When Heather Davis spoke yesterday afternoon about her experiences with the Spiral Garden, I was fascinated. I had never heard of anything like it. She spoke with such passion, and after a quick Googling, I began to put together my own picture of the garden.
Spiral Garden is an integration program at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and each summer is run by a group of artists. The Spiral Garden revolves around a collection of artistic stories, told and developed by the children who spend time there. Or to put it another way, the seeds of stories are planted and then are carefully nurtured and protected. Each story told builds on events that occur within the Spiral Garden. For instance, Davis told us about a tree in the garden that lost its top due to wind or lightening. However, Davis says that later it was determined that the tree had been used as a launching pad by invisible monkeys who were looking for fast travel to Mars.
Spiral Garden lies in between the hospital and a ravine. That, Davis says, is one of the wonders of the garden. Not entirely connected to either the wild ravine or the sterile hospital, Spiral Garden's structure is always changing slightly. There are no standards, there is no outline, and nothing is forbidden but violence and pop culture. The sense of existing, thinking, and working together lies at the heart of the program, and all who enter are challenged to enter on the garden's own terms.
To me, the Spiral Garden is a world I would have only dreamed of as a child. It is play at its very finest, with each child entirely and utterly immersed in it. And to have adults immersed as well! It makes the idea of the play all the more wondrous. To have a safe place where dreams can be teased out and taught to grow and intertwined with various characters, tales and the natural world... Someday I hope that the IWK Health Centre in Halifax can house such a beautiful place of opportunities.
For more information about Spiral Garden, check out these links:
Paul Hogan and Jan Mackie: Spiral Garden (short video)
Butterfly Garden (a similar project in Sri Lanka)