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Renovation & Design

Creating your own peaceful garden escape

Photos by Maureen Gilmer / Tribune Media

A garden shrine can be created very simply and designed to suit the user and available space.

Buddha statues (above) and many religious icons are common in yard shrines. Burying ashes of beloved pets beneath decorative items (below) in the garden can help make a surrounding calm and peaceful.

Shrines made from meaningful objects can become very personal.

When does a garden become hallowed ground? When we have created a space for spirituality or remembrance there. Traditionally called shrines, these amazing spiritual nooks in nature remind us that peace can be found in this chaotic world.

You’ll find shrines in the ruins of every ancient civilization, proving desire for expression is intrinsic to human nature.

Shrines are a testament to our beliefs, loves, memories and values. That’s why they were so common in Catholic family home gardens.

Many were first constructed as memorials for fallen soldiers from many wars. Others were dedicated to beloved parents and lost children.

Most featured Mary, the mother of Jesus, often perched in an upturned bathtub grotto, but St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and nature, is even more common.

Today, the many spiritual pathways are coming together in the garden, so it’s natural to rekindle this form of artistic expression to lend meaning to our favourite spaces.

There are two ways to create these elements, depending on your personal preference.

Images and figural statuary can reflect Mary, Buddha and other religious icons.

Another option: a photo of a loved one in a weatherproof case or glazed on a ceramic tile.

Where no images are used, then the shrine becomes an altar for expressing ourselves with offerings, more esoteric symbols and objects of meaning. This can reflect a reverence for the Earth with a beautiful natural space, petroglyphs, mandalas, minerals and plants, along with other natural elements.

It is the space you deem the centre of your landscape’s spiritual universe, be it a nook in the side yard or the focal point of your view.

To create such a space this summer is a great way to refocus the mind from current events to the inner spirit that truly matters.

If you practise yoga or other spiritually-based disciplines, this is a great way to create an appropriate outdoor space.

This is why the space you choose is directly related to the way you practise your own brand or blend of spirituality.

Spaces for shrines dedicated to prayer and meditation should not be close to sources of neighbour noise.

They should be designed with respect to the weather during seasons of use so you’ll always be comfortable there. Where privacy is needed, the space needs room for a screen hedge or partition.

Within the space you’ll need a comfortable place to relax and let your mind wander its spiritual corridors.

A comfortable outdoor chair with a high back takes the least amount of space. For larger areas, a chaise lounge or a budget recycled futon.

Pay attention to your ground treatment if you do yoga for a clean, smooth surface for the mat.

Once created, these spaces tend to evolve as you do. Items gathered there may change from time to time as your path grows and diversifies. Virtually all spiritual spaces are beautiful, so the final item — and the most important —are plants and flowers.

These give your shrine life and change as the days pass with one blooming and then the next. By fall, make sure you have bright leaves there before it all goes to bed before winter.

Where shrines are seasonal, let yours be recreated each year in a fresh new way. Let your spirit soar to the heavens by including all your favourite colours, or perhaps a composition of hues for visual eye candy. Make it a delightful place to look at and one pleasing to spend time in so your shrine becomes a place of genesis, rekindling the fading fires.

In difficult times, the garden has always offered respite because it never changes. The circle of the seasons and cycles of nature are a manifestation of a higher power unaffected by our human conflicts.

It is why human beings have brought their spirituality into nature, and nature into their spirituality by creating shrines in gardens. When nature and spirit are longer separated in part of your yard, that is all it takes to make your own hallowed ground.

— Tribune Media

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