The Mental Health Value of Gardens

We went with the students on a trip to the Northern cities of York and Edinburgh, but took time on the way back for a stay of several days in the Lake District of Wordsworth and Coleridge.  Especially coming from frenetic London in the middle of the tourist season, it was impossible not to notice and be affected by the difference between rural and urban settings.

The city roars with people rushing about their business at top speed.  The country moves slowly.

Windermere

Animals have their little, busy lives, generation after generation in the same ecological spaces.  The trees and plants are rooted, motionless except for the blowing breeze and slow changes of the seasons.

Woods Above Ambleside

Something happens to the pace of breath and thought in the countryside.  Rather than recoiling from hard urban edges, our eyes relax into the random, organic forms of nature.  Lovely shapes and motions–curves, spirals, leaps, and turns–lead us into, around, and away from ourselves as we settle onto our own place in this little, specific section of earth.

Foxglove and Fern

Gardens provide the urban dweller a share of the slow, random, stillness of the country.  Whether it’s a small personal potted garden or a large public park, a garden puts us in touch again with something vital to our sanity and health.  We walk through a garden, or sit in it, or work with the plants, and regain our own roots.  The running water of a fountain or the still water of a pond speaks to us soothingly.  We smell a garden, touch it, hear it, taste it.  We remember who we really are.

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