Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Garden of Visible Prayer by Margaret Rose Realy

A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight ... (St. Teresa of Avila)

This book is a step-by-step approach to help guide you in creating a meaningful sacred space — a place you can step into, close at hand, matched to what brings you personally to inner quietness. ...

This book does not consider the need to landscape your whole yard, but only a very small portion of it so as to be able to attend to the landscape of your soul.
I am not a gardener. At the very most, I have a front porch full of plants in containers which I maintain in a haphazard fashion. Meaning, I'll suddenly look at them and think, "It's 106 today and I haven't watered them for ... hmmm ... well, for a while. Better do that today."

I know. Poor things. Surprisingly, they still seem to flourish, especially my beloved African Iris.

I like the idea of a garden though. I like being outside, hearing water trickle, seeing tall grasses bend under the wind, watching a juvenile grackle beg his mom for food, smelling that elusive honeysuckle every June when I exit my office building, and running my hand over a lavender plant.

Therefore, when I saw Margaret Rose Realy's book about creating a prayer garden, I perked up my ears.

Realy does a fantastic job of taking readers through each step for creating the space you desire most. Even complete novices to gardening or spiritual spaces can follow the process and wind up with a space designed specifically to their needs. Aside from the ordinary garden plan items like soil density, light, and so forth, Realy brought up unexpected items such as whether the point of the garden is for meditation, healing, prayer, or memorial. Scents, colors, textures, and sounds are just a few of the details that I was surprised I had such definite likes and dislikes about, when going through the worksheet process.
Sounds take on a unique quality when we are being contemplative: the sounds of nature, the sounds of water, the sounds of a city, the sounds of our family. We may desire to be receptive to some sounds in our prayer space. Other sounds we may want to minimize.
Sounds can be organic or created. Simply put, the sounds of nature such as birds, wind and crickets are organic. Water is also considered organic and can be manipulated to vary its intensity and type of sound. We can create sounds in our garden with wind chimes or have intrusive created sounds from cars and kids.


Sounds from water vary in type and intensity. With moving water, the faster the flow over rocks or the higher the fall from the edge of a fountain, the more noticeable the sound will be. If your spiritual elements include a fountain, the flow and fall of water is what you will hear. A pool or pond of still water may have just the soft sound of a bird bathing or a frog plopping into it.

I actually already have three spots I turn to when I want to become immersed in nature and prayer but Realy's book has me examining them differently, with an eye to what can easily be added or taken away so that the spaces are even more welcoming than before. And there is a narrow gap of grass between our garage and the neighbor's fence that I'm considering in a whole new way. That may wind up being the space I take and make my own where I'd never have considered doing anything at all.

The book also mentions a lot of other books that Realy herself uses as resources. My To-Read list has grown and I'm grateful because these are books I'd probably never have discovered otherwise.

Highly recommended.

My one comment otherwise a note to the publisher: the type is gigantic. Sort of a "large type to beat all large type" layout. The layout is fine otherwise and even when using black and white photography it is evocative of the effect the author wishes to show. But the type is so big it is offputting. (Yes, type size is a bugaboo of mine but this has boggled the mind of several others I have shown it to. I think the publisher is just branching out to the book business from what I could discover on the internet so that may be the reason.

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