Yes! It has been another weekend filled with events. Tiring, running-around-while-DH-is here kind of weekend. It didn’t help that I was having a cold. I was thankful that it didn’t last as long as flu, no fever, no chills. Despite a slightly blocked nose, I feel good today and that must have certainly been helped by my morning therapy, gardening. It is now coming to summer in the Northern Hemisphere and a great time to start planting the flowering plants into the earth (if you have a garden) or to re-pot them to larger ones if you have an apartment balcony like me.
I came from a “kampung”, a village, in Singapore, where I was surrounded by lots of nature. My early toys, besides a ragdoll, were the animals roaming around our courtyard, the trees that I used to climb and plants that I used as part of my ‘recipe’ for my “masak-masak” (cooking) games. I had a granddad who was a professional gardener and taught me a lot about the diverse plants growing in our huge garden. Being a typical rambunctious child, I didn’t want to spend time looking at them, I wanted to climb them or pluck the flowers.
But of course, I just realised that as an adult, some of those early lessons must have been cemented in my brain as slowly, some of his advice bubbled up to the surface as I played with the soil and plants. As I watered my herbs and lovingly tend to my flowering plants, I just feel such joy. The sun shining in the early morning, with baby Asger babbling away in his chair, bees circling above our heads, I couldn’t think of anything more relaxing while working with my hands.
It brings me to my point that gardening IS a certified form of therapy. Recently, the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) has started gardening therapy for all their injured soldiers to help in their rehabilitation. It is not just learning about flowers and plants when you garden, it’s about working with nature, appreciating another form of life and being lost in your own thoughts, kind of like meditating. From my own experience, I have this to share.
My mum came to stay with me in the UK in 2005/06. She was severely overweight, suffered from asthma, high blood pressure and had a high cholesterol level. She was taking lots of medication to control these health issues but she was also just stressed out from her daily grind of living in Singapore. When we started gardening together in my garden in Surrey, I saw her smile in her deep thoughts. She shared how it was just like living back in the kampung days, playing with soil, and eating what she grew.
My mother’s blood pressure, weight and cholesterol level slowly dropped the more she breathed in the sweet perfume of our lavender plant, eating home made salads with rocket, basil and mint grown in our garden and just with the general bending movements of a typical gardening day. She was also looking more relaxed just sitting amongst the flowers, playing with the cat that decided to sit next to her, enjoying the sunshine. And that was what I wanted to do too, in the spring of 2010.
I was pregnant with baby 3, Asger, and was suffering from depression. The winter had been very severe (I also had SAD), I was living in a house/apartment that was taking longer than expected to renovate and I was feeling the general emotional turmoil of a pregnant woman, away from her mother and sister. I knew I was suffering from depression (thank God for my profession eh?) but I couldn’t find anything to do that made me happy enough. Until spring came of course. Then with the sun shining shyly behind the clouds, I found my perfect medicine. I started talking to my blooms, yes, I did the talking like a mad woman thing! It has been said that plants do react to human interaction, and that classical music does improve their growth. I didn’t play classical music but I had Tropical/Samba music in the background, with a shawl tight around my cold neck and a 3 year old for company, I found my Goddess self again. I haven’t looked back since.
If you have found that you might be losing a zest for life or with human interaction, then you might want to try gardening therapy for a while. Plants do not judge you but will tell you if you have been treating it well through its growth. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone, then let your fingers do the talking. If you are beginning to feel that the world is not beautiful anymore, just look at the myriad of colours in the Natural World. From the brightest of sunflower yellow to the reddest of roses to the greenest of herb leaves, there are many colours there to choose to match your mood. Just sit back and watch the plants absorb the sunlight, one of their food, and interact with bees, flies and insects.
A good gardening session should leave you dirty in your fingernails but clean in your heart and mind! Try it tomorrow!