Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Garden Holds Me...

Usually when I write or teach about the healing plants, I speak of how individual or specific combinations of plants can be used to treat specific physical conditions. But sometimes life dishes out something that can't be soothed with a balm or syrup. There are wounds of the heart that lay hidden in intangible feelings of sadness and grief. When we suffer permanent losses that challenge our will to go through the mundane motions of daily life, these are not easy fixes, for any healing modality. And to be honest, I personally choose not to run from these difficult emotions. I don't go looking for a quick fix to take away the sadness, for I know that these inevitable times are meant to make us stronger and wiser as we continue on this earthwalk. Still, there is the need for something, something to comfort our journey and even help us along to the other side. Yes, there are flower essences and energy medicine, and healing crystals and I have used and loved them all. But simple comfort to be found in just being in nature is sometimes all I crave, especially when that nature is my own garden that I have tended for many years.

There is really no place I would rather be when I am hurting then sitting in my familiar earthspace, surrounded by the many plants that have become like friends over the years, and the creatures that share this space. An invisible magic happens here, like being held, accepted and nurtured. When the intention to create a healing space was set long ago, and gradually powerful healing plants were invited in, when the soil has been consistently cared for and the wild healers of the earth have been respected and allowed to do their work, when other creatures have been invited in to make their homes, when the nature spirits have been invoked and fairy houses have been build, when all these things combine, here there is a garden to heal the spirit.

There is no way to describe how it feels to live in such a garden of your own creation. I can see how it affects people when they come here, especially when they come from the city. And I feel so incredibly grateful to be blessed in such a way. To have the luxury of walking out of my door to inhale deeply of lilac flowers, or just sit and gaze at the unique beauty of the fringe tree in flower...

to examine the creamy silliness of cranberry viburnum's flower umbels, or just to listen to the endless birdsong in the trees, check in on mama wren sitting on her nest in the privy, or watch the tadpoles swimming endlessly in the pond. These are my treasures. They daily offer countless proof that no matter what else may happen, this world holds mind blowing beauty, and life continues on, that nature will always take the decay and build it into good earth again, that I am a part of that cycle. But even beyond what I see, acknowledge and contemplate, there is a healing energy in the garden that cannot be rationalized. Even when our minds continue to turn at 300 miles an hour and our awareness is off in some imaginary world so completely that we cannot see the beauty in front of us, still the garden works its magic.

This was always most apparent to me on the days when my dad would visit. He was a very cerebral person, always in his head, to the point of not noticing changes in his surroundings, and certainly not the tiny intricate details in the garden. I would often have to point out to him that he was standing in the flower beds, he seemed to never be able to see where the lawn ended and the beds began. Still, for all his not noticing, the garden did affect him in ways even he noticed. Like a sweet and tender song, the energy of the garden carries us gently from our worries and fear to a place of relaxation, where we are calmed and quieted enough to get the sleep we need. 

My garden is like a heartbeat, like the heartbeat of the earth, of Gaia, holding us in it's healing rhythm, synchronising us to the heartbeat of the mother. When I am away, and especially when I have to be in the city, it doesn't take long for my energy to become erratic. I feel disoriented. And when I return to the garden I feel it's effects on my energy immediately. My children will tell you I have been known to fall on my knees and kiss the earth after a difficult trip, such gratitude did I have for this beautiful space. 

These days I've  been turning to the sanctuary of my garden more often than usual. This spring I lost my dad. His sudden and unexpected death has been very challenging for me. I miss him terribly. But as I move through this grief, the garden holds me. Yes, have relied on my rose elixir and obsidian stone for their healing energy, but what I really need is space and time, and the garden allows me to just be with these feelings, to move through them in acceptance and love and light. Yes, I will go break a calamus leaf to inhale it's grounding aroma, but I will also just sit, and listen. Just as the garden continues to unfold in it's steady rhythm before my eyes, I know that I will emerge from this period of loss and move on with the march of life.

This garden has accepted the placentas of two of my children and fed good dirt to all three of them in their toddler years. It has received the bodies of many beloved dogs and cats. This week it also received the ashes of my father. We placed them in the garden that he could feel, even if he couldn't see. And in his memory, we planted a young mimosa tree. Although it is considered more of a weed tree here, the mimosa is known as the tree of collective happiness in Chinese Herbal Medicine. I think my dad would like that because like the Buddhist prayer, deep in his heart I think his one wish was for all beings to be happy and free. 

And so the garden grows. The medicine grows. The ancestors gather around. And I am held in the heartbeat of the mother as my heart heals once more. My wish is for everyone to have a garden that heals them, a piece of earth somewhere where they may connect with the earth energy and feel the heartbeat holding them. We are cared for and loved with every step we take on this planet, and for me the life to be found in the garden is the tangible expression of that love. 

The day after we planted dad's tree I sat in the garden alone. A sparrow came fluttering by to land on a low branch near me. At first I remained still and quite, thankful for the chance to observe the delicate creature so closely. When I moved and it did not fly I wondered if it might be injured, but it seemed perfectly healthy. Slowly I reached out and touched it gently on the head. Still it remained. I chanced another touch, this time gently stroking it's breast feathers. It stayed for a minute longer, and then fluttered away. This is the wonder the garden holds. I am blessed.

In loving memory of my dad, David Kisela. I know you are with me still.

"Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. 
Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are." 


  1. What a beautiful tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss. My dad left us in 1985 and I still miss him every day. May you find peace in your garden.

  2. Such beautiful words, your garden is an inspiration and such a peaceful place am sure your dad would have been proud

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your garden with us! I left class yesterday feeling peaceful and happy for the first time in a while. Maybe it was the garden, or just the energy of you, but I'm very grateful. So sorry to read about your loss! Hope you feel the same healing peace that you've given us. Love, Mimi

    1. Thank you for your kind words Mimi. I'm so glad to know this garden offered you peace. Love and light, April.

  4. This is so beautiful, many blessings on you and your dad, and love to you. The little sparrow reminds me of the tiny wren who visited us so often in the weeks after my daughter's death four years ago, it would always appear brighteyed and bold at moments when my partner or I had been feeling particularly close to her. What a healing space you have....