THE WELL-GARDENED MIND with SUE STUART-SMITH, BEST OF
I think it’s nearly impossible to try and stay abreast of current events, and not simultaneously need to remind ourselves to care for our individual mental health - for ourselves, but hopefully to contribute to the sanity of our collective as well. I was so pleased to read that at one of the garden world’s biggest show events, London’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show held the last week of May, Judges had awarded a gold medal to a garden entitled the mind garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon and supported by Crocus. With the idea of mental health care being intertwined with our gardens this week we revisit a best of conversation from 2020 with British psychiatrist, researcher, and gardener, Sue Stuart-Smith author of the well gardened mind. Enjoy!
When it comes to creativity – mother nature and the human brain are both pretty good. For Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist Sue Stuart Smith – gardening connects nature and the brain quite creatively.
Continuing our exploration of creative thinking and the garden, we’re joined this week by Sue Stuart-Smith, herself a gardener. While she once considered gardening as basically "outdoor housework" in her long marriage to the garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith, she has come to embrace a deeply felt love for gardening and a relationship to all the lives and seasons of her garden.
Her new book, backed by years of research, is a personal and professional look at the creative and generative power of the act of gardening on the physical and the creative/intellectual mind – and spirit. As her work illustrates beautifully, "the garden can be a vital place for cultivating the mind." The Well-Gardened Mind – on the restorative power of nature (as it is titled in its US version) was published to wide acclaim by Simon & Schuster in April 2020 in the UK and in July 2020 in the US.
It really could not have landed in a better or more needed moment, am I right?! Sue joined me for this conversation from her home and garden in Hertfordshire.
Follow Sue on Instagram @suestuartsmith/ or online at https://www.suestuartsmith.com/
Join us again next week when we consider the idea of mental health and our gardens from an even more poignant perspective. In the week of the Uvalde tragedy, I wish this was not such a timely episode, but it is. I will be joined in conversation by three members of the Gabrielle, Chanae, and Zeke founders of the Long Live Love Foundation, and whose very personal mission is to support survivors and victims of traumatic violence in part through a public healing serenity garden in West Oakland, California. Listen in Next Week!
RELATED EPISODES INCLUDE:
THINKING OUT LOUD this week..
I am really taken with the idea of Attachment Gardening – a variation on the idea of attachment parenting or any other relationships – where there is a focus on health, security, trust, care, compassion, AND individuation. In this way, we relate to the dynamic and collective life of our garden spaces with these values and goals in mind – it is not us, nor is it an object. How we care for it may be a reflection of us, but it is not a stand in for us – it is unique and valuable on its own merits and values.
Since re-reading a bit about attachment parenting after first reading "The Well-Gardened Mind", the four S-s of attachment parenting as articulated by Dr. Daniel Siegel, are “safe, soothed, seen and secure.” And he and other childhood behavioral scientists posit, “This creates what is called a secure attachment.” And it is born of security on both sides – one free to grow into what it’s meant to be, and the other free from an obsessive and narcissistic need for control and domination.
Of these four s’s – the two that really jumped out at me when thinking about my own small suburban garden space are the ideas of Safety and of being Seen.
In this riff on the attachment theory of gardening, wherein I am a partner to my garden, I am obligated to both keep it safe – from chemicals and overuse and degradation or neglect – AND, to See it – really see its own personality and desires.
DO I really really see my garden, her lands, her lives, her seasons, her ways? Because as Sue points out – while I am gardening her, she is likewise gardening me just as surely. And I feel better knowing there are some diligent and kind gardeners at work in mind, as well as on this planet we call home.
Which brings me to:
Say it out loud: Viriditas. Used so incredibly variously by the German Benedictine Abbess and polymath St. Hildegard of Bingen to mean both vitality and the green, thriving living force of mental, physical and emotional/spiritual health of us humans. And as is true of so many guests on Cultivating Place – Sue Stuart-Smith being the most recent to note the viriditas of the natural world and that of our inner physical and psychological worlds are profoundly and utterly inextricable.
We can wager that ancient and modern land-based cultures have similarly beautiful and melodious words or phrases for this same idea. Would be fun to learn many more of these verbalizations of something we know to be way beyond language – and yet a truth we recognize daily nonetheless.
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