Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Healing Garden Series: Guest Post by Nancy Stordahl




Today I want to launch a summer long series of posts on the subject of healing gardens. Gardens can play an important role in both our mental and physical health and in this series I hope to look at the special healing power of plants.
To begin the series I invited Nancy Stordahl, a cancer survivor who can speak personally to the healing nature of gardens, to write a guest post. Nancy is a freelance writer, former educator and author of the blog Nancy's Point where she shares candidly about her breast cancer experience. 
While the calendar year begins in wintery month of January, the commencement of each gardening season begins in spring. Its seems therefore appropriate to open this series with the arrival of spring.

Why Are Gardens Such Healing Spaces?

I am pleased to have been invited to share a few of my thoughts on nature and gardens and why they are both so healing for Three Dogs in a Garden; thank you Jennifer.

Have you ever thought about why nature is so calming and so healing?

Have you ever wondered why gardens inspire and are such healing spaces?

Now that a long winter is well behind us, this is the perfect time to think about these things.

Spring is not my favourite season. There are too many "muddy paw" days for my liking and then there is that reminder in spring. Spring is when my breast cancer was diagnosed in 2010. That was not a good spring.

But of course I do enjoy spring and relish all the signs of rebirth and regrowth that every spring brings. As I write this post, the snow is finally melting away, the birds are chirping, a certain pair of majestic eagles has returned for yet another year of nesting in my backyard, my crocuses are at last peeking above the ground, the tulips will soon be emerging as well, daylight is lengthening and thankfully the days are also getting warmer.

Sunlight after all, is the great encourager.

All these things are gentle reminders of how life renews and restores.

Cancer or no cancer, these reminders are healing.




Nature seems extra busy in spring, but at the same time it also reminds me to slow down, to breathe, to get outside, to take in the beauty in front of me and to think about gardening.

Spring is something to be counted on, as are all the seasons. Even cancer cannot interrupt nature's rhythm of the seasons. I find comfort in that. I find comfort in nature period; most of us do.

Cancer or no cancer, nature is healing.



Have I gained a greater appreciation for spring and countless other things since cancer?

Maybe so, but I will not give cancer the credit. That kind of thinking does not suit me well.

When I was undergoing chemotherapy, hubby and I often found ourselves sitting in the hospital's newly added healing garden. It's actually called that, The Healing Garden.


We often found ourselves sitting in that lovely (well, lovely for a hospital) space surrounded by greenery and gorgeous blooming flowers. There was also a wonderful pond with an ever-so-soothing gently trickling waterfall, a fireplace, patio furniture arranged in intimate settings and even a player piano. The healing garden was a little oasis for us; a place to retreat, reflect and mostly regroup from the frenzy that is cancer treatment. For moments we could sometimes forget we were in a hospital.

For us it was a healing garden indeed.

But perhaps one of the biggest reasons I find gardens of any kind to be so healing is that they require so little and yet give back so much.

During that cancer spring and summer, I had little time to tend to, or even think about my gardens. But yet, the shrubs and perennials budded and bloomed; the display of color was uninterrupted. Despite my neglect, things grew; I wouldn't say flourish mind you, but they grew.

Of course the weeds did too. But the weeds could not over-power the beauty. When you looked at my gardens, you still saw beauty, or at least I did. And I loved looking at them, despite the imperfections that grew within.

Cancer or no cancer, gardens are healing spaces.


Since that cancer spring and summer, I think about all these things when I admire a garden, mine, or anyone else's. I think about how gardens don't ask for much and never perfection, just a bit of tending will do. Whatever one can give is enough.

Perfection is not what brings the beauty to a garden. Something else does.

Perhaps this "something else" is the reason why gardens are such healing spaces for us all.

Do you have a garden? 

Why do you think gardens are such healing places?


Thanks Nancy for this wonderful post! Jennifer




About Nancy Stordahl:

Nancy is a freelance writer, former educator and author of the blog Nancy's Point where she shares candidly about her breast cancer experience. She writes extensively about her diagnosis and treatment, hereditary cancer, survivorship, grief and loss. She also shares concerns about some of the current forms of breast cancer awareness and advocacy and is a staunch advocate for those living with metastatic disease. Nancy is the author of Getting past the Fear: A guide to help you mentally prepare for chemotherapy. To read more visit www. nancyspoint.com.

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing today! These photos are gorgeous and inspirational. Putting them in my mind's memory bank.
    DIY Wallpaper Based Ornament Design

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    1. I absolutely love these images too. They are truly stunning aren't they?

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  2. Thank you so much, Nancy and Jennifer, for sharing this here.
    I truly enjoyed reading it, and the images are so beautiful.

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    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thank you for reading my guest post and for taking time to comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  3. What an amazing post for so many reasons. It was so wonderful to hear Nancy's experiences and how the garden comforted her at her stay at the hospital. Makes you think that gardens should be placed in so many more places for these exact reasons. The hospital down the street from us has a garden for families who have lost a child...it is called The Garden of Hope. And many angels and beautiful blooms adorn the space. Wishing Nancy health and happiness! A wonderful weekend to you Jennifer! Nicole xoxo

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    1. I love the idea of The Garden of Hope. Thank you for reading and for your good wishes too.

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  4. For me a flower garden is a no failure activity. No matter how much time or energy I can devote, it always gives me 4 fold back. My husband had brain surgery last year. Now he is really "seeing" the garden, the individual plants, and enjoying a trip to the garden center to pick out a bush or a tree for the garden.
    Thank you for the beautiful post and images and sharing your personal story.
    Karen

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    1. Hi Karen,
      I'm sure you're husband is seeing the whole experience with a different outlook now. I agree that a flower garden is a no failure activity - always giving back. Thank you for reading. I wish you and your husband well.

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  5. Wonderful post! Gardens are healing places. I have taken my troubles and gone to dig in the dirt and it has always soothed my soul. When my father died I garden for months as a grieved...the garden was a refuge and a place of healing. I think God and Nature heal! I just posted about a little miracle for a young woman who just lost her father perhaps you might like to read it... http://ravenscourtgardens.com/2014/06/16/memories-of-fathers-a-miracle-rose/ it is about healing!

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    1. Hi Laurin,
      Gardening does soothe the soul, there's just no doubt about it. I'm glad you found refuge in gardening during your grief. Just the other day, I transplanted some daisies from my mother's flower garden and it felt so good. She died six years ago from metastatic breast cancer and somehow this helps in yet another small way to keep her memory alive. She loved her daisies. So do I! Thank you for reading and for sharing the link.

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  6. A simply wonderful post, so very down to earth and giving such hope. I loved this and thought the paintings were a simply heavenly touch. Yes, a garden is certainly a place to heal.xxx

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    1. Snowbird,
      I agree about the paintings being a simply heavenly touch. Love them! Thank you for reading and commenting too.

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  7. So lovely. My brother-in-law is battling bladder cancer right now and I know he gets a lot of healing in his lovely garden.

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    1. Hi Heather,
      I'm sorry to hear about your brother-in-law's cancer. I understand about the healing that comes from gardening or even from just looking at them. Thank you for reading.

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  8. I find myself seeking solace in my garden when I am stressed, it's always beautiful, and it helps me find comfort, and peace. A lovely post to read, and a inspiring one also.

    Jen

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    1. Jen,
      I find myself doing the same thing! Now if only those mosquitoes weren't there to bother me... Thank you so much for reading and sharing.

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  9. Un très beau billet que vous avez présenté. Merci!

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  10. Gardens are healing because they don't pass judgement or ask questions. We can just let go and be. Cancer has claimed many members of my family and we have funerals instead of reunions. But when I'm in my garden I don't have to explain or comfort anyone else. I can just heal myself.

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    1. Hi Casa,
      I'm sorry cancer has claimed so many members of your family. There is something special about spending time in one's garden (or enjoying someone else's) isn't there? Thank you for reading and sharing.

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  11. Beautifully written Nancy, as always... My garden was neglected throughout cancer as well, and as you know, the reason won't change... but I've been able to work on it, a bit last summer and more this. It helps me think about a wee future, what should I plant next year, that sort of thing. And of course, the simple pleasure of watching something grow is without a doubt, healing. xo

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    1. Hi Carolyn,
      That's certainly one of the many benefits of gardening... allowing us to plan a bit. My gardens are still very much not at their prime, but this is okay. I gave up on perfection long ago. I'm glad you are working in your garden a bit this summer. And you're so right about that pleasure that comes from watching something grow and realizing your nurturing has made a difference. Thank you for reading and for you kind words. Happy gardening!

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  12. That's a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it. I've just started volunteering at a nursing home/care facility with a horticulture/gardening program. They call their gardens 'Healing Gardens'. It's such a beautiful term. xx

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    1. Hi Diane,
      Good for you for starting your volunteer work. That's wonderful. And yes it is a beautiful term. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

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  13. nancy this is an inspirational post with such beautiful flowers throughout...the healing garden sounded perfect and I wish more hospitals had them....I was laid up healing from surgery when I got home for about 6 weeks and the views of the garden brought me joy with all its imperfections indeed...I have new eyes for my garden now.

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