Because the garden feeds us all in many different ways, I thought you might be interested in its backstory as well. I have learned a lot of spiritual lessons there. Maybe this extra information will encourage you to spend time there when you come on a retreat.
‘The Garden’ always had a concept (to grow healthy organic food) and now it has a design (because we want everything to be visually pleasing as well as edible) and an expanded purpose. We decided on a large, round raised bed in the center, called the “Family Circle” bed because we feel the family is the center of life (whether it’s a good or bad influence, it is the first and most important community we know). Rectangular beds of fruit and vegetables rotate out from there in organized symmetry. Veggies are chosen not just because we want to eat them eventually, but also because they give needed things to the soil and provide different colors and textures to the beds. We’re finding that beauty and balance are important for all growing things. We companion plant because it makes the plants healthier to be in a mutually supportive environment and discourages harmful bugs. We’re beginning to add flowers in with the vegetables and herbs for the same compatibility and aesthetic reasons. We experiment with the best ways to water and feed the plants so that they get what they need when they need it and not when it’s convenient for us to provide it. And we spend time wandering among them because we want them to know we appreciate what they offer us (and we know they have the ability to understand our intentions and care). We give them order and peace and we minimize their distractions (by trying to minimize in the least harmful ways the bugs and other critters that want to chew on them) so they can do what they do best – grow into healthy and nutritious fruit and vegetables.
We’re finding that retreatants like to wander in the garden, not just to munch on something (which is fine as long as they ask the plant first and partake gently and politely, the way they would ask for food in someone’s home) but also to sit and watch butterflies linger or sunflowers track the light. Some people like to sit near the herbs so they can fill their lungs with the scent of lavender or mint. Others like the special smell of tomatoes in the heat of a summer day. Maybe someone wants to spend some time weeding (sure, but just in case, you’re welcome to do so) or contemplating the wonder of it all (much more likely and worth accommodating with some randomly placed seating.) We can learn a lot from plants if we approach them respectfully as equal beings on the earth and sit quietly in their company. (More on this in What we can learn from Nature)
It turns out that the garden feeds us in many different ways. It’s not just a place to grow and produce organic fruit and vegetables, herbs and flowers. It’s becoming more and more a part of the whole retreat experience (and more creative and whimsical in the process). We want to use the garden to help people learn about their food, it’s medicinal, spiritual and nutritive value, and to know about, appreciate and nourish where it comes from. That’s one of the subject areas we want to pursue.
We’d like to invite retreatants to come work in the garden for a spell, if they want to, but certainly to be able to say “why don’t you three go to the garden and find dessert?” or “these teas were grown in the garden right over there if you’d like to try them”.
“The Heart Garden”, as it is now called, (since Sandy designed the flipping spiral design of the garden fence panels to become large rustic hearts.) provides many ways to learn who we are, what we need and how we can live a life in balance and compassion with every other living thing in Nature.
Part of raising one’s spiritual awareness, it must be said, is also relaxing enough to let it happen to you. Tigg’s Pond is just naturally a great place to hang out as well as to learn. And the garden is only one of many areas here to explore and experience. Yes, go eat some blueberries off the bush. But also let go and have a swim in the pond, or lie in the hammock and let the stream lull you to sleep. Eat a fresh tomato sandwich for lunch. Rub some lavender between your hands. Walk the labyrinth. Watch the fish in the pond watch you. Open your heart and see what happens. Or just rest in the middle of it all.