2002    2003    2004    2005

          More than meets the eye.

My garden, in summer of 2002, on a bit of a hill, and clearly visible from our well traveled road near Jackfish Lake, was a conversation piece. Formerly a field of vegetables, it became a twelve foot, circular flower garden, resplendent in bright floral symbols that represent seven of the worlds oldest religions. That had the neighbours talking.

I want them to talk about it. I want them to be curious about the big wheel shape of white petunias and the curved marigold moon. Most can recognize the Jewish star of David outlined in orange pansies, and they guess that there is a Christian cross in the centre. They wonder why I planted this unusual garden. So as I weed and water, the conversation begins.

After the September 11 attack in New York, hurt, anger and suspicion abounded and, I was dismayed to realize how very little I, and most Westerners, knew about Islamic Muslims, and other world religions.

It seemed a perfect time to begin talking to each other instead of fighting about religion. We have so much to learn. The Peaceful Spirit emblem was designed to stimulate the conversation.

The first two photographs show the emblem from the top of the design.

The couple, are visitors from the Ba'hai faith.The flowers are in shapes that suggest seven ancient religious traditions, yet also stand for all the other religions that, over centuries, have sprung from them. Note the Hindu Om (pink snap dragons), Buddhist Dharma wheel (white petunias), Islamic Crescent (orange marigolds), Egyptian Ankh (purple pansies), Taoist Yin/Yang (blue and white lobelia), the Star of David (orange pansies), and the Christian Cross (yellow marigolds). The tall yellow dahlias are extra. The flowers were chosen to suit the Canadian climate. Outlines of each symbol are defined with wood, garden hose, bicycle tires, and heavy rope.
In the original design an olive branch encircles them all for it symbolizes peace, the world, and the circular Medicine Wheel of the Aboriginal people. But olive branches don’t grow  at Jackfish Lake, so my garden had to make do with a simple dusty path around the perimeter.  “Similar to the dusty path that the spiritual masters might have walked upon,” reassured a thoughtful visitor. Yes!


Even in the extreme heat of that summer the flowers blossomed and I invited members of each Faith to a garden party. Deciding on a day was crucial. In trying to avoid the sacred days of Sunday, and Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, we chose Thursday. Unfortunately that made it impossible for many guests to come because they have to work during the week.

The morning was rainy. Rejuvenating for flowers, but sloppy for guests venturing onto the unfamiliar country roads. However, six religions were represented by the guests who mingled in the garden in afternoon sunshine. A Hindu Swami and his friend, visiting from the crowded Indian city of Calcutta, enjoyed the fresh air and the lush greenery of the Canadian lakeside as well as a chance to share their Truth. Hindus easily embrace the concept of many paths to the one God. They are often thought to be polytheistic because their temples are adorned with many golden Deities. But the supreme creator, is so great as to be unfathomable, a vibration, represented only by the sound of Om, the Sanskrit word for God,  I was told.

This project has led me into a world of exotic sounds, flavours, fragrances, rituals, and ideas. It has meant listening with compassion and understanding to the hurts, fears and painful experiences that have kept some religions separated for centuries. I have found that sometimes it is not religion, but history, politics, or greed that is the underlying cause of tensions.
We ended our refreshments and conversation and reluctantly parted taking new understanding of Judaism, two branches of Christianity, Religious Science, Zoroastrianism, and Hare Krishna Hinduism.
A week later a Ba’hai couple and several others visited the garden, having seen pictures and a story about the garden party in the local newspaper. It was an enriching experience for me, and my community.


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