Planting the seed of joy

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Audrey Hepburn

Whether you are a fan of winter, love the change that comes in autumn, or the heat of the summer, there is no denying that spring is a favourite season for many people. I love it personally, as I it signals a time when I get more sunlight, and start to hear the spring sounds of birds chirping outside my window. Spring means more time to take walks in nature, which slows my heart rate and makes me more relaxed. I can get my vitamins naturally, open my window and sit beside it, watching the flowers.

I love flowers.  After my accident, flowers and I have always felt connected. Reborn each spring, just looking at them, and keeping them around, heals my heart and makes me happy.

In this long journey of recovery, I learn that spending time outside in the sunny spring weather isn’t just a mood booster, it actually can change the way I think. Just being outdoors broadens my mind, leaving it more open to new information and creative thoughts.

My love of gardening was started by a lovely friend who gifted me an orchid long ago. This plant became my best companion during the days of recovery when I was bedridden, and suffering.  I used to talk to it, share all my feelings with it – my orchid was a beautiful, empathic listener. As strange as it sounds, he became a comforting presence who reflected many of my true feelings.  One day, I saw his leaves change colour, they became dry and fell to the floor. I couldn’t get out of bed and water the orchid, or take care of him.  I was helpless, and somehow this plant’s sorrow echoed my own. He was alone, he needed friends and companions so he could flourish.

And so, my sister Al Reem and my mom created a beautiful garden for me in my backyard, which became my sanctuary.  I started spend most of my time there meditating, reading, painting, praying and writing. This mini-garden is now full of my favourite flowers, and is still a special place. I am writing my column today in my garden.

Staying at home all the time can kill our mental and emotional health. It also destroys our human need to be social. People who stay indoors and don’t connect with nature suffer from depression, social anxiety, obesity, and a ton of health problems. Gardening gets me out of my room and in touch with others. It has been an important part of my recovery, and given me back purpose.

Al Reem, my younger sister, is the most inspirational person in my life and she is always finding interactive strategies for me. After being inspired by her skill in flower-arranging, she taught me the basics, and encouraged me to try my own. Since then, one of my weekly jobs is to arrange flowers for the entire house. I then share these flower pictures with friends, family and my therapists. This hobby has helped me so much in improving my social life and interactions with family and friends, and flowers and gardening has become a joyful way for me to make new connections.

Gardening not only helps me socialise and connect with people though. It also provides me with a good opportunity for physical and strengthening work – bending, pulling, digging, weeding – and sweating!  My physio coach, Leslie, always encourages and accompanies me in my garden and has helped me realise how this fun and joyful exercise is good for circulation, releasing endorphins, and improving muscle and joint performance.

In my gardening journal, I keep track of each plant – when I plant, when I sow, when they grow, when buds and flowers come out, and how the weather affect them.  All my plants are my friends – and I observe and absorb their mood and beauty as they write their stories throughout the seasons.

I always mention in my columns that the process of my healing is not about one specific approach, but instead a holistic way to heal mind, body, and soul. Gardening has helped me to repair, grow and come back to life.  It gave me a sense of purpose, and showed me that I am a part of something greater, and have a unique and valuable way contribute to the community.