Honouring my ancestors
My life has been shaped by grief. In particular, the tragic loss of my family to war, the loss of extended family due to emigration, and the loss of culture and belonging. Part of this is the loss of ancestral lands, and heritage. Many people have similar losses.
Honouring my ancestors has been a big part of my life, like the writing of my book. I also wanted to acknowledge them by creating a sacred garden in their name. I was inspired by a scene in the movie Mr. Holmes, where he travels to Japan in search of a plant to restore his memory.
Mr. Holmes visits a bleak, lifeless forest destroyed by war. There, he observes a man mourning the loss of loved ones, quietly placing white stones in a circle on the blackened earth.
It very much moved me. In this way, circles became the theme of my sacred garden, representing the continuance of love and spiritual life.
How to create a sacred garden
You don’t require a lot to create a sacred garden and it needn’t cost much or at all. You just need a little imagination. Seeing what other people have done to create their sacred gardens can also help.
I kept to a budget of $100. I also used some things I already had. You may like to choose circles for the theme of your sacred garden too or something else like birds, angels, fairies, animals, shapes and patterns, or simply plants, or a mix of these.
There is a variety of garden art available in hardware stores and specialty garden stores and even places like K-mart.
You may prefer to collect things from nature, like stones, sticks, and shells, and create a symbolic arrangement, or use items you already have, or a combination of these.
All kinds of old, rusty, or broken objects can make for interesting focal points in the garden. Ask a neighbour if they have any of these items for you, that they may not want anymore.
Visit an opportunity shop or a garage sale. Someone’s junk may be the treasure you’re looking for!
I created my sacred garden during autumn, my very favourite season of the year, and in the front yard of my home because I walk through it every day, which gives me an extra opportunity to be mindful and appreciative of my ancestors.
My garden already has some beautiful native plant life, but following the heat of summer, there were some dry, empty and tired spaces, calling for my attention. The following is a brief outline of my sacred garden project, which in total, took five hours to create:
- Went to K-mart and purchased a stone circle with a lovely decorative design for just $5 – what a bargain! And I got three funky metal spheres, also a bargain.
- Then, on to the local hardware store for three plants, two bags of stones, flower seeds, and fertiliser.
- Onto a fancy little garden store where I purchased two beautiful metallic hearts and a bird.
- Brought home all my purchases to admire!
- Watered the garden.
- Assessed the garden to see where to put everything I purchased the day before.
- Picked up fallen branches, twigs, and leaves, and pulled out weeds.
- Broke up the mulch with a garden fork, turning it over.
- Stood on a nest of bull ants in thongs. Never a good idea. Pain. Swearing. Ran inside for a bag of iced peas.
- Returned to the garden wearing socks and sneakers. Throbbing feet.
- Raked over the garden.
- Positioned the stone circle in front of the little Silver Princess tree.
- Unpacked three metal rings, made them up, and placed them in front of the Peaches and Cream Grevillea.
- Positioned a metal bird in a white pot that I brought out front from the backyard.
- Planted three plants – fertilised and watered them.
- Hung the two metal hearts in a tree.
- Made three lots of circles out of stones in the garden.
- Placed a wooden seat in the garden.
- Watered the garden, again.
- Stood there admiring it all!
This is a ‘before’ picture of my front yard with views of the park. When we bought our home more than ten years ago, the front yard was all lawn. We got rid of most of the lawn and planted Australian native plants which bring in a lot of bird life.
However, the very front garden has always struggled to take off, as it gets a lot of heat in summer. So, when creating my sacred garden I wanted to fill in the gaps there. Now, when I walk out my front door, my eyes are drawn to objects that inspire me, rather than patches of mulch.
These three metal spheres from K-mart cost me $19. There’s nothing flimsy about them. They were easy and fun to make up. And they really complete this little garden, leading up to the front door.
The bronze colour looks great against the mulch. By turning the mulch over with a garden fork, the ground went from looking a dull sun-bleached grey to a rich brown colour.
The metal spheres make me think of how our lives are intertwined with others, and that together we are a part of something greater.
If you’re wondering what the round, black circle thing is by the window (below), it is a section of a grass tree trunk. It’s really impressive and was here with the house when we moved in.
I’ve also placed a circle of stones on the mulch and planted a small Sandstone Bottlebrush near the stones. As it grows, the Sandstone Bottlebrush will have a fabulous display of golden-orange flowers, which look like eternal flames.
In the very front garden, I planted a Boronia Lutea near the birdbath and it will grow to bear sweetly scented lemon-yellow flowers.
In another space there, I planted an RSL Spirit of ANZAC Grevillea, which already has a number of lush red flowers on display. This plant is for remembering those who have died in wars.
The white pot came from the back patio, and now fills a space in the garden nicely, and works to balance the stone disc and birdbath. The stone disc is my prize purchase, and its circular design makes me think of a mandala and the impermanence of physical life, and also, the continuity of spiritual life.
My love is on display in the white plant pot on a little chalkboard with a metallic bird perched above it. It’s so sweet how you can write with chalk whatever you’re feeling. My love is also hanging from the thin branches of my favourite tree.
Nearby, are one of my children’s handprints. It also has two little hearts pressed into the design. This little piece of art reminds me that we all imprint the world with who we are, as our loved ones did.
My husband positioned a wooden seat for me, from our back patio, in the middle of the garden, out front, so that even though I’m in the midst of suburbia, and near the bustling city, I can feel like I am in the wilderness.
Why would you want to sit on the fringes of the garden when you can be immersed in its splendor. This is my contemplation seat. My seat of peace. My gratitude seat. My remembrance seat. My love seat. And, the seat of my soul!
Every other empty spot in the garden is sprinkled with Everlasting Seeds. When grown, these spectacular pink wildflowers feel like crepe paper and when picked, and hung upside-down to dry, really do last almost forever.
They are a lovely feature for any garden or vase. I chose them for my sacred garden because forever is what we are – eternal souls. And it is that which is everlasting in all of us, that I most want to honour in my sacred life: God, love, creativity.
I hope you enjoyed seeing my sacred garden and that it inspires you to create your own. If you do, I would love to hear about it and see some pics. Sacred gardens are healing and we can continue to evolve them over time. If someone you know is grieving, please let them know about this post. Share the love!