In my world death has lingered close this week. More than one special friend has been touched by the great sorrow of loss. Although once-removed from these sadnesses, it has caused me to be rather more reflective than usual.
Today I drove a friend to North Devon Hospice to pick up his car, left there after the passing of his friend yesterday. This was my first visit to the hospice. Like many of these oases, where the compassionate help the vulnerable in their final days, I have heard nothing but fine things about the care provided here. But I had also heard wonderful things about their gardens.
As rain had decided to rest for ten minutes, I took it as a sign, and did not even attempt to resist the temptation to have a quick look.
The autumn garden was, as you would imagine, looking its best. A large Cercis canadensis “Forest Pansy” looked stunning against the navy sky. After last night’s gales the leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua, the American sweet gum, carpeted the lawn. The cinnamon peeling bark of Acer griseum smouldered in the sun, with wheaten grasses and cyclamen providing a worthy under storey. In the reeded pond a swamp cypress, Taxodium distichum, with ginger needles, paddled in the shallows.
This was just an illicit taster, just a small section of the grounds. On three days each year they open these gardens to the public and I am determined to return to appreciate it fully. Us gardeners know all too well the beneficial effects of a garden. How much more can this be for those at crisis points in their lives? Healing, soothing, calming. Even a momentary escape from the harsh realities of life and death must repay a thousand fold. A beautiful distraction to allow the batteries to recharge, to strengthen, attune, accept.
Before we left we came across a seating area, looking across the lawn to the trees beyond, protected from our fine North Devon weather by glass walls. This shelter was etched with sayings, both apt and uplifting. We walked around reading them out to each other. Like a soothing mantra. One in particular stuck in my mind. We could do worse than to remember this.