Recently, I offered a pastoral visit at the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph. Although I was disappointed that someone in my community needed their services, I was delighted to have an opportunity to admire the healing space they have created on their property.
Homewood is mental health and addiction facility that sits on fifty acres of green space bordering on the Speed River. Along with out-patient programs, there are some three hundred people at a time who are able to access their in-patient care. When I visited a few weeks ago, it was because L. invited me to come during their stay.
I was impressed at the the scope of the horticulture program, which invites residents to spend time in the greenhouse. Together they can watch new life grow as they propogate plants or nourish the trees and flowers that will be used inside the building or out in the garden. It is well documented that being in contact with nature is healing, and I can well imagine that there are residents who are deeply impacted by this program.
But it was a beautiful spring day, and we didn’t stay inside for long. As L. and I left the main building and began to wander the grounds, I discovered a beautiful healing space. There is plenty of room to walk, places to sit and talk, and a number of special destinations.
There is a labyrinth that encourages a calm and meditative spirit. There is a memory garden where residents can visit to think and reflect on those they have loved and lost, and residents are welcome to leave mementos under the small tree there. There is also what looks like a large, enclosed vegetable garden set in a lovely symmetrical pattern where all the beds were prepared and waiting for a new season of plants.
It is clear that a huge amount of time, energy, money and hope is being invested in the property all around the buildings. Everything was neatly kept and in good repair. Every part of the property we found offered a sense of refuge and comfort.
The two of us walked and talked. We stopped to notice the mint and sat for awhile in the gazebo. We didn’t solve the world’s problems by any means, but we did connect with one another in a different way than we would have in a coffee shop or in my office. Our conversation was relaxed, and sometimes lapsed into silence. It was a moment of God’s creating, and it was good.
I would not wish anyone the need for services at Homewood. Addiction and mental illness bring such terrible struggle for people and for the ones who love them. Many of us know this only too well.
But I am glad to know that such a place as this exists. I am even more grateful that, as their website says, “an integrated team of physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, addiction counsellors, and other therapists deliver comprehensive care that addresses the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of disease.” They know that these illnesses will not be cured simply by writing a prescription. To find healing and wholness, there is a need for care that engages the heart, mind body and spirit. Beautiful, green spaces like this one are an integral part of that.