By Renate Tilson

2020 has been a year like no other, and many of us are devoting much of our time to finding safe, healthful, and productive modes of living. Gardening, unsurprisingly, is one of the most popular choices. More than 70 million people are spending the summer planting, pruning, and otherwise enjoying America’s second most popular leisure activity: gardening.

Gardening provides an opportunity to relieve stress, get closer to nature, heal, and add beauty to our neighborhoods. I often find myself simply sitting in the garden, happy and thankful to be alive and healthy, distracted from the stressors of the day.

For me, the garden is a place away from the TV, newspaper, and the phone. After hearing all the stressful world and local news, I allow myself to be soothed by the morning breezes and soft light. I find myself in the garden with a mug of tea in hand, planning for a peaceful day ahead. The rays of this summer day are warming me; their tranquility nurtures me. I can walk out the door and immediately be captured by the happenings in the plant and insect world. It is satisfying and calming to look around at the spots of color, the variety of plants, their textures, and see which plants and blooms are taking center stage today. Is it the goldenrod? The asters? The crocosmia?

I am grateful and happy to be afforded the luxury of just simply sitting there, soaking up, relaxing, and enjoying. My cares about the world beyond seem to disappear for a while. My garden is a sanctuary.

The more I do in the garden, the more I am transported to other universes—some microscopic, some wet and soggy, some dirty and sweaty, but all of them good for the body and the soul. These aspects of my gardening obsession are especially welcome as I revisit events occurring over recent months in our county and beyond.

It was Henry David Thoreau who said: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” I grew up observing my parents living out this credo. They passed on to me the opportunity to focus on the energy in the natural world and to draw strength from it. The seasonal cycles of nature and the act of gardening are great teachers, good healers, and reminders of nature’s steady path of growth and renewal.

Hospital records show that those who garden, work outdoors, are physically active, and are often surrounded by nature are quicker to recover from illness and, according to a study that compared lifestyles and health insurance claims, require far less support. The feeling of being able to apply gardening skills with all that good fresh Oregon air certainly invites positive energy. It is an invaluable boost to the body and the spirit as well. Additionally, when you take the time to closely observe the outside world in a place as beautiful as an Willamette Valley garden, it can be an excellent way to restore your equilibrium.