The Garden Sanctuary
A sanctuary brings you inner peace; it is not only a place, but a moment suspended in time, safe, warm, and comforting.
It is inhabited not only by plants and flowers and fruit but also by insects, animals, and spirits. It comes from a desire, deep down, to craft an ecosystem fragile and luminous as a soap bubble that somehow, by a miracle, endures.
The next few months were a blur, as the entire country was in a state of shock, and the yard remained unloved. Soon it was covered in snow. When the snow melted and the ground thawed, I threw myself into the physical labor of giving the space some structure.
It was good therapy against anxiety and sadness - I couldn’t stop mourning.
By hand, I dug a path that wound graciously all the way around the perimeter of the grass. I dumped armloads of white gravel on the path, because it glistened so beautifully after the rain. I planted a few hostas under the oak tree for their tolerance to shade and their sculptural leaves.
Then I tackled the large bed, the one facing the back of the house, the one that received the best light.
What a joy it was to amend the soil, make it rich and dark!
I then planted it with a mix of flowers and bushes, so it was filled exuberantly. Sedum, a small dogwood, a butterfly bush, lady’s mantle, petunia, herbs…whatever plant would seduce me at the garden center would find itself transplanted home. I let my aesthetic sense guide me exclusively, as I had no idea what would grow well in this climate. Thankfully plants are resilient and most survived my odd choices of location or grouping.
I could feel the powerful, yet peaceful presence of the oak tree, and the simmering energy of the growing flower bed.
A loud blue jay would often visit, as would a bright red cardinal, and a flurry of finches. Squirrels fought the birds for grain in the feeder, ran along the horizontal limbs of the oak, and dumped acorns on our heads in the fall. We started laughing again in earnest.
The next spring, we decided the yard needed a focal point, so we went to the garden center and picked an in-ground fountain. Back home we dug and dug, and plopped the shell into place. We used large stones to cover the edges of the tiny pond and mask the spigot. We planted pocket plants here and there and watched the structure come to life. It wasn’t long until the birds started drinking and bathing in the water. Dragonflies whizzed by in July. One morning early, as I was plugging the fountain in, I nearly stepped on a tiny frog that had hopped on over to enjoy the water. And we discovered soon after that a family of chipmunks had taken residence in the hollow space under the cairn of stones that covered the spigot. They soon became so comfortable they would sit atop the cairn in our presence. A cheeky woodchuck appeared one day. Incredibly rotund and waddling slowly he would casually make his way to my plants every afternoon and start chowing down. He graced us with his presence every day in August.
Time stood still. Spirits visited. At last, I felt peace. The garden had become a sanctuary.