Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2005
Regional Report

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Simply gazing at an elegant water lily basking in the sun is a healing experience.

Healing in the Sun

The day I found out I had breast cancer was the day after my birthday, March 13. Spring, the season of new life unfolding, was just around the corner. My darling, wonderful Sweetie -- my husband -- dropped everything and came to pick me up from the doctor's office when I called him with the bad news.

"What do you want to do?" he asked. It never even occurred to me that he might be asking the long-term question. "I want to go to the garden," was my reply.

Sweetie and I sat near my tiny community garden plot holding hands. I had big alligator tears streaming down my face. I couldn't believe that the biopsy had come back positive. I had it, the "Big C" actually the big "BC" breast cancer. I had things to do, for goodness sake. In less than a week I was scheduled to fly to Orlando and host a five-part special for the Do-It-Yourself Network at Epcot Center. I didn't have time to have cancer. "It must be a mistake," I thought. "This can't be happening, this can't be true." Nobody in my family had ever had cancer, let alone breast cancer. It just wasn't possible that this was happening to me.

When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, time moves in slow motion. There is simply too much information to absorb, and you don't hear a thing after the doctor says the dreaded "C" word. All I wanted to do was to run away and hide in my garden. Thank goodness I had the rent-a-garden to disappear into for a while.

Gardens Offer Solace
It's curious that gardens are comforting in times of trouble. Chuck and Ricky, my best friends and coworkers when I was a gardener at Sunset Magazine, often said that we never had anybody from the editorial offices visit the beautiful display garden unless they were crying. I now understood why.

There is peace to be found in the stillness of the earth. Things happen slowly in a garden; changes take place over seasons rather than minutes or hours. There is a natural progression, where even death brings forth life. The fallen nourish the new, and the new becomes the old in a never-ending cycle. When you are in the garden it seems that you are invisible to the rest of the world. Sitting quietly with my Sweetie beside me, listening to the blue jays squabble and the bees droning, I realized that this life doesn't last forever and that every one of us will become compost sooner or later.

My little garden was the perfect place to absorb myself with mindless work. I remember vividly every weed I pulled that day, but few words the doctor had said. Focusing your mind on the task at hand is better than anything any doctor could ever prescribe.

That's the reason why health professionals suggest patients become involved in gardening, painting, or some other hobby that occupies your mind and keeps your hands busy. Redirecting thoughts toward a positive task relieves your mind from worry. Through your recovery, there may be days when you don't have the physical strength to dig in the soil. Those days are a blessing because they awaken your senses to appreciate the healing warmth of the sun, the intoxicating fragrance of fresh cut green grass or the fragile beauty of a sweet pea tendril.

I can say from my heart, "Let your garden heal your soul."

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