In just a few pages in her book, A Place Called Sanctuary~Writings From A Healing Garden~, author and poet, Edna Kovacs, Ph.D., takes us on the journey of a lifetime. In her book, she uses photos, brief prose pieces and poetry to paint a picture of her sanctuary, a house and garden area purchased in the fall of 2000 in Portland, Oregon. "The house itself was built in 1949 on old Alpenrose dairy land. Sequestered within an orchard of pear, plum, cherry, and blueberries, it is surrounded by large elm, spruce, dawn redwood, and hemlock trees." Through the exploration and construction of her outer sanctuary, she also creates an inner sanctuary through writing and journaling, where she reflects on an abusive childhood, comes to terms with an abusive marriage, adopts two cats, and cultivates her garden.
While she is cultivating her garden, she is also writing and thereby cultivating her inner landscape. Her gardening experience feeds into her writing experience and vice versa. They feed off each other. By gardening, she discovers "many layers within herself that need to be nurtured, weeded, fed, tilled and sown; requiring fences, a wood shed, deck, a gazebo, even a drip irrigation system." She deals with her shadow and rediscovers her feminine side, the side that allows her creative ability to flourish. As her inner sanctuary grows, so does her outer sanctuary.
By restorying her world, she restores her world to one of health. She quotes the following from Lauren Artress on page 22 of her book: "Unless you can create an inner sanctuary, a special chamber within where you can both be with yourself, slow things down, and direct your thoughts towards what nourishes your body, mind, and Spirit, you will be starving for meaning and purpose in your life." Ghandi says that you must be the change you wish to see in the world.
Through changing herself, Edna Kovacs changes her world. She becomes that change. She creates a beautiful outer landscape-her outer sanctuary and cultivates her inner sanctuary by working in the garden and creating a landscape of beauty. Her prose pieces and poetry create that inner landscape of beauty and tranquility. Her writing turns some horrible experiences and hardships into a pattern of meaning. She transforms her writing into a pattern of meaning and encourages us, the readers, to explore our experiences and, in our own creative ways, to turn our lives into a narrative and make a map of meaning.
After reading her book, I found myself spending more time in my garden, my own outer sanctuary and putting my pen to paper. Her book is a must for therapists and healers and for those who are discovering their own healing process-perhaps who have not dealt with their pain. Dr. Kovacs thinks we can write our way out of most painful situations. Writing can turn horror and hardship into a pattern of meaning. Once we have meaning, we can live through everything. The book also contains several writing prompts-prompts that can take us down into our depths. Many of her poems are also appropriate for poetry therapy and writing sessions. The writing is at all times accessible, as she creates her narrative by integrating short prose pieces with her poetry.
In the singing mountain passes,
in a refuge surrounded by marshland grasses,
In the gentle quiver of wings, I am learning
ways to breathe again.
I can't undo the fact
I was able to tear the calendar into two
separating from daily distaff
so that I might live the life I care for.
It's not easy to abandon the city.
It takes years to become as free as a wild bird.
What I want is to
this buoyant breathing universe
brushstroked in possibility.
Trusting in green,
a part of me cares
for the pith of worms
bees astir in bonded work-
the camaraderie of callow shoots.
There's something mending about a garden;
even when it's wilted,
the earth frozen.
I like the tenacity of zucchini,
The piety of peas;
full-bellied tomatoes are laughing Buddhas-
It's no wonder the starlings come to converse.
I bring my hands to the garden
and learn my place.