Outdoors Recreation

The Observant Gardener: Find Your Sanctuary

“I have a room all to myself; it is Nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, January, 1853

By Judith Canty Graves

Finding a peaceful spot in a natural environment is important for me, as I imagine it is for most gardeners. Nature is soothing, so I spend as much time outdoors as I can. Most of all, I want a quiet place to gather my thoughts and enjoy the sun and the sounds of nature.

The dictionary defines the word sanctuary as “a place of refuge or repose, a place where you can find peace.” The word originates from the Latin sanctuarium, and sanctus, meaning “holy.” A natural location, such as a garden or a park, can be a retreat from the world where you experience the beauty of nature and emerge rested.

Photo by Judith Canty Graves

In the back of my yard, there is a bench where I sit and listen to a small waterfall on a nearby creek. This spot is a place to take a break or to have a conversation with a friend. The bench and the creek are my sanctuary.

Your sanctuary can be a balcony, a patio or even a porch with container plants that you enjoy. This is the spot where you unwind and appreciate the world around you. Recently, as I visited a friend, we sat outside on her porch on a perfect summer day. The breeze was cool and the clouds were slowly moving overhead. We remarked on the beauty of the clouds, the blue sky and the peaceful setting, surrounded by her colorful flowers.

Any time of year when we spend time in our outdoor space, our senses are heightened. We can appreciate bird calls, breezes, water flowing or chimes tinkling in the wind. Certain visual features in the landscape are powerful as well, such as a path, a trellis, stone fences or an attractive bench. I love paths that meander through a property, leading a visitor from one garden area to another.

We can also add artwork to our gardens to enhance the natural setting and to express our creativity. On a recent garden tour I enjoyed seeing one gardener’s creative sculptures featuring imaginative faces and creatures on pathways in her garden. It was a joyful experience walking around her property and finding these surprising and colorful pieces of art. In other gardens on the tour, I saw a personal temple area with hammocks for relaxing and a private place on a hillside with comfortable chairs.

Even if you don’t have a suitable yard or patio, you can find your personal sanctuary in a public park or a conservation area. One of my favorite spots in past years was Mount Misery in Lincoln, Massachusetts, a place Henry David Thoreau frequently spent time in and wrote about. The paths through the woods and past the ponds where he walked are magical, uncrowded and peaceful. They became a sanctuary for me that I enjoyed throughout the year. Find your own sanctuary in your yard or somewhere else—and visit it often.

Judith Canty Graves is an Asheville gardener with a background in photojournalism. Follow @TheObservantGardener on Instagram to see new garden photos daily.

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