Gardening: my rock and sanctuary

During visits from family and friends they often question how I find time to tend all the gardens encircling our home. They comment at how much work the gardens must take and wonder how I find the time.

I’m always a little taken aback at such queries … what others see as work I see as my retreat.

I don’t garden for the public. I don’t garden for camaraderie. I garden because it feeds my soul and keeps me sane. Tending plants and thinning weeds keeps me anchored in this oft-times confusing world. It reminds me of my place in our vast universe.

Don’t get me wrong, I can be as task-focused and results-driven as any gardener. Get out of my way when time comes to neaten things up before a family event or when I decide to institute a plan I’ve spent hours, weeks, or months mentally designing or drawing on paper.

Yes, gardens can be a lot of work but witnessing the cycles of dormancy and rebirth, of life and death, provides me with so much more than physical labor.

This is the main point of my first ever published essay, which I’m honored and thrilled to report is part of a newly released book, Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart: 28 True Stories of Love, Loss & Everything in Between. The book, a compilation of essays, represents the cumulative volunteer effort of members of the professional writers’ group, Freelance Success. It’s taken a lot of work – more than anyone thought – but the end result is well worth the effort.

clip_image001The essayists, all Freelance Success members, share deeply personal accounts of relationships that influenced and molded their lives. My essay, Tending the Garden of Grief, rests amongst 27 touching or humorous tales that weave real-life events into the fabric of the author’s life.

While curled into my don’t-bother-me-I’m-reading chair with my copy of the book, I identified with tales of sending a son off to college and losing a beloved pet. I felt a new warmth from the afghan my Grandmother crocheted for me as I read how others annually exchange their hand-made afghans to keep their friendship close even when geography separates. I commiserated with candid recounts of loves lost and gained, coming to terms with family, and acknowledgments of personal quirks.

I didn’t want to put the book down. The subject matter is so diverse that you will be hard-pressed not to find a story that hits home.

Creating this book required many, many hours of volunteer work by Freelance Success members (there’s more about the process, for example The joy of publishing a book cooperatively, on the Freelance Success website). A blog, Essays: Fits, Starts and More, overseen by Marijke, a friend and colleague who also has an essay in the book, provides more about many of the authors (including me).

By now, you might have figured that I’m totally impressed … and grateful … that a group of Freelance Success professionals were willing to take on this task. So I hope you will forgive my bit of self-promotion but I’m not promoting this book just for me – I’m promoting it for all the essayists and the wonderful support group that brought this project to fruition.

Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart: 28 True Stories of Love, Loss & Everything in Between is a great gift idea for anyone with a pulse and a heart less than stone-cold. It’s available at some independent bookstores (suggested price $16) and is discounted at and Barnes & Noble (

Gardening is indeed the rock that keeps me anchored and the sanctuary that keeps me sane. It is wonderful to know that I was able to convey this well enough in words to be published.

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6 comments for “Gardening: my rock and sanctuary

  1. November 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Joene, Congratulations! I just ordered 2 copies from Amazon- one for me and one for a gift – and I’m really looking forward to reading all the essays.

  2. November 13, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Joene, how rewarding this must have been for you. I, too, needed to write about loss when my first husband died 15 years ago, and short essays were the answer for me. How great that you found a real outlet for your talent and to express that kind of loss. I’m looking forward to reading it (and all the others in this book)!

  3. November 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I feel the same way you do. Flower gardening is therapy for me and I get peace and satisfaction from growing them. (cheaper than therapy too, LOL! ) I have always said if you are growing a garden for others to praise it becomes a job instead of a retreat. Congratulations on the book and I hope it does really well for you.

  4. joenesgarden
    November 15, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Debbie , thanks so much for supporting this book project. Many writers put a lot of effort into it and I’d love to see it succeed.

  5. joenesgarden
    November 15, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Laurrie, it sounds like you have some inside knowledge of the power of writing your feelings. I think you will really enjoy the book … thanks for supporting the project.

  6. joenesgarden
    November 15, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Lona, it’s always good to hear from other gardeners that feel plant “work” nurtures the soul. Thank you for your kind words.

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