Happy New Year!
Concurrent with my role in as publisher of Natural Awakenings has come a renewed awakening to my passion in designing healing landscapes. A goal going forward is to help build as many of these gently supportive places as possible for those that need it most.
I have been fortunate to always spend much of my time outdoors. As a youngster I discovered it was the best place for nourishing play. The woods behind our house readily transformed into imaginary battlegrounds, forests and jungles. My mother was adept at morphing my cowboy hat into a revolutionary tricorn, safari helmet, pirate headgear or Robin Hood’s green feathered cap. The Wonderful World of Disney supplied our merry band of friends with all the heroes and villains we needed and we couldn’t wait to dress up for the next enactment.
Hours spent in the woods not only fueled our creative juices, they connected us with nature’s bounty. Later, as a Boy Scout, I learned about the animals inhabiting local woodlands, plants useful for food and fire, and which species to avoid. The smell of healthy earth and pines still stirs fond and splendid memories.
One day when I was 12, Dad decided to take me to work with him. I immediately sensed that an office environment was not for me and wondered how people could work in an environment with no greenery, stale air and humming fluorescent lights.
As an adult, I naturally ended up working outside much of the time. My long career as a landscape architect and contractor allowed me to become appreciative of all the gifts that each season brings. Often working in extreme hot and cold weather, we engaged with earth, plants, rocks and water, breathing in the primal elements of each. Returning to these projects 20 years later I am amazed by how they have continued to dynamically change the environment they helped create. It pleases me to stroll through these gardens and feel how the people I built them for can also experience their restorative grace, energies and stillness.
Such effects have been known since the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The sanctuary of green spaces are so calming that later hospitals and asylums included trees, shrubs and gardens in their designs to promote healing and reduce stress. Therapeutic Landscapes, an Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces written by Clare Cooper Marcus, reports that patients and staff responded positively to natural surroundings, healing occurred passively and patients were allowed to leave sooner.
After nearly a century of straying from this practice in the U.S., the larger health community is again finding it vital to include healing gardens near cancer centers, rehabilitation hospitals and veterans’ hospitals. Linda Sechrist’s article, “How Nature Activates a Healing Response,” introduces us to how the benefits of nature are now better understood through contemporary research. It’s a phenomenon anyone drawn to spend time in nature understands and believes.
How wonderful it is that simply walking in a garden can stir a heartfelt gratitude for the miraculous world we live in.
Don Moore, Publisher