Gardens, the outdoors, and the healing properties of nature.
It has dawned on us that we weren’t designed to live our lives through a screen; we need to be physically present, in most cases, to really connect with other humans.
Senses other than sight have a crucial part to play in any meaningful encounter. Touch – remember how good it feels to hug a friend?; Hearing – remember the hum of voices, the crackles of laughter, or the happy greetings as the party gets underway? (An actual party, mind, not the ghostly rows of solitary faces on a Zoom gathering). And what about the sixth sense, which tells you when you need to stop talking and listen, or alerts you to something that can’t be transmitted via pixels?
For a good while yet, what gatherings we do have will be outside so it makes sense that we’re all looking to make the most of our garden spaces. While a big part of it is wanting somewhere half decent to sit down with actual people, there’s actually more to it than that.
If this pandemic had never happened, we would still need gardens. Urban living and technology have been separating us for decades from the cycle of nature and the seasons, from the land and from the earth. But it’s in our nature to need nature, even if it doesn’t need us.
Spending time in a garden is like stepping back into nature for a little while. For town-dwellers in particular, access to a safe outdoor space with living, growing plants – which could be a park or a workspace garden – is as necessary as a comfortable bed for your physical and mental health. Just as meetings with other people are vital to our wellbeing, so are meetings with the natural world.
Gardens, you see, help us connect with ourselves.
They encourage us to be present, be still, be quiet; pay attention, be mindful and observe what’s going on around us. Nowadays, there are apps for all of these sensations, spotify lists of birdsongs or raindrops on leaves but there is no substitute for opening your door and stepping outside to the real thing.
“I know nothing about gardening”, I hear you say, “so a garden is not for me”. I can tell you wholeheartedly that nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t know much about building – but I still benefit from living in a house. I couldn’t tell you anything about an internal combustion engine but I can absolutely drive a car. Looking after plants can be time consuming but also incredibly rewarding. You can certainly keep ‘gardening’ to the bare minimum, and with good design, still have an attractive and inviting space to envelop you in its green embrace.
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