The label “wild gardens” is comprised of seemingly contradictory terms. One scholar has written that gardens are “enclosed, protective places that…are metaphors for [the] cosmos in the face of chaos.”1 Similarly, another writer has defined the garden as a symbol for the subjugation of nature2. This would appear to be true: by function, gardens are places where nature is tamed and forced to grow in a particular way by the hand of the gardener.
But how often do we sow real seeds and see them wither and die after a few days of sprouting. Perhaps we gave them too much water, or provided the wrong soil, or sowed them at the wrong time of the year. Yet, nature has a way of taking the situation in hand. Seeds are borne to our gardens on the breath of the wind or by the wings of birds. Then, with no help from us, we see those seeds sprout and some time later our gardens fill with unexpected flowers of various sorts. Or we chop down a plant that we think we do not like, yet it comes back year after year without any help from us. It grows as nature wills.
The practical lesson here is that the successful gardener knows the nature of her seeds, knows when to plant and when to water, follows the cycles of the year. Instead of working against nature, she works with it. She lets her garden be its true self. She lets it be “wild.”
In line with what the writers above have said, the garden is a metaphor for the protected space within us. It represents the sacred place of our souls. It is the fertile ground of our imaginations. Like a good gardener that knows the nature of the plants in her garden, we also need to know the nature of our inner selves. When we till the soil of our inner gardens, we must keep in mind our unique characteristics that make us individuals. We need to accept the fact that we may be an orchid that will not flourish in a cactus patch, or a water lily that cannot find a place in a rose garden. We need to let our inner selves be as nature made them and take root in the right soil and environment. We need to be in tune with our inner nature and let ourselves be “wild.”
Estes writes that “whatever can happen to a garden can happen to soul and psyche…”3. Likewise, we need to irrigate our souls with spiritual water, not too little and not too much. We need to watch for weeds of inner criticism and self-condemnation and yank them out. When the cold winds of despair blow through us, we need to cover the seedlings of our spirit so they will not die.
As we take care of our gardens and let them be wild, then nature will take over and our gardens we will enjoy rich and beautiful yields.
Text and Image, Lori G © 2007
1. Leeming, David Adams. The World of Myth: An Anthology. Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 345
2. Cirlot, J.E. A Dictionary of Symbols, Second Edition. Dover Publications, 2002, p. 115.
3. Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Ballantine Books, Mass Market Edition, 1997, p. 105