The Garden as Sanctuary

Ruby takes a nice splash after her run

From the outset my intention was to create a garden where various creatures would feel and be safe. One of my first considerations was the dogs. Border Collies need ample room to run. They just do. Those of you familiar with the breed will testify that they are very high energy dogs and need to express that energy or they will become, well, unhappy and destructive. The simple act of chasing a ball and returning with it will do. Over and over again, several times each day. So that was first on my list, a place where Conner (and later Ruby) could safely play. The garden is a block deep, and well fenced in. Perfect blessing.

I also wanted privacy, and as long ago the original owner of this charming craftsman house was president of the local garden club, as I mentioned recently, I benefitted greatly that her plantings had reached full maturity. Thus the fig tree, the apple tree, the plum tree, the myrtle, the forsythia, the rose arbor, the high fencing and the many trumpet vines all helped encase the deep yard with a dense wall of greenery and protection. I have only added to that with abundant bamboo, butterfly bush and mallow. Augmenting the insular aura is a patch of forest like greenery in the back half of the south side of the yard. Yes, we are quite protected.

Within this lovely field there is the critical element of the invitation. Who would find themselves welcomed, and how would they know? The butterflies will recognize the invitation of the butterfly bush.

The honeybees thrive in the many roses, the poppies and the large old stands of lavender. The little black rumps of bumblebees dance happily among the pink and white and red hollyhocks.

The hummingbirds dart daringly from the ample orange trumpet vine to trumpet vine, which spills up through the rose arbor into a blue sky.

Then there are the scrubjays. Longtime readers will recall I have become very fond of a family of scrubjays now having thoroughly claimed this garden as their own. I have witnessed now three years of nesting and fledges. But this year is different and very very special. This year the three fledglings have really never left, and have very specific patterns of using the garden, which they do very boldly. Early in the morning they squawk about the kitchen windows, just beyond where their birth nest lay, reminding me it clearly is time for their share of my peanuts. Oh, yes. I leave shelled peanuts on the sidewalk in clear view, and whistle, and within moments they land on the fence to verify their breakfast is ready.

They are charming and endearing, bringing an early morning smile to my lips. Once this ritual has been performed they seem to take off about the neighborhood, but always by mid-morning they appear in the back garden where they basically take over. If the dogs come out, they do not fly away. Oh, no. They are more likely to protest, as it is clearly their turn. We usually oblige. They bathe in the birdbath. They poop on all the lawn furniture. Yes, they do. And they scratch about in the ground, eat ripe plums from the plum tree, and bask in the morning sun on the morning glory arches. I am honored and deeply gladdened that they feel so utterly safe in the sanctity of the garden to such a degree that they have made it their own. They have a sense of place and I am inordinately blessed to have been the recipient of their trust.

Another early morning visitor, the most precious one of all, is my daughter who is currently here in transition. It is her morning habit to meditate in the garden and on more than one occasion she has opened her eyes to find all three scrub jays sitting on three chairs that stand nearby where she sits, calmly watching her. The sheer thought of it warms my heart that such a place has been created where this lovely interaction might take place.

Such is the measure of the success of my gardening plan. Oh, yes, there are tomatoes. And the ever present (adored) arugula. There are the herbs. And flowers. There are roses beyond roses, old ones.

For all of this I am deeply grateful. But most of all I cherish the sanctuary that the garden has become for all those I hold dear, all creatures great and small. In the early morning it is the place I turn to awaken my body, my heart and soul. In the depth of the day I can turn away from the computer, from my activities as book publicist and writer and sit in the shade of the mulberry tree or warm in the gentle sun, taking in the sounds of the local critters: squirrels, my scrubbies, the crows and an owl who has recently joined the chorus. Filled up I can resume the day, ready for a virtual urban environment, nurtured and softened by the treasures of my garden, just outside the back door.

What sanctuaries do you hold dear, turn to, that fill you up, dear readers? Are you so blessed, as you so deserve?

Love and gardening blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

16 Responses to “The Garden as Sanctuary”

  1. Awwwwe! Such a Lovely post, mom! You’ve done an Amazing job at creating a Beautiful sanctuary, for which I’ve been incredibly Grateful! Wonderful that your Dear Readers get to share! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Love you,

  2. Thanks, Sweetheart! I’ve been so grateful that you are enjoying it! Love, Mommie xoxo

  3. You have created a lovely and welcoming sanctuary indeed, Kathryn. I enjoyed the tour and a peaceful few minutes in your garden this evening.

  4. Welcome, Pam! So lovely to have you visiting this evening. I’m glad you enjoyed the peek into the garden this summer. I know we share a deep love of creating such environments. Kathryn xxoox

  5. I discovered this site several months ago, enjoy all your photos and comments. I have a similar garden on Ridgewood Ranch south of Willits, with jays, butterflies, bees, vegetables etc, and relate to the sanctuary concept. This is what it feels like to me also; we are blessed…

    Thanks for sharing the beauty in your life with all who view this site.

    Patricia Tetzlaff

  6. What a beautiful and evocative post Kathryn -I live in hope that one day my garden may be such a restful sanctuary, but in the meantime, I want to rush over and meditate in your garden right now please, it sounds truely delightful!!!

  7. Hi, Patricia, and welcome! I appreciate your visit and comment. It’s so gratifying to hear of others creating these environments where it is clear to the living creatures with whom we share the Earth that they are welcome, that we enjoy and appreciate their company and contributions and that they are safe, indeed, with us. Win/win for all concerned. Well done. Kathryn xoxo

  8. Good day, Llz! And you would be most welcome! I so appreciate your lovely comment. Thank you! Kathryn xoxo

  9. Hi Kathryn,
    What a lovely, shaded spot. We are having warm weather here in the city, and I think Ruby looks so cute with her feet in the tub! What a sanctuary for people and their friends with wagging tails!
    I was listening to NPR a week or so ago, and a comment was made that gardeners create the world as they think it should be. I thought that was so true, and I am reminded of some of your earlier posts. There was the one where people from Latin America had created a garden together (Cleveland Lane Community Garden), with plants that had personal associations from their families past, and resonated of home. I also thought of how people will leave their home garden sanctuaries and venture out to create this feeling of sanctuary in the wider world; either planting trees or picking up trash and invasive weeds in creeks, or as you did by having crape myrtles planted at the retirement home.
    I think that a place with growing things, happy glazed pots and animal friends at play is the perfect template for a better world.

  10. Hi, Philip! So nice to have your visit today! Yes, that’s the Coveted Shade Corner! How we appreciate it when it’s over 100 degrees all week as it is this week! God bless that mulberry tree! This is such a thoughtful comment and I’m humbled that you recall so many past posts that you can here refer to them.
    I like the concept you are presenting–that we bring these very same qualities out into the world wherever we might, and encourage that in others. Bravo. Well said, my friend. I’m also thinking of the blog itself, also a kind of sanctuary, I would hope! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, I hope. ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

  11. Kathryn, I was just visiting The Galloping Gardener and thought you two may be birds of a feather for she is raising funds for a hospital in India called The Raven Foundation.

  12. I like the idea of the blue jays looking at your daughter and wondering what she’s doing. It reminds me of the hummingbirds which buzz me as I tend my habitat. All gardens are sanctuaries of sorts, aren’t they? Great post, Kathryn.~~Dee

  13. Good morning, Donna! How thoughtful of you to let me know. I will check her out! Kathryn xoxo

  14. Hi, dear Dee! I will imagine you readily with hummingbirds attending you in the garden. Until I did this post I did imagine that all gardens are sanctuaries, but as I wrote this post I realized it is not true. I would sadly wager that most gardens are not. “In the seed is the tree,” thus what our result is follows our intention. If it is our intention to create sanctuary, our result will be sanctuary. If our intent is a LOOK, rife with pesticides, inorganic fertilizers, poisonous hoses, genetically manipulated plants and trees, etc., I could hardly think any little creature–or large–would find respite there. On the contrary. Their lives are probably threatened. I think we need to be asking ourselves not only what we are creating, but how. I think we need to be looking beyond the form into the content. Only when all things harmoniously align will be get what we truly want. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  15. Just found your wonderful blog – lovely pictures and a joy to read! Thank you.

  16. Welcome, Charlotte! So glad you found Plant Whatever Brings You Joy and enjoyed your visit! Kathryn xoxo

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