Author: Doug Barber
Sometimes it takes more than medicine to get well. Sometimes enlisting the wonders of Mother Nature can help the healing process. More and more medical facilities are recognizing the important role of healing the mind and spirit along with the body by installing healing gardens to offer a serene spot for patients and their families to relax and renew.
Healing gardens are thoughtfully created environments with a variety of sensory experiences and natural elements that help alleviate stress, connect with nature and nurture feelings of safety and comfort.
A well-crafted healing garden offers a natural setting that evokes positive feelings, reduces negative emotions and stressful thoughts, and diverts the attention of patients and their families to a more pleasant situation.
In a study, Roger Ulrich, of Texas A&M University, concluded that surgical patients experienced shorter postoperative stays at hospitals, took less pain medication, and experienced fewer minor post-operative complications because of the calming comfort of a healing garden.
The key to an effective healing garden is to create the perfect blend of nature and serenity in a convenient, comfortable setting. Often an artist’s touch is needed to combine all those elements to create an inspirational and peaceful environment.
Immanuel Medical Center, in Omaha, Neb., asked artist Matthew Placzek to design a healing garden and the result is “Serenity,” which was created in 2012.
“Serenity” is 15-foot-tall bronze sculpture that features 11 white doves on the wing as the centerpiece of a natural and serene setting. Against a brilliant blue sky, the doves symbolize hope and healing and the sculpture provides inspiration to patients and visitors.
Gently cascading water at the base of the sculpture adds to the peaceful ambiance of the setting. Water is a universal sign of life itself and its presence symbolizes the fluidity of life. The waters of “Serenity” provide a calming effect through sight, sound and touch.
Nature plays an important role in healing the human body and my healing garden art and sculpture projects reflect that vital connection.
“Serenity” provides a setting for patients, families, staff members and visitors to relax and escape the stresses and rigors of their situation. Such a respite can be an important part of a patient’s healing process – the mind and the spirit as well as the body.
“Serenity” is Immanuel’s second collaboration with Placzek. The noted artist also created Inspiration Garden for Immanuel’s Cancer Center. The garden setting features several Placzek sculptures including “Harmony,” a 14-foot-tall stainless steel and acrylic sculpture that is the centerpiece of the setting.
“Harmony” is a symphony of the healing of body, mind and spirit. A 14-foot-high chime anchors this place of quiet reflection and inspiration. Each of the stainless steel chimes creates a beautiful, soothing sound in the cool breeze of the garden. The chimes are designed to touch people on every level, including their senses and their souls, Placzek said. The calm of the garden and the calming effect of the chimes help visitors release tension and stress.
‘Harmony’ is a symphony of the healing of body, mind and spirit. A 14-foot-high chime anchors this place of quiet reflection and inspiration. Each of the stainless steel chimes creates a beautiful, soothing sound in the cool breeze of the garden.
Hope, renewal and rejuvenation are beautifully symbolized in an 18-foot-long panel of butterfly screen sculptures. The green-patina butterflies feature acrylic insets that glisten in the sunlight. The metamorphosis of the butterfly is a symbol of healing of a cancer patient and the blue of the acrylic insets represent the sky, the artist noted.
“Nature plays an important role in healing the human body and my healing garden art and sculpture projects reflect that vital connection,” said Placzek. “Incorporating elements of nature such as plants and water helps me create soothing, thought-provoking works of art that help patient and family heal physically, spiritually and emotionally. Always designed with the viewer in mind, my sculptures invite people to connect with that unique, restorative power of nature.”
Combined with the sophisticated technology of modern medicine, that ancient concept of nature helping to heal is a powerful ally indeed.
About the Author
Doug Barber has written for magazines and newspapers in Nebraska and Iowa, as well as the Associated Press. He has won more than 30 awards for writing and photography from the Nebraska Press Association. He currently teaches writing classes at Iowa Western Community College and has taught writing at several colleges in Nebraska and Iowa. He lives in Blair, Neb.