Solace in the Garden

Gardening in my own yard has long been an extremely beneficial part of my mental reset and self-care routine. Working in the dirt, planting and growing food and flowers has literally saved my life.  These activities have taken me out of some very dark head spaces.

Recently, though, my own garden and yard have actually been a source of anxiety.  I find myself struggling to figure out what to plant and when, to manage the sudden onslaught of snails and slugs as the rain increases, and just generally struggling to “keep up” with my plant’s needs. This has sent me into a downward spiral of over-thinking and self-judgement; the opposite of what my mental health needs at this current time.  

My deep-rooted desire to access the healing effects of garden spaces without triggering self-judgement attached to results led me to explore community gardens in my area. Doing this has allowed me to enjoy the connection to the land and be inspired by the bounty that is being cultivated by others while I recalibrate my own energy.  It has also led me to deepen the practice of finding joy in the success of others, which is an antidote for the compete-and-compare culture that can saturate our lives, especially in the U.S.

The balance I’ve found by allowing myself to enjoy and celebrate other thriving gardens thriving here on the Big Island where I live has brought me much peace.  This year, two gardens, the Kohanaiki Native Plant Garden and Cultural Learning Center in the Kohanaiki Beach Park and the Waikoloa Village Community Garden,  in particular, have enlivened my spirits.  Simply walking them and photographing the thriving plants there gives me tremendous joy and a deep sense of peace.

New Local Native Plant Garden and Cultural Center

The Kohanaiki Native Plant Garden and Cultural Learning Center can be found in Kona on a stretch of coastline that makes up the Kohanaiki Beach Park.  This coastline has been like a second home to me for nearly 30 years and is steeped in grassroots environmental and cultural conservation activism. However, the garden and cultural center are a fairly new addition that provides a whole new element to enjoy. 

I have made a point of visiting it several times in recent weeks and it is helping me restore my equilibrium with each visit. The garden is planted with flourishing native and canoe crops (plants known to be brought to these islands on the canoes of its Polynesian settlers) and is constantly being added to and tended with care by volunteers and the school groups they bring here regularly. With each visit, I learn something new about the plants that grow here and their uses.

When I am feeling ready, I look forward to pledging some of my own time to volunteer time in this garden.  Until then, I am grateful to bask in its quiet corners listening to the plants grow and photographing it to share with you.

Community Gardening in Waikoloa

The Waikoloa Village Community Garden is located just outside of the village itself and is a part of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative , both of which were founded by vibrant woman and conservation lover, Beverly Brand.  Area residents pay a small annual fee to secure a plot to plant and nourish as they please and the results are just beautiful. 

Exemplifying the conservation and creative spirit of gardeners in general, most of the plots utilized repurposed materials to shape and support their plots full of flowers, vegetables and fruits. These plots obviously nourish the bodies and souls of those to tend them; feeding into the resilient culture of living more and more off the land rather than our grocery stores. Bees and Butterflies were my only company when I last visited a few months ago; a testament to the bounty here. 

Allowing myself the pleasure of witnessing the success of these gardens’ beauty consistently over the past months has become an active tool for restoring my equilibrium. I am reminded that there are many ways to engage with gardens, whether we are the gardeners or not.  I hope you enjoy some of the latest photos I’ve taken and are featured here.  May they bring you peace and inspiration, as these spaces have brought to me.  

For those of you who are using your own gardens for your mental health care practice or your own food sourcing, I invite you to read Dovanna Dean’s Farming with Your Fork series here on Karma Compass.  Her sage advice and easy tips have helped my gardening experience be approachable and successful when I’m energetically balanced enough to engage with it.


  1. Great article Ilana. I understand how our gardens can be our happy place to nurture and grow our flora, and our minds.
    I love the transformation of land into the Kohanaiki Gardens, and happy to now know about the Waikoloa Community Garden. These community efforts offer beauty and bounty!

    1. Thanks, Donna- I’m so glad you enjoyed it. You’re so right about gardens being a place to nurture and grow both plants as well as our own souls. Perhaps I can take you out to visit the Waikoloa Community Garden soon!

Leave a Reply