Healed by a Garden

While regular walks in our oak-pine woodlands woods satisfy my winter cravings for soul-calming communion with plant life, there’s another place that I visit, year-round, in Boston.

A bona-fide roof garden, it’s as majestic in winter as in the three warmer seasons. Quiet respect is the only requirement for entry.

You can find it on the 8th floor of Mass General Hospital’s Yawkey Center, past a wall of photos and stories of people who have overcome cancer, through a glass door and up a ramp where a left turn leads to tranquility.

The ‘healing garden’, created especially for cancer patients and their families, features a conservatory and a rooftop garden with a mind-blowing vista of the Boston skyline and the Charles River.

I stepped into that sunny realm of calm- silent and unoccupied -in late December. Looking over the guest book offering prayers and compliments to the garden, a recent entry caught my attention. It read:

“Lord, Please be with me because I’m fragil (sic).”

As I stood pondering this humble request, a young man-30’s, 40’s maybe- hustled up the ramp, pushed open a conservatory door and stepped without pause into the cold rooftop garden outside.

He walked the complete loop in about 30 seconds and came back into the warmth. I turned away to give him privacy and heard him jam a hand into the stone urn that holds rounded white worry stones. His fingers raged through them making a sound like miniature thunder.

I considered fleeing down the ramp, I who was not in need of healing. But I didn’t move. Nor did I turn to look at him.

The rumbling ceased. I’m sure I heard the faint hiss of a profanity as he passed by me once again and stepped into the frozen garden, stone in hand.

I wondered if cancer had just touched his life, tapping him from behind like a long boney finger that sends an icy silken net around and through him, pulling him back to a frozen core from every direction he pushes.

I left the garden and found a seat down the hall with a view overlooking Beacon Hill, where I sat in contemplation. About five minutes later, he strolled calmly past me and disappeared into a doctor’s waiting room.

I guess we all get what we need when we let the magic of a garden touch us.

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