An artist shares her experiences on creatively developing, tending to and nurturing her garden as spiritual sanctuary for herself, her friends and family. Gail Allen contributes her thoughts on creating a sacred space as an oasis for soothing your soul in today's busy world, enticing your senses and and fostering your own personal growth

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Memorial Day Tribute to Military Veterans and Their Families

My Dad World War ll
Poppies always remind me of my dad, honoring those who fought for our freedom, as well their families who have given so very much and especially, the Memorial Day holiday. Whether in my garden, or the crepe paper kind you may purchase outside of stores that are usually being sold by Veterans around Memorial Day, they will always hold an endearing place in my heart. They will forever symbolize a remembrance to pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price and sacrificed for our freedom.

At seventeen my dad joined the army to go fight in World War II. He worked in Bermuda on the railroad that is no longer there and then shipped out and fought in Europe; stationed there for years, when the announcement came that the war had ended. Although he told us a few things, he never really discussed the details of what he went through. Growing up, we would always watch old war movies with him, knowing it meant a lot to him that in some way, we had a small glimpse into understanding the hell that they experienced and the camaraderie of military life. He had terrible memories and nightmares that haunted him until his death in 2003. He had hurt himself a few times, during those nightmares of reliving diving into a bunker for safety, when incoming mortars were heading their way.  Throughout his life, he had a special place in his heart for his fellow countrymen who he would see at the VFW and at the many reunions he attended. Every Christmas, cards came from people my sisters and I had never met, but we knew how dear they were to my dad,  - these were from the families of these men who had served with him all those years ago. One by one, we were sent the news of their passing on.

Recently, my father in law was given the gift of going to view the World War II Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D. C. through a new program for veterans. It meant so much to him, as well as all of these veterans to finally be recognized. I am sure my dad would have loved it.

On this Memorial Day, please remember to pay tribute to those in our military services who have sacrificed so much for our freedom over the years, serving in many different wars. From now on, whenever you see a poppy may you be reminded of the young men and women who deserve our thanks and praise today, and everyday that we encounter them in our daily lives. Don't let an opportunity go by to honor, or personally thank them for the gift they have given us all - freedom.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Garden as a Metaphor for Life

The garden is a metaphor for life, and gardening is a symbol of the spiritual path."~ Larry Dossey 

Full Moon by Gail Allen
Paying very close attention to who you are and what you are wanting is almost unheard of in these crazy, busy times we live in, but none – the - less is needed. as much, if not more so, than ever before. We are living in a new era where the world around us changing minute by minute, in unparalleled ways.  The need to keep ourselves openly aware of the subtle intuitive realms within us and hold fear and loneliness at bay is a lofty goal, to say the least. Doing this will undoubtedly though, uphold the important evolution we are all experiencing.

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.
                                                                  - Elizabeth Lawrence
Yakima Dwarf Rhododendron

  This is spring in the garden, as we grow older. A yearly reminder of what we once knew -  the magic that is there, if we pay attention. Chartreuse greens bright with wonder and an array of beautiful color bursting from blossoming trees, flowers and shrubs. Scents abounding; even the spring rains have an distinct smell to them. Nature is calling.

"All my hurts my garden spade can heal." 
                                                                            -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Grape Crab Apple
Japanese Maple,
  The moods we have are not the important factors in our experience. Instead, how we interpret, deal with and express them, on our own very personal level, whether it be through writing, gardening, painting, building, sculpting, acting, decorating or through interaction by way of sports. Healing the wounds of the past comes from acknowledgment that whatever you are needing, be it solitude, a lovely place of romanticism in the garden, a tribute to a memory with a meditative spot, a magical garden or just a bright, joyful, playful garden to appease the child within you, - that the place you create is a place of comfort to your soul. It should feel soothing to you like a warm blanket by the fire, or a child wrapped in his or her mother’s arms. The messages of the soul have no judgment factor to them…they are simply making you aware of what you need to resolve to open and walk through the next door.

"Show me your garden ... 
  and I shall show you what you are." ~ Alfred Austin 

Honeysuckle Vine on Arbor
White Crab Apple

It is our conscious mind that takes that message and turns it inside out, analyzing the why, what about, what for and how, etc. The soul simply states this needs to be attended to, pay attention so we may understand and move forward.
By intuitively honoring its messages and creating a place for us to interpret and observe our own soul’s landscape: the attributes, characteristics, feelings, fragrances, sounds and colors, as well as the plants that grow there and any sort of means required to rest in this spot, we are honoring those aspects of our self and giving ourselves permission for them to come forth in a safe place and time that we have created.
It's Spring...a time of new beginnings...eggs hatching everywhere around us in nature. Why not create your own chance at hatching a buried treasure, or idea deep inside of you that has been waiting for this moment to arrive. Whether on a city balcony, in a cooperative garden setting, or on your own is a time of new beginnings .... enjoy the beauty of Spring!
Virginia Snow bell, Blue Spruce, Yellow Cyprus

Water garden, Japanese Maple, Japanese Iris, Sedum

So get some paper and a garden catalog, or two. List (or cut pictures out of) the colors, textures, flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses that appeal to you. Look in magazines or on the web and find examples of gardens, follies, benches, chairs, tables, stumps, rocks, shells, statues, etc, that call out to you…"pay attention to me". What does the garden of your soul look like? You will be amazed at the beauty you will create and this in turn will help heal our planet. Springtime is full of the creativity nature offers unfurling into a beautiful creation right before our eyes. Now is the time...Enter the garden!

A healthy garden is a reflection 
                                     of a healthy soul.” ~Anonymous

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Spring Surprises....Unfolding Before Our Eyes

Grape Hyacinth(Muscari) under Bradford Pear
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."

This time of year can sometimes feel overwhelming in the garden. So much to clean up from the winter and pots, arbors, follies to move and plants to put in anew. For me it is a constant struggle... garden or studio. Because of the fact that my work in the garden seems to inspire my artistic senses and muse, it is best for me to give the garden some extra time now, which pays great dividends in the heat of summer months. This is a time of pacing ones self. Stopping for a glass of ice cold tea, or water and some fruit every few hours. A few hours seems to be my limit right now. My strength has not quite returned fully. So in those times, I head to the studio, or my trusty sketch book for a well needed break away from the garden.
A sketch of the house done for a new painting currently in progress.

It is the season of white blooms in the lower area of the garden. The Bradford Pears line the driveway and remind me of lacy bridal dresses. There are six quite large ones around the perimeter....recently it rained for days and their blooms came down quickly, before I was able to capture them...they will have to wait until next year to show their splendor to you.
Bradford Pear

Bridgewood Gardens is one of the sources we have purchased plants from, that have been unbelievably hardy and grown great. They come carefully packaged and have all done very well in my gardens. I have purchased hostas and a number of delightful ferns from them for the woodland gardens. This particular hosta has doubled in size, (twice), in the few years since we purchased it. I now have four and will be subdividing again soon. Its lovely spring color stands out in the shade as it is yellowish white, then it turns green later in the season. It is a great complement when put under or next to Blue Spruce as we have it in our gardens. It seems to love the shade below a japanese bosai cut spruce, facing toward the East where it gets morning sun and then shade from noon on. I have some variegated iris with the similar yellowish white color very close by, the hosta being horizontal and the iris a strong verticle, which keeps the eye moving on. 
I love this beautiful Hosta we had purchased from Bridgewood Gardens a couple years ago!

Foamflower (Tiarella) along the magical woodland path.  I believe this is pink skyrocket. It accompanies a golden leaved Bleeding Heart (Dicentra Gold Heart), Japanese Jack In the Pulpit, Coral Bells (Purple Heuchera), Fire Chief Coral Bells (Heuchera), Bloodgood Japanese Maple, Sweet Woodruff (Galium Odoratum), Epimedium Grandiflorum (Bishop's Hat)Night before Christmas, Patriot and White Christman Hostas as well as an evergreen Viburnum (Viburnum tinus 'Compactum' Spring Bouquet and Yakima Dwarf Rhododendrums. This is a winding path walking toward the swing set and is for the child in all of us. This path feeds the senses with exhilarating scents, sights of butterflies, sounds of birds and feeds the muse of inspiration and creativity. 
The smell of Sweet William is intoxicating.
It is a lovely ground cover that spreads quickly under the Bloodgood Japanese Maple.

This viburnum, bleeding heart and hosta are next to the foamflower. The colors repeat themselves over and over along the path. There are also purple leaved coral bells later on throughout the summer, which are just coming up right now.
Boxwood hedges around the garden shed.
The garden shed with an old sundial from an estate sale.

Lilacs about to come into full bloom.
There is so much more to see  here ...   as the seasons go round and round.
Thank you for coming. Hope you enjoyed the visit.
Come again soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

And the Seasons, They Go Round and Round....

Welcome back again, Happy Spring!  I am trying to get back to some normalcy in my life, after being gone for quite some time.... a few seasons have passed, as I return with the renewed sense of everything in moderation. Here is my first post in quite some time....

The Japanese Cherry and Rhododendrons at the entrance
I always loved the song, "The Circle Game" by Joni Mitchell. 
"And the seasons go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down, we're captive on a carousel of time." Looking behind, from where I have come, and watching another turn of the seasons, I am humbled. In this crazy life and through these crazy times, our love has prevailed. There is something to be said for never giving up, persistence and nurturing, no matter what. A weakened plant, bush or tree that we become frustrated trying to satisfy, can turn on a dime, with just a bit of extra care and love. A change of place can always do wonders.
A Spring Rainbow Above the Yard

Our two oldest sons are graduating from college within two weeks of each other this month, starting out on their own journeys. The third has begun to drive on his own...they have all matured into fine young men that I am so very proud of. Sorry to indulge myself a bit here,  but I feel this is as much a part of the reflection of a soulful life as any. As I look around the yard at so many memories and dreams that have been realized, I am filled with gratitude for a wonderful life and a well lived experience. Every moment of it, even the trying times, from the loss of loved ones to a few in our family fighting Lyme Disease and other issues in the past couple of years, has been a journey through the seasons of our lives that has been truly amazing.

"So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through." -Joni Mitchell

2010 Fall Season - On the Lake Nearby
Here are a few photos of the area around us. The seasons have progressed toward the current Spring season where regeneration and the years gifts begin to unfold around us. May your 2011 year bring you and yours love, peace and wonderful surprises to behold.

2011 End Of the Winter...Mt. Washington

Early Spring Pond Visitors...a bluejay and a hawk

Budding Peach Trees In the Last Spring Snow

A Lovely, Dreamy Sunset among the fields

Bradford Pears, Redbud and Japanese Cherry Trees along the driveway