Last year when I was receiving weekly chemotherapy treatments, I was always drawn to the chairs by the windows. These floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked a garden full of native plants and a green belt of trees that runs along White Rock Creek. It was good for my soul to look out at that garden while I received the medications that were combatting breast cancer.
We know this intuitively, but research shows that interacting with nature, whether getting our hands in the dirt as I often do, or experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and feels of nature, or just looking at the natural world, is indeed good for us—body, mind and soul. Research shows that engaging with the created world reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and promotes peace, calm and well-being. One study showed that recovering surgery patients with a view of trees required a shorter hospital stay and fewer pain medications than those with a view of a brick wall (1).
Throughout history, gardens and creation-keeping have been a natural extension of the life and ministry of monastic communities. These communities have cultivated ornamental gardens as places of meeting with God in quiet prayer and reflection. They kept vegetable gardens, medicinal gardens and orchards as ways of feeding and caring for their immediate community and beyond. The rhythms of their creation-keeping broadened and deepened the rhythms of their daily prayers.
Since our inception as a new monastic community (a 21st century expression of devout Christian community), we have sought to beautify and keep the gardens and grounds of Trinity Lakeside Abbey as spaces for worship and prayer, reflection and healing. It’s been a labor of love for me; I find peace and well-being in the rhythms of creation-keeping. And I’ve enjoyed sharing plants and inviting others to labor alongside me. These outdoor spaces, and the associated rhythms and practices of caring for them, are an important way in which we care for souls. And we feel called to do more.
For Trinity Lakeside’s first anniversary we added Hope Garden. For our second we added the Stations of the Cross meditation. And in this third year we are making plans to add a small community vegetable garden and some fruit trees in spring 2024. We have a long way to go, but we are excited to see what the Lord will do through this new garden. It will take many hands! If you are interested in helping with the planning and keeping of our new garden, or in supporting it financially, please let me know at email@example.com. You can make a gift toward this project on the Give page. Please note “community garden” in the memo.
(1) R S Ulrich, Science, Volume 224, 1984.