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St. Joseph's Care Group

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Harvest Time

Medicine Wheel Healing Circle
Medicine Wheel Healing Circle

Date: 2020-09-10

It’s harvest time in our GreenWerks garden - a garden that feeds body, mind and spirit. Tucked away on Lillie Street, St. Joseph’s Care Group’s garden boasts of community partnership, spirituality, accessibility and accomplishment.

Part one of our story was featured in last month’s HealthStyle and told the story a wonderful partnership between St. Joseph’s Foundation and Tbaytel which funded fifty raised garden boxes for St. Joseph’s Care Group.

Once the boxes arrived, vegetable and flower seedlings were ready for planting. Jo Ann and Michael have spent several hours each week tending the garden. Both are part of TeamWerks Co-op, a social enterprise that provides job training and employment for people recovering from mental health and addiction challenges. “It’s really satisfying to watch it go from seeds to fully grown,” says Jo Ann. “It’s nice to be outdoors and working. I like weeding and planting.” Michael agrees. “It’s a good and fun way to get exercise and teaches us how to take care of plants and protect them from critters.”

Margo Donaldson is an Occupational Instructor who oversees the garden and works with the clients during their shifts. She’s a big fan of the many skills that this kind of project delivers: using tools properly, learning to take direction and follow a schedule, working together to figure out a task and complete a common goal. There are significant mental health and social benefits too, she says. “They encourage each other and support each other so much. A lot of people [in this population] have been isolated by the pandemic, and working outdoors in nature is so therapeutic. I can really see a difference from the start of the summer compared to now.”

A recently added gravel trail called “the path to wellness” leads to a medicine wheel healing circle in the garden. The medicine wheel is marked by four large rocks to indicate north, east, south and west, and the four colours - white, yellow, red, black. A fire pit made with local stone and amethyst is located in the centre. “This medicine wheel in the garden is one of my dreams come true for St. Joseph’s Care Group,” says Brenda Mason, who is a Social Worker with SJCG and community Elder. “The healing garden will be a place to share knowledge, to share traditional healing ways. And it doesn't just belong to Indigenous people. It belongs to everyone.”

Nearby, raised garden boxes will grow sage, tobacco, cedar and sweetgrass which are traditional medicines in Indigenous culture. The medicines will be planted and harvested in the appropriate spiritual way. “These are the medicines we’ve been using forever,” explains Brenda. Sage is burned for clarity and healing and tobacco is an offering to the spiritual world. She says that each medicine is placed on a particular direction of the medicine wheel. Each direction can be part of the teaching too: south is associated with growth and the heart, for example, and west with rest and dreams.

The garden and healing circle is special place where clients, families, staff and visitors alike can visit for a bit of fresh air, relaxation and downtime.

As the air chills and the snow falls, the garden will sleep, allowing the earth and plants to rest through the winter. The return of light in the spring will awaken the garden to once again support growth of body, mind and spirit.


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