I’ve made the front step my contemplation seat. Especially late in the evening when most people have gone to bed, I like to sit in my sanctuary garden under the dim glow of streetlights and absorb the quietness of the street.
Or on rainy days I can watch the kitchen garden grow from the shelter of the stoop. The scarlet runner beans have raced all the way to the roof. On still, warm days their flowers emit a subtle fragrance.
This sanctuary doesn’t provide much privacy, but that’s part of its charm. When I garden first thing every morning, strangers stop to chat. They’re usually older folks who have time for idle conversation. This morning a woman told me she will give me some beans when they ripen — beans she brought from Yugoslavia. She recommends cooking them in milk and water, then adding sour cream.
The people who stop have only peaceful things to say.
I pass through the front door a few times every day. Portals have a particular psychological power. If you ever notice arriving in a room not knowing why you came, blame the doorway. Openings mark the boundary between one landscape and another, triggering our minds to change ideas and purposes.
I use this to my advantage. When I step out the back door on the side of the parking lot, I usually have a plan, places to go and things to do. But when I step out the front door I enter the garden, leaving cares and agendas behind.
The bounty my hands have raised absorbs me. It’s early summer. The peas, lettuce and spinach are past. The raised bed is beginning to produce more kale, chard and the first carrots.
These are the first carrots I’ve grown since I was a teenager. They’re remarkably tender, like cold butter. They have a perfume, my partner says.
Unlike our neighbours’ gardens along this sun-parched south wall, the dense foliage of the vegetables keeps the soil cool and moist. The micro-climate attracts pollinating insects and soil organisms. A slender tabby cat likes to slink under the shade of tomato and beans vines.
I pass through the front door several times a day to tend the plants, harvest vegetables, snip some herbs to flavour the pot, or simply do nothing. Each time I’m transported to a place that reduces life to essential nourishment.
A little effort and affection can turn a sterile, empty space fertile. This is true spirituality. Sanctuary gardens inspire us to be still and contemplate a tiny corner of the complex universe. This abstract focus calms the nerves, heals pain and connects us to the Earth, from which all life comes.