Spring is a magical time in the Rosecrance Healing Garden. Within weeks, the barren, bitter scene transforms to a vibrant, lush landscape. The sun begins to warm the earth, turning the brown grass to emerald green. Magnolia petals sag and glisten with rainwater and koi fish make their debut in the pond, signaling the end of a long winter.
To witness this change in the garden is truly breathtaking! And the transformation serves as a powerful testament to the possibility of growth and renewal that so many of our clients are seeking. Though, the Rosecrance healing garden is much more than a space of beauty and peace; it serves as a place of productive healing too.
Carla Roth, a Rosecrance Recreational Therapist, leads therapy groups in the healing garden each day, no matter what the season. She educates clients on the etiquette and history of the garden, and guides them through silent, meditative walks. Eventually in the center of the garden, the groups gather at a serenity circle, which welcomes clients to take time to sit and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the garden and experience the wonder of nature.
Here, with the sound of the waterfall in the background, Carla engages clients in a variety of group reflections, discussions and activities. Clients participate in breathing exercises to inhale ‘gratitude’ and exhale ‘resentment’ followed by a sensory-based meditation where clients list sounds, sights and smells they’ve never taken the time to notice.
Gradually, clients begin to relax and open up, which is when the real progress begins to happen. Carla prompts clients with questions:
“Water can fill the largest void or fit in the smallest of cracks… What body of water would you be, and how does that reflect how you are feeling?”
“The garden experiences many traumas, from winter to storms. It has to be in a constant state of healing. How might that be similar to us? How are we adapting? How are we surviving? Who or what is our sunshine?”
These metaphors and questions serve as a catalyst for clients to share with each other. In doing so, they begin to feel less alone. The garden connects to the heart and the human soul, and allows clients to process thoughts, emotions and experiences that might not be easily accessible or understood. Many young clients have lost connection with their friends, families, the world around them and in some cases themselves; the garden reintroduces them to the simple act of connection.
“Metaphor is really at the heart of what I do with clients in the garden,” explains Carla. “I teach our clients to view the garden as a living, breathing organism. Sure, a garden is beautiful, but it still needs love, support and care. How do we know when we need those same things?”
“I always want to inspire awe, curiosity and wonder in our clients,” she adds. “I’m here as a facilitator, but the garden does a lot of the work on its own.”
The Rosecrance Japanese-inspired healing garden, designed by Hoichi Kurisu, was added to the Griffin Williamson Campus in 2004. The garden has functioned as a powerful space for meditation, mindfulness and metaphor ever since.