- By Carol Clatterbuck, BS, MA Art instructor
This I Know: Gardens Are Healing Places
After telling her staff at work that she’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer, my supervisor said she was going to our community garden. “I don’t need to tend anything specifically, I just want to be there now.”
I began a community garden. Some of our gardeners have health issues they are silently dealing with. Yet, it is difficult to guess who is struggling with or recovering from an illness, surgery, treatment, rehab, disease, or disability. They are young, middle-aged, older, and are strong and positive and have a belief system that rarely waivers. I know gardens are healing places.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites that about ½ of all Americans are affected by one or more health conditions and 1 in 5 suffer from autoimmune diseases. Estimates indicate 75% are women, and the risk of depression is higher in those plagued by chronic illness.
Gardens heal in many surprising ways, and it is exciting to be part of the community garden network in our metro area.
1. Gardens serve as a place for reflection. It has been said that planting a seed is the ultimate act of faith in the future.
2. Gardens can provide plants that have medicinal uses: drinking a cup of peppermint tea for energy, using lemon balm to aid digestion, or smelling lavender to encourages sleep. It’s easy to forget that our allopathic medicine originated in plant-based therapies.
3. Gardens can help those who are lonely to feel connected and have fun with and learn from others while offering their own gifts.
4. Community gardens can help restore the soil, and many municipalities are creating gardens that also add a little extra green space and help grow the health and welfare of our cities.
Because of my own chronic illness, I did the financially and physically unthinkable in creating a garden last year. The calling was so strong I could not ignore it, and my own “Health Warriors” church group is 100% with me. I offer a place to garden for any reason. Gardens are spaces to believe in healing, to experiment with success and failure, to grow organic food, to strengthen the body, to have fun, to learn things, to connect with people, and to provide motivation for good health.
I know gardens are healing places. And, our gardener in Plot 9? Well, she is a tremendously strong and compassionate woman to begin with, and yes, there is doubt, anxiety, and a new way of monitoring daily life. But, after going through treatment, she will have an increased knowledge of how to care for herself and a growing sense of hope, peace, strength, determination, and love for life she never knew existed. She is now waiting to harvest her vegetables and is simultaneously planning her fall and spring “jazz” garden plot to help with her nutritional goals. I know this garden is a healing place.