Spirit Glen ~ A Contemplative Garden

To plant a garden is to believe in tommorrow. ~ Audrey Hepburn

The north lawn of Pictou United Church at the corner of Faulkland and James Streets had always been well maintained, but in 2016 a small group of gardeners within the congregation felt it could serve the congregation and its community far better as a contemplative garden.

Following an inspiring visit to the Church of St. Joseph’s gardens at Kelly’s Cross, P.E.I. and having received suggestions from and the blessing of the congregation, planning began under the guidance of retired Truro landscape architect, Ron Laking, with project priorities established as follows:

  • accessible and welcoming for all
  • multiuse: meditation, worship, entertainment, gardening mentorship
  • sensory engagement through carefully chosen plantings and features
  • environmental stewardship
  • the establishment of living memorials
  • selection of species likely to be long-lived
  • ease of maintenance to ensure the long-term viability

A Garden Story

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.~ John Muir, 19th Century American Naturalist

We would like to begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) people first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with the surrender of lands and resources but in fact, recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.

Trees and Shrubs

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.~ Warren Buffett

We are indebted to our forbearers in the church who had planted a variety of trees and shrubs, now grown to maturity and offering a vibrant setting for our contemplative garden.

Water Feature

All water is holy water. ~ Rajiv Joseph

Gifted by Ethel Rudolph and family, in memory of Inez, Johnnie, and David Rudolph, our water feature was created by Andrew Marshall of North Shore Ballast & Concrete Works, Pictou from retired grindstones donated by Angie and David Burrell in memory of Fraser Burns, Doug and Sylvia Hayward in loving memory of Ellen & Jack Hayward, Sandy and Ruth Mackay in celebration of their families.

Finger Labyrinth

Be still and know that I am God ~ Psalm 46

The Tree of Life finger labyrinth guides visitors gently into meditation. Mounted atop a pedestal embellished with ancient Celtic medallions, the sculpture of Wallace Quarry sandstone is the creation of stonist Colin Craig of Craig Stone Works, Wolfville, and gifted to the garden by Rev. Mary-Beth Moriarity.

Spirit Glen

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.~ Confucius

Distilled from names suggested on our Ponderings Door during the September 2019 dedication service and with a nod to the small, secluded valley that embraces the garden between Faulkland Street and the church, “Spirit Glen” was determined to be the “proper name” for our contemplative garden.

Photo Gallery

Virtual Tour

Rest, Reflect, Restore – A Summer 2023 ‘Spirit Glen Update’

What can a church lawn do for its community? In 2016, a group of five Pictou United Church gardeners pondered this very question, beginning a journey that would see a well-manicured lawn with mature plantings of shade trees and shrubs transformed into a contemplative garden. When approached, the congregation was warmly receptive to the proposal, offering suggestions such as the choir director’s naming the importance of a performance space. Hence was born our elegant gazebo from which summer worship services and occasional evening concerts are conducted.

Eventually named “Spirit Glen”, a distillation of suggestions offered as part of the September 2019 dedication service, the garden was ready just in time to provide a welcoming gathering space during the pandemic. Individuals sought solace, friends met, committees conducted business, rehearsals were held, our minister provided counsel, we worshipped, prayer shawls were knit, all in a space that had been very much a construction zone through the summer of 2019. Christmas Eve worship 2020 under a starry sky was especially magical.

With sandstone entrance signs inviting visitors to “rest, reflect, restore”, they can sink into meditation as they trace the “Tree of Life” sandstone finger labyrinth to the music of the water feature built of local grindstones, linger in the graceful gazebo over a book from the Little Free Library, bask in the sunshine on a gently curving bench, chalk thoughts on our Ponderings Door or scribe them into the Garden Journal, seek inspiration from three Spirit Guide art panels by celebrated Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy, revel in the sensory-rich panorama of diverse plantings.

A deeply spiritual atmosphere resonates throughout the garden. Recently, the curving gravel pathway was upgraded by North Shore Ballast and Concrete Works to a brushed concrete surface thanks to partnership funding through a Community Access-Ability Program grant from the NS Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, advancing our commitment to maximum accessibility. The western entrance is level, a stainless-steel handrail is anchored into concrete footings on the gentle slope at the eastern entrance, the gazebo has no steps or enclosure, and some benches are immediately off the pathway. Our black walnut tree, felled by Hurricane Fiona, has been milled into planks soon to be fashioned into a live edge tree-embracing bench.

Sound pricey? Thanks to Embracing the Spirit’s Innovation and Growth Grants from the United Church of Canada, together with numerous local and provincial grants and generous celebratory and memorial donations, that initial group of five gardeners, with the support of other members of the congregation, are able to focus their efforts on maintaining the garden rather than conducting fundraising events.

So, we invite you to engage in a sensual celebration of creation through the caress of diversely textured foliage, nature’s harmonious symphony of sounds, nibbling on the fruits of the earth, the visual beauty of plant and art, savoring the scent of herb and flower. Spirit Glen, located at the corner of James and Faulkland Streets, is open to one and all 24/7/365.