Vision of a Sacred Garden
Back in February 2011 at a Pagan conference in Chester I had the good fortune to take part in a guided pathworking lead by Glennie Kindred, the author of the pagan primer “The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration” and part of the Moonshares Collective who annually produce the Earth Pathway Diary – a pagan “network and resource for Earth lovers, environmentalists, artists, writers and activists”.
On that winter afternoon in the dimly-lit hall Glennie Kindred’s soft calming voice and her drumming drew us deep into ourselves, where she encouraged us to discover and visualise our deep wishes and hopes. Some way in, I found myself immersed in green light, flickering around me like sunlight through pale fresh leaves, I drifted amongst branches creaking in the breeze, I saw and ran in a meadow, danced by a fire, lay back in long grass, gazing at ripe red fruits growing overhead. When I surfaced, still gleaming from my reverie I was handed a bowl of green slips of paper cut into leaf-shapes. I chose a leaf that looked to me like an apple tree leaf and wrote that I had dreamed of a green and magical place, a Sacred Garden to steward.
At the time I lived in a ground floor flat in a 1960s council block. Although it was a comfortable and compact apartment, it was also very square, plain and functional, a blank white box. The strip of garden was a lawn visible from the bedroom window, municipalised by default into an unexciting communal greensward. A twisty shady garden hidden away amongst thickets, like I had envisioned, seemed like a world away.
In the summer of 2011 I left the flat and moved temporarily into a late-Edwardian workers-cottage just beyond the Ring Road. The house was slightly ramshackle, much extended and added to, decorated with serifs and curliques, funny angles and sloping ceilings, ‘quirky’ to say the least. The main attraction was the kitchen which lead out to a long thin overgrown south-facing backgarden.
Stepping from the back door, the patio was almost enveloped in winding nasturtiums, blooms, buds and seeds aplenty. Along with willowherb, cleevers and the like. My seedlings had been moved with me, safe in their tiny pots, waiting to be planted out, feverfew, self-heal, soapwort, evening primrose, honesty, lavender, bay, and white poppy.
The vision of a green and magical place that came to me in the pathworking was gifted to me and I found my sacred garden to steward.
Beside the old wooden shed, half-way down the garden a tall rambling thicket arches, beyond it a ragged old apple tree leans against a profusely berried holly and an Ash sapling, all entwined through with a cool canopy of honeysuckle and grape vine. I have a bench there where I can sit amongst the greenery, hearing my neighbours clatter and chatter as if far, far away. But mainly I hear birdsong, doves and blackbirds and a wren who calls out loud a melodic and complicated song at the approach of our fascinated moggies.
A frog-way runs along the side of the shed where amphibians travel to and fro my neighbours shady pond. Beyond the Bower a small wildflower lawn of clover, self-heal, buttercups and yarrow, hedged in on all sides with overgrown shrubs of cotoneaster, buddleia, rose and thick bindweed. As I pulled back the curtains of bindweed I found straggly fruit bushes, canes of raspberry and blackcurrant, redcurrant, gooseberry and damson bushes and at the very back by the gate, a pear tree struggling and weighted down with fruit-heavy brambles, their arching canes thick as my thumb.
I wrote the experience up as a piece called “Vision of a Sacred Garden” and submitted it to Earth Pathways Diary, and in March 2012 it was selected for publication in the2013 edition, printed opposite the week starting Monday 8th July 2013. This week, in fact. To read the piece as it appears in the diary click here.
I eventually moved out of the house in October 2012 and although I was sad to have to leave the garden before my plantings and prunings had reached fruition, I was ready to move on. I felt I had begun to get to grips with the rhythms and inclinations of the garden; experimenting with companion planting tomatoes, with Amazonian three-sisters mound planting of sweet corn, beans and pumpkins, I’d set down blackthorn bushes to reinforce the overhanging bower, set Golden Rod amongst the Irises and Lemon Balm in the Nastursiums. Allowed Swathes to grow unhindered, wild and free. I made an Altar to the spirits of the place beneath the Apple Tree and a shrine to Chtuhlu, a sanctuary to the Dark Unspeakable, beside the bench. I had cherished the land and it’s wights with my attention, love and silence, establishing a fire pit, where I held full-moon-vigil by bonfire for a full year. I nurtured and grew and in my solitude I completely transformed my life.
In the two years between writing the piece and its publication in Earth Pathways 2013, as I tended to the garden, I have evolved in astonishing and secret ways. So much so that I have had to update my 40 word contributors profile in Earth Pathways 2013.
Mary-Jean Dark currently earns her living as a Museum Attendant. She maintains 5 websites under a number of pseudonyms and lives in a cooperative community in Eastern England. She also writes. You can view her work on her new blog.