The Grove: Finding Asylum


Van Gogh’s Bench in the Garden at Saint-Remy’s, used through

Some people have a place that they like to go to that is outside, a place that has some connection with nature–the woods, a stream, trees or even a single tree.  Some poeple have had a place like that at one time or another and even though they can’t go there now, they often go  to that place in their imagination.  Many people purposefully keep potted plants or trees near them where they live or work. Perhaps even more people have special objects that they have collected from nature:  stones, shells, pieces of wood, sand, feathers, or other such objects which they keep near.

There is a whole story around this painting of van Gogh’s which he painted after he admitted himself to the Asylum at Saint-Remy suffering from severe depression.  He did many paintings while there, some of the interior of the asylum which represented his own dark lostness, and others like this one–always of nature, where he found help and hope of restoration.  I think that is why any of us find our way to our own personal groves in the world–to that place in nature, to collect potted plants and trees, to gather small objects that can go in our pockets, be held in our hands, sit on a desk or a personal altar.  When we are near them, when we gaze on them, we are re-minded of the larger Thing from which we come and to which we will return.  Unitarian Universalists often refer to this Bigger Thing as the Interconnected Web of All Existence.

Right now, in this part of the world (the Southeastern US) many people around me are talking about the beautiful full moon, the wonderful sunshine, the walk they took, the blooming flowers and trees, the sounds of birds singing.  There is a rejoicing and a joy that comes with those accounts.  Asylum has been found.  Restoration is happening.  Renewal is occurring.  Memory of who we are, where we come from and where we are going is happening. There is a power in nature to heal and to help.  How long has it been? Perhaps you can go there, today.

Bob Patrick

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