Book Review: The Garden Awakening

The Garden Awakening: Designs to Nurture Our Land and Ourselves by Mary Reynolds is a book about designing gardens that are beautiful, radiant with life, bursting with energy, in harmony with the Earth.1 Mary Reynolds has discovered through her work as a garden and landscape designer that gardens can become very special if we invite Nature to express her true self in these spaces, and then work to heal the land and ourselves.2

We are mirrors for the land and it is a mirror for us, so healing the the land leads us towards our own restoration, back to our true selves. If we allow the light to shine on all the dark places in our lives and have the courage to face ourselves, then recovery and growth will take place. Healing involves looking at the whole picture. We cannot solve a problem by resolving the physical level alone.3. We also need to find and correct the underlying causes of physical symptoms, whether conscious or unconscious.4

Mary Reynolds shows how using an integrated living systems approach removes our incessant war on Nature.5 We can force a child to be someone they don’t want to be, but only with the consequences of unhappiness and retreat. We can, on the other hand, gently discover who the child is, and who they want to be. Every piece of land is the same as this child. By listening carefully and allowing the land to become an extension of ourselves, we can interpret its energy and enable it to emerge through a creative collaborative process.6

Mary Reynolds uses the word co-creation when referring to her approach. Co-creation means that we are building our gardens hand in hand with Nature as a partner. It is based on the acknowledgment that Nature is a real, present, and conscious living entity. Her method of garden design is intuitive. The most important part is establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.7

Mary Reynolds has, for the purpose of the book, distilled her design system into five basic elements:

1. The tool of intention.8
2. Selecting areas to hold specific intentions.9
3. Designing with the patterns and shapes of Nature.10
4. The power of symbols and imagery.11
5. Putting the design on paper.12

Our thoughts, emotions, and intentions are a form of energy. If we focus our energy in a particular direction, we will be propelled there. Using intention allows us to communicate directly with our land.13 The aim is to create spaces that feel right, spaces that appeal to the heart rather than just the intellect.14 The patterns in Nature form a language we can feel rather than understand.15. We know when we have proper relationships because it feels right, it has resonance. Practice makes it easier to recognize this resonant feeling. Like any other skill, it takes time and effort to develop this skill.16

Mary Reynolds emphasizes that the only way to make a sustainable garden system to work is to collaborate with Nature. Fighting against Nature is just plain silly. If we are to treat the land as a living body, we must think in those terms.17 This book is a treasure map for finding our way back to the truth of who we are as living beings. The directions are simple, the methods are intuitive.18 The book is beautifully illustrated by Ruth Evans. This is literally one of the most beautiful books I’ve read. Reading the book is a nurturing experience in itself.

Update 2016-04-23:
I think that Mary Reynolds’ approach to garden design is as applicable to organizational design. If we are to treat the organization as a living system, we must think in those terms.

1 Mary Reynolds, The Garden Awakening: Designs to Nurture Our Land and Ourselves (Green Books, 2016), p.42.
2 Ibid., pp.13–14.
3 Ibid., p.22.
4 Ibid., p.24.
5 Ibid., p.39.
6 Ibid., p.44.
7 Ibid., p.45.
8 Ibid., pp.46–60.
9 Ibid., pp.61–71.
10 Ibid., pp.71–79.
11 Ibid., pp.79–92.
12 Ibid., pp.93–119.
13 Ibid., p.46.
14 Ibid., p.71.
15 Ibid., p.74
16 Ibid., p.75.
17 Ibid., p.212.
18 Ibid., p.259.


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