With the coronavirus exerting a vice-like grip on a large swathe of the planet resulting in a further lockdown a recent article in the New Yorker titled ‘The Therapeutic power of gardening’ describes the solace and emotional salvation we might experience by immersing ourselves in the embrace of our gardens. The author of that article goes on to discuss ‘The Well-Gardened Mind’ a recent release by British psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith further detailing the mental health benefits of gardening which in some cases match those of psychotherapy and antidepressants.
While being surrounded by an abundance of greenery and colors can be psychologically rejuvenating and comforting, plants can be sympathetic, non-judgmental listeners in a time when our social contacts have contracted, they might never be able to completely replace the affirmation we receive from other humans. In 1939, when Freud was succumbing to oral cancer in London, having fled Vienna, where his four sisters who were later interned in concentration camps perished, he spent much of his time outdoors often sleeping in his garden.
At a time when the coronavirus has cast a dark spectre around the possibility of our own mortality Sue Stuart-Smith suggests that tending to our gardens might give us some sense of durability and future, if not of our immortality, then at least of the permanence of nature. I’ve recently starting cultivating sage, good for the memory, coriander, boosts the immune system and oregano, possibly a cancer preventive.