Years ago my husband and I converted our front lawn into raised flower beds and planted flowers that wouldn’t require as much water in our dry climate as the Kentucky Bluegrass that had been there. I planted peonies because I’d fallen in love with the ones I’d seen blooming in the cemetery in Pipestone, Minnesota. I planted yellow iris that my friend Janet gave to me, and the wild sunflower seeds that hitch-hiked on the iris. Over the years, plants have come and gone, but I plant perennials that offer their gifts of beauty year after year. I do battle with the bindweed and crabgrass, but only with my digger and my hands. I can’t bring myself to use poisons.

yellow and purple iris
Photo by Laura K. Deal

This time of year, when the peonies and iris are in bloom, I inevitably think in garden metaphors. This year especially, since my daughter is graduating from high school and stands at this cusp between childhood and adulthood like a new blossom. I think about how she’s grown into herself, a unique blend of the genetic offerings of her parents and the values and emotional patterns of her ancestors. I can see the seeds that were planted deep in the generations: my daughter has the great compassion and unembarrassed practicality of her maternal grandmother, the artistic flair of her paternal grandfather, the gift of conversation from all her recent ancestors, and clever intelligence from all sides. Yet she’s uniquely herself, balanced and self-aware.

Gardens appeared in several dreams I heard this spring as well. Two men, in two different groups, in the same week, reported strikingly similar dreams. Though they differed in details, they shared enough that I can imagine this composite:

I am outside a fenced garden that stretches behind a house. The garden is exquisitely beautiful, landscaped and wild. I enter the garden and see a beautiful woman up near the house. I have a sense of belonging there, and also not being certain of my welcome. I’ve never seen any place so lovely, and I want to protect it and the woman to whom it belongs.

In working these dreams, the groups projected whole-heartedly on the beauty of the inner feminine of these men. The placement of the garden in each dream behind the house suggests an interior space not recognized consciously. Both men were deeply moved by their dreams, as were those of us who imagined them.

Afterwards, I read about the garden as a symbol in several of my symbol dictionaries. These gave archetypal weight to the work we’d done in dream circle, as cultures all over the world regard the garden as feminine, and as “a sacred space, a uniting of the conscious self with its unconscious source.”*  The effort to bring order to wild nature speaks to the effort to become conscious of the unconscious wilderness of the soul. No matter how many unhelpful patterns of behavior I pull up by the roots, more come to my attention. The work of maintaining a garden is endless, as is the potential for increasing self-awareness.

The vibrant colors of my front garden greet me every day, filling my heart with happiness. Neighbors and strangers tell me they appreciate the beauty of it as well, and in those brief conversations we touch on our common humanity. The flowers of our lives, both literal and metaphorical ones, make all the weeding and careful tending worthwhile.



*Quote from Taschen The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images p. 146



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2 thoughts on “Gardens”

  1. Karen Robinson

    Valmont Cemetery, where my husband’s great-grandparents are buried, is unmaintained and covered with iris. He dug up a couple of white ones from their grave and brought them home to our yard. And we brought some of Mom’s yellow iris to our yard too. It’s like having the ancestors among us.

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