The Cancer Survivor’s Garden: A philosophy
While disease wracked the gardener, neglect destroyed the garden. Great dead limbs fell on blackened rose bushes. Weeds invaded from the neighbor’s, the lawn and birds dropped seeds from the sky. Slopes eroded and the blackberries pulled over the deer fence.
Finally the day came when the gardener could stand and walk again. She ventured into her once bountiful realm but didn’t have the energy to do more than look about her and then return to the warmth of her fireside.
While the gardener didn’t have strength to do much more than lift a spoon to her lips her mind knew what to do. Her imagination saw visions of roses and lilies, daffodils and flowering current—all the plants, big and small that delight the senses year-round.
Still, the energy to do the chores that built the original was lacking. Years of illness had also depleted the savings account so money had become a problem. “How to rebuild a garden when the energy of the gardener is missing?” became the biggest question.
The answer came slowly—one garden bed at a time. Restoration would be slow. It didn’t have to be done in one season. What couldn’t be weeded could be mowed. The chickens became the cultivators scratching out weeds and eating the tender shoots and roots growing where they didn’t belong. The chickens fertilized as they cultivated each bed.
The gardener’s mate would do the heavy work—moving brick and building raised beds with concrete block. New bulbs were tucked in around the edges where the mower couldn’t reach them.
For some areas that had become impenetrable, big equipment must be brought in to remove dead and diseased trees. High places were smoothed out to fill the low places and new possibilities were revealed. What had once been only a small trail through a tangled wood susceptible to forest fire became a transition zone open to the sun, new planting, and new habitat for birds and butterflies.
The garden that slowly rises out of the wreckage of the old one isn’t the same as the garden that died. The gardener who fell to disease is not the same as when she built the first garden. Her new creation will be easier to tend. The beds will be up where she can reach them without the challenge of getting up and down from the ground. The paths will be wide enough for the riding mower.
A garden is a living thing. It changes with time as does the gardener. Adaptations will always need to be made. What is old will pass away. Plants die. New plants take the place of the old ones. New forms and purposes change the surface of the garden.
In the garden, as with all things, there is a balance. The balance in the garden brings balance back into the gardener’s life. Thus as the gardener heals the garden, the garden heals the gardener. Together they heal the earth and all creatures who come into their realm.