of an old peppercorn tree. Magic happened in that tree. My imagination transported me to a whole other world where beautiful colours burst out of everywhere, sparkling dust wove ribbons through the skies and laughter lifted me into the clouds. I rolled around in paint pots of colour, flowers all around me in fields of rainbow blended softness. Birds danced on sunny air cushions and happy dogs bounded all over me with love. This magical place of imagination fed me with feelings of love and acceptance. I could be anyone, I could do anything there. I let myself fly. Eventually I would have to return to the place that made me want to run; that not so nurturing place. In my mind though, I could be at the tree in my magic world. I developed resilience in being able to generate good feelings within me, enough to balance the pain so I didn’t break.

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When I was 5 we moved to the city and there was no creek or peppercorns I could find. Our house was surrounded by lawn or dirt and a single young tree was stuck out in the front lawn all alone. I didn’t find soothing there, I didn’t feel safe enough to disappear in my imagination. Worse things started happening to me, I learnt to feel helpless and fearful. I longed for my creek and the dirt road that led to it. I longed for my imagination to transport me. Hopelessness painted brown gardens with toasty, water starved neglect. I searched for tiny patches of green and in those, looked for minute signs of thriving life. Nature had transported me before, it could again.

On special weekends we were packed up with a picnic and barely contained excitement fuelled the drive to the national park. I found a creek, pebbles and rocks breaking the water into foamy pools of spongy air bubbles. The big old trees smelt different on a hot day. Still, caves of shrubby foliage wrapped me in soothing and I could disappear with my imagination again. Those trips were rare but so very precious. Not enough, the bad enveloped the good and down I went. I unlearned the escape hatch of nature and learnt to  get sick instead. My connection to nature gave me love, not human love but other-worldliness love. Love that made me feel I belonged, accepted, that gave me strength. Without the regular nature connection that I could take myself to, I lost my source of love. Do you see? A tree by a creek with some wildness enabled a child to connect to an independent source of love and resilience grew. Take the tree and the ability to get to the tree away, implant the nature connected child into concreted suburbia and illness began. Please understand the power of this, acknowledge the places in nature that let your imagination fly.

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There is so much to share of this journey of connection back to nature and healing. It is growing into a book and little windows from there will find their way here. Know this: from the pain wracked pill numbed girl drowning in a roller coaster of emotional tidal waves, I am blossoming. No longer ill, now resilient and choosing to confront emotional pain as it comes, I am thriving on the natural valium of nature. It is nature we must fight for, in all the peppercorn tree hanging over a creek with bluebell carpet kind of ways we can find. It can be created or found, either way it becomes a place of healing. A vivid imagination will not come from the unimaginative convenience of concrete.

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Obstacles

We choose our direction though the current may take us to the drop point. Sometimes it’s the right direction and sometimes it’s not. Obstacles are just the test of commitment to the chosen direction but can also be the consistent roadblock we need to listen to. If the test is passed, the way forward opens up. If the roadblocks keep coming, are you meant to be there?
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The adventure called ‘life’

Where have I been.. 

Nature in a different country is still the same cradling arms, the same powerful energy, the same teacher. I’ve been on an adventure of love and it must have consumed me for a time. In the time since I last wrote here I lived years in just months and I’m not certain if I’m all in one place yet, so out I go to nature and look up. There is the sky doing the next breathtaking melange of prettiness, there is the moon cutting perfect crescents in the blackness, there is the sun bursting out of the horizon sending birds everywhere into a cacophony of happy dances.

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We are endurance athletes when it comes to love said Leonardo. I wonder if we could all make this business of living an extraordinary life just a little easier. When we contain living into a small box because we are afraid that stretching, opening, letting go, learning is too painful.. we make it a roller coaster life. Every little while a burst of extraordinary living erupts because it can’t be contained any longer, but that can be such a volcanic spurt of emotion and then all is packed into the familiar box again. Fingers burnt, safer in the box. There’s so much beauty in the everyday of nature if your eyes are switched on. It just keeps giving. Every day the sun comes up. Every night it paints the change in colours we know as sunset. Every night the moon lights a hole in the back. 

I found some tenacious nature. In the tiniest little crevice in the pavement a magnificent absurdly huge hollyhock just leapt up to smack every passerby with a kiss of pinkness. There you go, take that, I’m going to give pretty pink no matter what mood you are in or how tough you think you have it, just see me..

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Endurance. If only we could make bigger holes in the pavement for all the magnificence to burst out, it would be less volcanic, less all or nothing. Maybe even a garden that thrives, never knowing a box called safety. Me.. hurt and wounded but no more safety. I’ve known the taste of really living and I won’t be blooming through the cracks of safety again.

I want to create a movement. Are you in the tribe?

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I want to start a movement. I want to connect with people all over the world who want to help me to create an avalanche of possibilities involving bringing living, breathing, life sustaining & uplifting nature into every corner of our daily life. I want public ‘landscapes’ to breathe with nature not concrete. I want people to be enticed to sit and rejuvenate themselves in the shade of a beautiful tree, surrounded by uplifting, floriferous plants that scream nature, not low maintenance mass cloned boredom. I want plants inside every building, plants hanging down walls and climbing up walls of concrete, I want to sigh with the relief of cool green nature on a hot day instead of the packaged air of climate control systems. I want wildlife eating the leaves and pooping on pavement, I want to know I’m part of something much greater, much more powerful than ‘progress’.
I want to overwhelm the architects, landscape architects, constructors and builders of this world with the feelings of joy possible when seeing one person be able to change their life for the better because of the strength they gained inside themselves while being inspired and uplifted in a beautiful garden – one they had helped to create with that very intention.
I want us to change our lives by creating a demand for nature so powerful, so full of possibilities and upliftment that there is no such thing as nature deficit disorder.

I want … to breathe.

  I want to see Nature take over our cities and streets, food and fruit everywhere. I know we can change how we move through our cities so that we don’t need concrete everywhere. I believe we can do 80% nature 20% concrete. So… the 80/20 movement.. are you in the tribe?

To dream

I’m watching the wisp of cloud wander across the sky in a dance of sheer delight above mountains stretching beyond anything the sea can imagine… like the hopes and dreams of a small child endowed with vast imagination, the heights she stretches to are only heights from where she believes she is standing. You, parent, are standing at the sea, believing as you were taught, to stretch only for the next safe rock. Those vast dreams of your child are equal to the belief she has in her ability to create the future she imagines for herself. It may be much greater than any future you could imagine for her, influenced by your own limited hopes and dreams weighted low with fear.

Suffocate the fear, let no parent speak of limitations when a child dreams big. It is your fear. Gift your child with love that grows self belief and give them space to bloom and stretch for the highest mountain they can imagine.

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The Journey

As a child, I found myself there without being aware of the journey. As a 51 year old woman standing true in myself, I live so much in the journey that I can forget to look for the destination. For a time the journey was all there was, wading in the sludge of yesterday, wondering if tomorrow would ever be easier.

Here I am, at a hard won point of turning, arms spread wide feeling the sun kiss my smile. Freedom of old and welcome of the real me, I hug the future with pure joy, regardless of what it brings. The sludge taught me well, trust my power to leap over any excrement and never take my eye from the place I want to be.

I feel peace inside.

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When life is closing in

With a heavy heart i made a trip to one of my favourite ‘big nature’ places. Big Nature is a place where the vastness of the scene brings the sheer power of nature right in front of me. It’s so powerful that it grabs all the self defeating negativity I’ve dragged down there and blasts a healthy dose of clarity in to fill the space.
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The walk to this place is along a clifftop, through a tunnel that nature made all by herself, down and up a few valleys and hills to be rewarded with a view that just knocks your socks off a couple of hours later. In the tunnel i felt like life was closing in on me. The biggest most beautiful love I’d ever experienced was running away through my fingers and I felt powerless to close the gaps and hold on. I had watched it happen, saw myself tear open the holes for it to fall through, not comprehending what was happening. An owl came out of nowhere and flew the tunnel with me, pausing to look back at me then leading me onwards. Come.. Come.. It will be alright..
When I arrived at the top with the ocean crashing into the little bay below, I let go of the anxiety tying me in knots. Big Nature is commanding like that. The howling salt wind tore off the last feelings of heaviness and I felt lighter as I walked down into the bay. I sat on the rock I like to build cairns on and watched the waves crash up to my feet. I felt like running back to the higher ground but somehow I knew this lesson was about trust. The ocean crashed like a symphony around me only to end in a gentle mirror of beautiful stormy sky, then disappear back to the sea. Trust. Ups and downs are just life. Trust in your power to come out of the downs and the ride isn’t so scarey.
So clarity had arrived with the salt and I climbed the hill to go home, so grateful that Big Nature has been my mentor once more.

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Memorial gardens for healing

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Communities that have emerged through devastating events, whether like the terror of Ash Wednesday bush fires in my community, or the terror of this week’s Boston bombs, will understand the power of humanity pulling together to heal. Our traditional way of representing the tragedy we have endured is to install a cold piece of metal engraved with names for us to never forget. Such memorials leave us with no feeling of joy, just sadness as we revisit the memory of the dying day. Yet if we recalled the joy those loved ones brought to our community through elements that remind us of what made them happy, we can be inspired by them and move forward. What does this kind of memorial look like?
It’s a reflection of the elements in the place that drew those people to the community or event. In my community, towering huge trees, gorgeous autumn leaves, wildlife in abundance, natural materials like wood, the magnificent scenery and the warmth of family, neighbors, friends and locals who take time to know you is a good place to begin. I would  want to create a beautiful garden where I find a circle of hand sculpted benches that remind us of the scars our trees grew through, ensconced in uplifting planting – where i can watch the sun set and share the company of a friend, maybe wander through a field of daisies done as quirky recycled sculpture, ( we’re good at making something out of nothing here..) make a pebble stack alongside the creek and place a note of remembrance under it .. then plant a random seed nearby – because we never know what may appear and how beautiful it might be, just like these people in our lives.
A memorial needs to bring hope with the memory, not be a portal back to the terror. We can’t heal while we keep holding the pain of the past as a wound of today. It isn’t disrespectful of those we have lost for we never forget what they brought into our lives if we touch the joy of it every day. It is making their legacy of love live on. That’s healing. ♥