By the Reverend Deacon Sheila Plant
It is hard to believe that the summer of 2020 is now a fleeting memory and what a summer it was on so many levels. Words like humidity, heat alert, air conditioning and sunburn can now be put away until next year. However, I do love this time when the garden flourishes, the grass is green and gardening chores are not really chores but a source of satisfaction and pleasure. The colours are vibrant and you can feel that gentle summer breeze that lets leaves on the trees form dappled patterns of shade. It is an idyllic summer’s day.
I have to admit, though that September and October are among my favourite months. We see the garden changing as plants begin to prepare for their winter rest. The colours change and even the sky changes.
However, the one thing that doesn’t change is the peace and solitude that surrounds us in a garden. It is a place of growth, not only for the plants, but for our own inner selves. It is here that we can find that sacred space that we need to find. It is a place of dedication and wonder where we see the miracle of life and growth.
In Latin, sacred evolves into sanctuary making a sacred space a place of refuge and protection. We can restore our emotional and spiritual balance and nourish our senses and souls away from the noise of everyday life. That deceptively simple yet completely extraordinary event of digging a hole, dropping in a seed, adding water and waiting lies at the very heart of gardening. It also explains why so many of us feel emotionally sustained by our gardens as we work to sustain the life growing in them.
Gardening, even in its simplest form lets us participate in the process which is life—from the greening of the shoot to the dying off of the flower. Planning and imagining the garden makes us co-creators with nature and realizers of potential. For most of us, the time we spend in the garden constitutes our main lifeline to the natural world.
We don’t necessarily need a garden to create a sacred space. This creation moves us beyond merely decorating an outdoor room. When we garden for the soul, we use our own garden experiences to tend to our inner landscapes and foster the growth of the spirit. In a spiritual garden, we restore the meaning and symbolic intent of such ordinary tasks as digging, planting, watering and nurturing to the outer landscape.
Not all of us have a garden—some may have a few pots on the balcony, or some herbs growing on the windowsill. It doesn’t matter. A sacred space can be created anywhere. Perhaps it is that comfy chair by the fire on a snowy winter evening, perhaps it’s the dock at the cottage watching a sunset. It might be sitting at a window as the sailboats skim across the lake or as the waves crash and pound against the shore. It can be something as simple as sitting on a bench watching the antics of the squirrels.
Some of you may have a sacred space and not even know it. But as long as you have a spot which helps you to restore peace and calmness to your soul, then you are in your sacred space. I once read that “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back to the slow cycles of nature is a help.”
As we continue to move forward in these unprecedented times, our sacred space has become so much to us. We have used it as a place to reflect, restore, recharge, and most of all rest.
Deacon Sheila Plant serves at St. Luke’s, Burlington.