As a war correspondent, Lalage has seen her share of violence and destruction. She’s seen the suffering and fear firsthand and paid the price emotionally from experiencing the horror of it all. But amidst the background of the senseless annihilation of towns and cities, she has met some resilient souls, men and women who refuse to give in and who’ve found solace and peace in creating a garden.
They’ve cleared enough of the rubble to encourage a rose to grow, to nurture a pot of red geranium and to plant a tree. Somehow they know that a garden nurtures the soul: provides a refuge, a place of comfort and peace despite the horror still surrounding them. In every seed there’s a kernel of hope. And maybe because they’ve experienced so much death, they do what they can to nurture life.
Reading Lalage’s book, War Gardens, it struck me that gardens transcend race, gender, cultures and class. They are equally available to the rich and the poor. The great palaces and Villas of Europe were surrounded with magnificent gardens as a sign of privilege or power. Every nation on earth has its public and botanic gardens, but gardening can be just as available to people of all walks of life and in every corner of the globe, even on a window ledge.
There’s a striking parallel between the resilience of nature and the resilience of the human spirit. The tree grows stronger through the force of the wind and the fury of the storm. Maybe that’s what gives these war weary souls the determination and optimism to find hope in transforming horror and ugliness into a remnant of beauty.
“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” Robert Jordan
None of us know what we are capable of until the storms of life have tested us, yet like the oak tree we so often resist the very force that will make us stronger.
Another friend has endured many years with a heart which functions at only 29% but he continues to throw himself into life, using his gifts to achieve what often seems impossible.
And then there is Archie of whom I wrote in September 2018. Major surgery for a brain tumour affected his sight, speech, walking, thinking and concentration. He is disciplining himself to learn to play golf, play the pipe organ and take drama classes to help the left side of his brain accommodate for the failures of the right side and regain some semblance of normality.
In the midst of the ravages of debilitating health they are defiantly ‘planting a garden in the rubble of disease’ … choosing life and beauty in place of ugliness and despair. That’s the resilience of the human spirit … the red geranium on the window ledge of our lives.