This blog is expanding sideways! After a weekend spent training to be a ‘master gardener’ at Ryton Gardens, I realised I need to broaden my ideas to link up sketching, psychotherapy AND gardening. It’s a big project, but I’m hardly a trail blazer here. The therapeutic benefits of gardening, or even just being outside in natural surroundings, have been known and explored well before I appeared on the scene. Everyone on the weekend who asked what job I did assured me that their own therapy was gardening, and I know what they are talking about. There is a relationship between us, the land and nature that can restore and nourish us at those times when nothing else seems to help. Tim Bray has written a beautiful chapter about his relationship with nature in ‘Self Awareness and Personal Development’. This is a book primarily written to help therapists learn more about themselves but it’s full of interesting ideas for anyone who wants to know more about the person that they have become. In his chapter Tim writes very powerfully about the central importance of nature in his own life and development – do read it if you can.
Linking therapy with gardening doesn’t seem a problem, whereas for me the label ‘master gardener’ has at least two. One is the clear implication of expertise, which certainly doesn’t fit in my case, and the other the whole gendered construction whereby excellence is the property of men. However often I am reassured that ‘man’ is a generic term meaning all of us, or that ‘master’ just means you’re good at something, I am not convinced ….. especially as the person reassuring me is usually male. It’s not as if there aren’t lots of alternative labels that would describe the project more accurately – ‘community gardeners’,’ gardening helpers’, ‘stop me and grow one’, ‘ growing together’, and so on. Maybe there could be a competition to find a new name that demonstrates a sensitivity to difference and equality? And whilst that is going on, perhaps all the excellent literature and hand-outs could be translated into some of the many languages that the local community actually speaks?
Well, that’s the critical part over with. Now I can go on to say what a brilliant course it was. I can’t recall any therapy CPD training that equalled it in pacing, information, facilities, humour, and good food! Add to that the beautiful garden setting and you have a winning combination. Thank you to all involved, organisers, helpers and the other interesting and friendly trainees. Now all I have to do is get my T shirt on and persuade the world (5 people really) to grow organic food….