Today’s Healing Garden: Sitting Quietly, Taking Nature In

I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard lately. Getting the new website up and running (yes!, preparing for the ASLA meeting (it was great – blog posts about that coming soon), getting sponsors for the new site (see who we have so far), and seeing to the needs of my design clients. And what happens when we push ourselves too hard? Our bodies push back.
So, here I am with a miserable cold. Today, despite still feeling like I have way too much work to allow me to take any time off, I forced myself to spend some time in the garden. Not gardening – I did that a few days ago, for several hours, and wore myself out! Gardening is a great way to stay healthy, but if you’re already compromised, take it easy. Gardeners, myself included, are so used to working in the garden that we often forget that we should just be in the garden from time to time. Today, I seriously needed to convalesce. My health depended on it.
So that’s what I did. I sat in the garden. I felt the sun and the breeze on my skin. I listened to the rustling leaves, and the birdsong, and the crickets, and the distant hum of traffic. I watched the light and shadows echoing around me, and took in the greens and yellows and greys and browns of the landscape. I smelled the faint tinge of autumn, which for me always brings a bittersweet mixture of excitement and sadness. I watched and listened to my dogs snuffling around, and petted their soft fur when they stopped by to say hello. I rested and let the world in.
A healing garden – a therapeutic landscape – should be, and can be, many things. It depends what we (the “user”) need. Designers must listen carefully to determine the needs of their clients so that they can design the most therapeutic garden possible. We can create places for positive distraction, or quiet contemplation, or family gatherings, or exuberant play, or even a careful orchestration of all of these in one space. And we who use the garden must know what we need, in general and day to day. I’d wager that most of us work too much, and that we don’t give ourselves enough time to enjoy what we work so hard to maintain. So today or tomorrow, if you can, I encourage you to go into your garden, or out onto your front porch or your back fire escape, or over to your nearest park or nature preserve, and just sit quietly and take nature in. Sometimes this is the most healing thing we can do.