A Space to Glimpse the Chimes of Freedom Flashing

I volunteer with a local charity, Rainbow Community Garden. We grow vegetables and ornamental plants and we maintain wildlife areas. We drink tea and chat with each other. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, I haven’t been there so much recently. I really miss it.

A few days ago, I read a fantastic article on “Becoming well through green care”, which helped me see exactly what it is I miss so much about this place. ‘Green care’ is a term used for lots of different outdoor activities that can improve people’s wellbeing — like community gardening.

What struck me about the article was the author’s depiction of the places where green care happens, as ‘alternative communal spaces’. They say these spaces are “an accepting, less pressurised environment, where they (participants) didn’t have to explain why they were attending and particular behaviours were not seen as unusual or commented on.

These words evoke exactly the quality I’ve noticed when I’ve been in the Rainbow Garden. It’s a feeling of quiet acceptance, a peculiar lack of judgement. I might quietly watch a bird or a butterfly, or talk with a fellow gardener, making connections which have little to do with how I look or what I do in my job, and everything to do with who I am.

For years, when I’ve thought about the garden, lines from the Bob Dylan song, “Chimes of Freedom” have run through my head,

“Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones and worse
And for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing”

Bob Dylan

For me, Dylan’s flashing chimes of freedom are glimpses of something good which exists in the world for all of us, especially those of us who are oppressed in one way or another. And I think the Rainbow Garden is a place where the aching, confused, strung-out and hung-up can be, without explanation or justification. A space where anyone might glimpse something good, and perhaps become well.

I hope that you’ve found a space where you can glimpse the chimes of freedom flashing. If you haven’t, I’d recommend trying a community garden — or whatever form of ‘green care’ might be available to you.

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