Not long ago, I visited The Cloisters in New York City. By definition, a cloisters area is an open hallway that surrounds a protected garden. It is a natural walkway where monks and nuns might retreat into nature and still have a degree of protection from the elements, like wind, rain, snow, sun–and other people, too. At the Cloisters in New York City, there are several gardens, and all of them are peaceful–like sanctuaries. As I was walking around and through those gardens, I thought to myself that everyone needs a natural sanctuary–a garden where they can retreat from society and its demands of them.

I have always been the arty type. I have always been “driven by passion, seized by obsession, delighted by creation, enthralled with expression, entranced by vision, diverted by daydreams, filled with emotion, fueled by compulsion, consumed with beauty, and blindsided by inspiration.” However, I have also been pulled by the non-arty desire to be popular, to be a cheerleader, and to be normal or “the same.” For two many years, I assumed false identities to please whatever my current group or situation demanded of me. I have heard that some children have imaginary friends, but my imaginary friend was real–it was the me that was hiding in plain sight.

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Jacki Kellum

Smiling, Joking, Dancing, Free
That’s the Social Side of Me.

Tossing kisses from my car,
Scared, Confused Alone We Are.

If you look, you will see
The Scared, Confused and Social Three.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 17, 2015


Fortunately, I have grown out of my continuous need to seek approval. Yesterday, I wrote that I have come to identify with the unpretentious Black-Eyed Susans that seem to sprout and grow in random places–even out in the wild, untamed woodlands. Most of the time, I still feel that I am not like everyone else, and I often feel misunderstood, but striving to be myself is the only acceptable course for me. Yet, any kind of striving becomes exhausting–even when I am striving not to strive. In my opinion, everyone needs a secret garden–a natural sanctuary where they don’t have to try–where they can simply be–where they can feel that they are truly at home.

Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in 2015

“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

In other posts, I tell how I have built a network of fences and arbors to create for myself a secret garden, and to maximize my blooming area, I am growing several types of clematises and roses on those fences. When it is possible, I grow fragrant flowers, like lavender, peonies, and irises, and strolling through my garden also becomes an experience of aromatherapy.

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Jacki Kellum Garden Pond May 2017

“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell …
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan

10568906_10204503980742621_1513890752537767546_n (1)

Relatively speaking, our years on earth are few, and every day that we pretend to be someone that we are not and when we fail to be ourselves are precious years wasted. Hours that we spend agonizing because we do not feel accepted or appreciated or loved are simply hours lost. Because living can become painful and toxic, we need an antidote and a place to heal. My garden is where I go to be restored, and even during the winter, nature is my solace. My sunroom overlooks my side courtyard, and my greatest winter joy is to sit by my fireplace and watch the birds dipping into my oasis for food and water. Anytime that I can sit alone in nature, I am truly home.

“I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.” – Thomas Hardy

©Jacki Kellum June 3, 2017


Previously Published on my Garden Blog Cottage Garden Living Here

©Jacki Kellum