Gardens of Grace

“Beauty will save us.” – Dostoyevsky

Flower gardens – what could be less practical? And yet, they are one of the most practical ways to inject beauty into a community – the beauty that heals.

My first garden was a joint project with the Bishop of Northern Uganda, Gakumba Johnson. It was an utter failure. We raised the money for a garden only to have a crooked contractor steal it. When the Bishop explained this fact to his people, the people decided to build the structures they wanted, and with their own labor. Many were orphaned teens, ill with HIV and starving. Yet within a year they had built 25 churches for roughly 25,000 people. The Bishop became a master gardener of people.

My second garden was for my enemies. I had not meant to have enemies in Chapel Hill. Yet here I am, a person with some neighbors who shun me for reasons I’ve written about in other places. My solution, given that we could not agree on basic facts, was to plant at least 5,000 bulbs in a garden that they would see every day. With each bulb I planted I prayed, “Let there be deep beauty in the broken earth.” The garden is the prayer for peace.

I currently am working at the Rick Herrema Foundation near Ft. Bragg, NC on an interactive trauma-healing garden. This large garden is created with military families, landscape architect Sean Sweeney and TFTC Gardens . Our pilot garden has found service members and their families enjoying the beauty, cutting flowers to take home (allowed and encouraged!), and helping to tend this place of great healing.

I used to think gardening was something old folks did – like Prince Charles. But abundant beauty is for us all.