Nature and me, we’ve had a thing from the beginning.
My memories of being a kid are while outside – almost all the time – experiencing freedom from weird family dynamics and self expression (hello Red Bird!). The Bay Area suburban backyard of my childhood was a multipurpose room: roller skates, forts, slip ‘n slide, ping-pong, chalkboard art work, hummingbirds, rollie-pollie bugs, lemon trees, agapanthus, red geraniums, butterflies, see-saw, dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, snakes, hermit crabs, chalk art, Soul Train and Flashdance dance practice, and a veggie garden the entire length of the back fence that yielded purple pumpkins (investigational seed from Dad’s work) and record numbers of radishes, carrots, tomatoes grown and consumed alfresco at the card table. Having spent as much time there, my brain was coded with a nature imprint. As a child, I was dwelling in paradise – between the backyard and full access to my elementary school yard across the street – I was learning, creating, thriving outside, in sync with nature.
In 1993, my Dad died. He was 57. I was 25. It was sudden. A few weeks into a new way of existing, during a mother-daughter country drive, neighbors built a memorial garden for him – for us – in a sun-soaked part of Mom and Dad’s yard in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. This 25’ x 25’ serene green scene became a safe haven and a resting spot deep and wide enough to possibly hold my grief and struggle. I spent as many daylight hours with that garden as possible. Through tending to azaleas, dogwoods, forget-me-nots, pulling weeds, wiping tears and laying in the grass beside, I cultivated a new relationship with my Dad, my rearranged family, myself and the healing power of nature. That garden gave me liberty to deal with my grief my way – intimately, creatively and instinctively. It was the natural thing for me to do: garden through grief.
In 1997, several dimensions converged and I found my way through the emotional angst by building a garden. I was not a designer (yet) – just a young woman, a long way from home, turning to what I knew to do to help myself feel better… nature, intimately, creatively, instinctively. Working in the yard. Hard work. Sweaty and dirty work. The kind of work that makes you fall into bed and asleep so fast that the monkey mind has no time to turn on. Creating that garden was a necessary survival skill to buffer another wave of loss and sadness that threatened to consume me. As my first marriage was ending, I understood a garden to be the best thing to leave in its wake. It was the natural thing for me to do: garden for sanity.
My innate need to connect with the spirit of nature has always been in and with me, especially during times of transformation. Inseparable. Alive with hope, lending inspiration, health, peace. Divine. Healing.
Could this be true for others?
A powerful lesson came a couple of years prior to my Dad’s passing through my clients dealing with persistent and severe mental illnesses. These folks had been in and out of inpatient hospitals most of their lives. Over and over, they would report to me that working on the landscaping crew helped them sleep better, smoke less, drink less caffeine, comply with medication and treatment regimes, and feel better about themselves and a feel a connection with the community. They felt better, were living better and claimed that gardening work helped them “stay out of the hospital”.
Could my healing and theirs – because of a nature interaction – be a real thing-thing?
Standing at a convergence of personal journey, social work, bio med R&D experiences and a watershed of spiritual lessons, I set out to find out. I searched (Google wasn’t a thing yet.) and found “healing gardens”, “environmental psychology”, “therapeutic landscapes” and a niche of architectural and environmental research seeing a renaissance back into hospital, hospice and older adult life-care facility design.
There was hard data. People were healing from being in nature, surrounded by nearby nature, and interacting with everyday nature. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, research was demonstrating a “feel better factor” when built environments included serene green scenes and access to immediate nature. Researchers, academics, psychologists were talking about it: healing was happening because of gardens.
I was not the only one.
My graduate research studies would explain the science my soul already understood and the ivory towers held: there is preventative medicine in gardens that supports our well-being:
- Access to gardens helps with increasing pain tolerance, boosting recovery rates, lowering blood pressure, positively distracting the brain and reducing stress hormones.
- Access to a sacred nature space in everyday life is instrumental in feeling grounded, realizing self worth, and feeling better.
I believe restorative gardens can change the world.
Nature has always had my back and has been my church, best friend, metaphor, collaborator, muse, decor style, and saving Grace. Having a go-to-do-not-disturb-I’m healing my brain, soul, body, heart garden space has been my tonic – since I can remember – even before I could spell “tonic”.
Like our favorite indoor spaces, the spaces we keep outdoors have an incredible influence on how we feel. When you meditate and visualize a calming, relaxing, inspiring place, what place do you see? Chances are first, a smile crosses your face when imagining your “happy place” and second, you see a beach, maybe a forest, a favorite hide out when you were a kid, or another outdoor space that resonates within you. This is no coincidence – research shows that we have a nature kinship imprint and because of this, being outdoors heals us. Nature has power to restore us.
So why not make that yard a reflection of you, your evolution, your empowerment for a happier & healthier life and style?
It’s no wonder so many of us turn to nature and often gardening to refresh our minds, bodies, and souls. More than just creating or renewing space, it’s about using that space. A garden can be pretty, I’ll give you that. But until it authentically represents you – expresses you – and you interacting with it – a piece of the puzzle is missing. That’s the beauty of restorative gardens: threading physical design with emotional needs – to unearth the personal, delicate, delightful, meaningful – to bloom an outdoor space most perfect for you. Healing.
And so Red Bird is here for you. I design landscapes, gardens and outdoor living spaces that help people feel better because I know better.
Since 1998, I’ve been working with clients in the residential, retail, commercial realm through one-on-one design & consultation sessions, speaking engagements, display gardens and tours to cultivate peace, health & inspiration through landscapes, gardens & outdoor living spaces. My dream is for every person to have an engaged and renewing experience of their own restorative space – a personal healing garden – regardless of size or ability. This business grew out of my own personal discovery about soul-nature connection and my deep passion to make a difference in the world – your world.