Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Healing Garden

Today LM called me at work to excitedly tell me he saw forsythia in bloom, its brilliant yellow lighting up the roadside somewhere in RI. He was on a work related trip which took him through Newport and he was reveling in the beauty. Flowers and trees bloom earlier off-Cape. We must wait until May or June.

In reflecting on the healing process which has been prevailing in our lives lately, LM and I find it all begins in nature for us....whether it is at the beach, contemplating the sky with unusual cloud formations, watching the bizarre weather which can happen out here on Cape Cod's elbow, rain and wind in the night, the peepers in Spring, or in gardens, there is salve for the soul in every sound, scent and view in nature.

13 years ago I moved into a delightful cottage behind this charming Cape Cod house owned by dear friends Anne & Don. Gardens of local reknown surround this enchanted place that I had the honor of sharing for 5 years, 1995-2000. The offer to live there was a clear case of what happens when one takes charge of their own life and makes a healthy decision. After 18 years with an alcoholic, and two successful battles with cancer, I needed to leave the marriage, or go down with its ship. It was not a popular plan with my husband but I made it a choice for me, with no idea of where I would live.
Within weeks after my decision, my friends offered me the cottage for as long as I needed it, at a very reasonable rent which included all my utilities, a warm welcome for my two cats at the time, Pillage & Plunder (yes, they earned their names), and the most loving environment conceivable, but the piece de resistance was living in this beautiful garden, alive with birds and flowers, cats and wild animals, which attracts a steady stream of admirers nearly year round.

Before I moved in, they redecorated the cottage with all my needs in mind, some lovely antiques, oriental rugs, an all new bathroom. The day of the move there was a hurricane looming but all was deftly accomplished with the help of my son, my landlords/friends, and my dearest friend, Sue. My emotions were raw as the last of my things were taken from the home I shared with my about-to-be-ex-husband and my dear son held me as I sobbed, but, soon I arrived at the cottage to find flowers cut in a beautiful vase and a note of welcome. By nightfall, everything was perfectly arranged, Sue made my bed so comfy and even brought me a lovely plant - healing began, and I sank in to sleep as the hurricane began to how l- nature brought me a distraction of grand proportions!. The next day there was no power and I rested and reflected on this huge change in my life. It felt so RIGHT. The cottage was small and to this day I feel best with small spaces around me. Everyday, I walked through the gardens to check on growth, just as my own growth was only beginning. Frequently, the owner, Anne, would walk the garden with me and I would sit by the grape arbor and share tea with her as we reflected on our lives. She is an artist, weaver, musician, tireless library and school volunteer, but everyday year round she is in her garden, and it is her most beautiful accomplishment.
So many changes took place in my life at the enchanted cottage. I began intense counseling, I found my creativity in many ways, and sometimes, I just sat for hours and watched the orioles build their nest in the apple tree (pictured at top of blog) outside my living room window -the orioles returned as soon as the trees began to blossom every year. I learned to love being alone, and found a calm place in my spirit which had been consumed for so many years by the tension of trying to bring peace amidst the chaos of alcoholism. Now I could contemplate an oriole fetching pieces of silk yarn (remnants of Anne's weaving projects scattered about for just this purpose) and weaving it into exquisite hanging nests. There was also the sweet Carolina wren who raised a little family in a homemade birdhouse just outside my door. Behind my cottage was a beautiful meadow and beyond that a peach orchard. I was totally surrounded by beauty and love in that enchanted place. Love came to me there after awhile - a safe love in the form of a beloved family friend - a man whom I had grown up laughing and sharing many important events with. For awhile it was another of the gifts of the enchanted cottage. Sadly, that relationship didn't last but this time I had the self-worth to end things when it just didn't feel right. We remain devoted friends to this day, probably loving each other more for the time we had then.
The back left corner of the enchanted garden had paths leading through the woods and in late spring the pathways were alight with azaleas and rhododendrons, a primrose garden and a fascinating collection of endangered wildflowers which grow best in the woods. On the edge of the woods, next to a glorious butterfly bush, Anne had a fancifully painted mailbox in which the garden faeries left mail for her mystified grandchildren...such fun.
Leaving the enchanted cottage was very painful for me but I took a leap of faith to a different life....a story for another day.....if I hadn't healed in that magical place, that microcosm of nature's beauty, I would not be where I am today, and this is something I would not have wanted to miss: living and working in my dream town, being loved like never before, and again surrounded by the source of my strength, nature.

Anne built this side garden (below) while I was living in the cottage and it is so amazing. People come from everywhere to see it in spring. She built it as a way to heal after her dearest friend died. 90% of the plants are from her friend's garden. I go back to visit often and we always end the visit with a walk through and remembrance. A thing of immeasurable!

As a little aside, and an indicator of Anne's big heart, she runs the Saturday fundraiser book sale at her local library, and has done so for 20+ years. Her best helper is the husband I divorced just as I moved in to the cottage. She has been very good to him, too. We are all friends.
This whole interlude flashed back to me today, as LM shared his forsythia siting!! Joy.


islaygirl said...

what a lovely, lovely post. (and thanks for the cape pics below.)


Jeff- in the Berkshires said...

I followed the trail from the Caleb blog.
This is a beautiful post. I also find that there is so much peace and healing that nature offers. We just need to learn to accept it.

Wishing you continued healing, from the end of the state where spring is just beginning.