Wouldn’t it be nice to wander into a little green oasis—a walkable garden carved by loving human hands right into the stony heart of the city?
Just this weekend, the New York Times Sunday Book Review (Gardening) shone a spotlight on Open Spaces, Sacred Places—Tom Stoner and Carolyn Rapp’s chronicle of the work of the TKF Foundation. The foundation creates unique walkable gardens for people to commune with nature and find a little peace.
On the question of what it means to be in a garden, two books take opposite tacks, but end up in the same place. OPEN SPACES SACRED PLACES: Stories of How Nature Heals and Unifies (TKF Foundation, paper, $30), by Tom Stoner and Carolyn Rapp, describes the efforts of a group called the TKF Foundation to create gardens around the Chesapeake Bay. Those “sacred spaces” were so successful that the foundation expanded its mission into other areas in the mid-Atlantic region. Over a hundred spaces have been created in the last dozen years. The gardens are designed and built locally; in fact, their success as healing places is partly due to the sense of ownership the community has in the garden.
One project in East Baltimore, the Amazing Port Street Sacred Commons, was in a rough, drug-ridden neighborhood. “One day this summer, about 15 members of a local gang came to the labyrinth we built,” Pastor Karen Brau recalls. “One of the members of their gang had been shot. . . . These kids knew — they felt on some level — that the labyrinth was sacred space, and in their suffering they came to it.” Thanks to the garden and the efforts of the surrounding community, Brau adds, “We are transforming this neighborhood in the face of what seems impossible. And we’re not giving up.”
This book is a testament to the power that can be generated when generous hearts and wise minds are brought to the garden. “I often felt like a human doing,” writes the project’s founder Tom Stoner. “I often yearned for that special place in nature where I could be a human being again.”