I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
— Mary Oliver, from The Summer Day
Until not very long ago, scholarly pursuits, formal medical credentials, political power, and the opportunity for self-expression through the fine arts were largely denied to women. But, as writer Claire Nahmad notes, the craft of garden making was available. Gardens, then, became the one place where women were given a free hand for both their practical and poetic creativity. “In addition to the ‘silver bells, cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row’ of the flower garden,” she writes, “there was nourishment from the kitchen garden, and healing and restorative plants grown in the medicinal garden.
“The ideas of magic and enchantment, of the effect of the Moon and stars on the tides of growth and decline in nature, and of fairies, elves and gnomes who were mysteriously associated with the subtle creative forces of the earth, were never far removed from the domestic garden where all this mystery could be seen taking place.”
For those who are intimately involved with their gardens, it does happen that one may encounter strange magical beings: tiny flower elementals, or little old men and women who seem to have the garden under their care. Those who see the Fae report them as often tall and beautiful men and women, who dance in the gray twilight hours, who may live in trees, and who create enchanted music.
Perhaps you, too, have met the angelic spirits of the garden, sometimes called devas, who seem to endow the air with grace and beauty and, especially, color. If you spend time tending your flower beds, you are very likely to find fabulous beings who may be there to warn, protect or bring you a message.
Throughout the ages, all of these and more have been reported. Bear in mind that the folk from whom these stories have come were mostly hard-working country people. And while they were not well-educated, they were for the most part, a serious, practical lot, not easily given to idle whimsy or fanciful flights of the imagination. Handed down to us in garden folklore, we have much to learn from these stories.