by Christine Sine
Yesterday, I received an email from one of my favourite seed catalogues talking about gardening trends that inspire happiness, good health and tranquility. They talked about vegetables that boost our immune systems and flowers with happy faces that give us joy, and calming gardens full of flowers in soothing colors and the gentle sounds of swaying grasses. I heartily endorse all of these types of healing gardens, but as many of you know, my favourites are the contemplative gardens and in the last few years, I have become quite passionate about the power of such small gardens to heal, to sooth and to bring peace.
Last year, you may remember, I created a beach combing garden, that was both a powerful meditative focus as well as an opportunity for me to grieve lost opportunities over the summer. My most recent garden has come out of our present theme Time to Heal. And it has provided time for me to heal – healing in the creating, and in the contemplating.
Creating this garden began with prayerfully reading both my Litany for Healing and my previous Meditation Monday Does God Want to Heal Us?. My process was a little like Lectio Divina as I gathered the words and ideas that shimmered in my mind and allowed them to unfold in my imagination. So I decided I needed elements of preventative, curative and relational healing in my garden.
I started with an aloe plant and a piece of bark – the aloe plant used to soothe sunburn and heal wounds, possibly relieving heartburn as well; the bark reminding me that aspirin comes from the bark of the willow tree – both of them powerful examples of the powerful elements of healing God has placed in our world. Then I added a mask – so simple yet so effective in preventing the spread of disease. My next addition was my stethoscope – a symbol of the healing that comes to us through doctors and other health professionals, and a cross – the most powerful symbol of healing in the gospels. Then I added a cup and a small teapot , appropriately socially distanced of course – powerful symbols for me of the healing power of relationships and our willingness to sit (over a cup of tea of course) and listen to those who think very differently than we do. My final addition was 2 rocks – one with healing on it and the other with loved reminding me that the elements of healing that are present in our world are all symbols of God’s love and desire to heal.
The garden sits on my desk. Each morning I light my circle of candles around my space and end by lighting a candle in the garden as I pray for those who have died of COVID and of violence in this last year. So the whole garden becomes a contemplative focus for both joy and grief, delight in the God who brings healing and grief for the pain that is still present in our world.
Perhaps you are not a passionate gardener like I am, but I encourage you to create a similar focus for your own daily contemplation that flows out of something you are passionate about. Tangible symbols like this don’t just help us to focus, they help us to connect to our own grief and to the love of God which is so incredibly woven into our world.