A Garden's StoryIt was hard to believe. I just couldn’t picture it. “This is where the garden will be built.” they said. I stood at the base of a sloping hill of weeds, overgrowth, vines and … more weeds. As the new Board President of the Friends of the Crisis Center I thought to myself how in the world was the landscape architect’s plan that I held in my hand going to end up being the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden amongst all that mess?? I just couldn’t picture it.
Eight years ago, the site of the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden was designated and dedicated in the City of Gainesville’s Cofrin Nature Park and the Friends of the Crisis Center undertook the responsibility of building a garden where Survivors could come to heal, reflect and find solace. And so it began.
With the help of a landscape architect class at the University of Florida, different garden designs were submitted for consideration. A group of survivors, Alachua County Crisis Center staff and volunteers and Friends of the Crisis Center board members reviewed the designs and voted on their favorite. The winning design was chosen and preliminary work began – mostly the forming of the Memory Garden committee and the process of fundraising. Step by step, inch by inch and meeting by meeting, the design plans went through the approval process and a timeline began to take shape. No one truly understood the vastness of this project – which, in hindsight, may have been a good thing!
Finally in late 2011, things were in place, plans were approved, fundraising had begun, the timing was right … garden construction began.
It has taken 2 years. Two years of COUNTLESS hours of meetings and fundraising; COUNTLESS hours of physical labor; COUNTLESS volunteers. The building of the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden is almost complete and it far exceeds the simple rendition that I first saw in that landscape architect’s design.
The simple two-dimensional design could not have possibly captured the heart, soul and life that the garden itself exudes. The power and energy of the space is amazing. It draws people in, they don’t know why. It could be the beauty of the plants and trees and the butterflies they attract. It could be the calmness and tranquility felt by the mere presence of the labyrinth. It could be the breathtaking beauty of the life-sized basalt columns with their strange and wonderful etchings, polishing and markings. I’ve sat silently on the benches and listened to passersby and visitors to the Garden comment on its magnificence and the work and dedication that must have gone into building it.
They have no idea.
For this garden was truly built by Survivors. They have touched every aspect of it. From the design, the trees, the plants and the basalt columns, to the positioning of the seating; even the weeding, the watering and the maintenance. By choice, many of them remain in the shadows. Nameless, even to those of us who have been building the garden. But you can feel them there. The Garden would not have been the same without them.
CLICK HERE to visit our Events page and see an invitation to the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden Dedication
Updated version click here.
This amazing journey...
These last months of building the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden has been an amazing and wonderful journey. On Saturday, July 27th a fabulous team of volunteers (THANKS to all of YOU!) came together and worked tirelessly all morning to help our artist, Greg Johnson, install the basalt columns in the Remembrance area of the garden. The work was hot, sweaty, heavy and dirty yet so incredibly gratifying. When the day was finished, we all stood back and gazed at the beauty of the site and were in awe of the personal meaning each of us found and saw in the columns and the space.
Since July, we've brought in the stone for the pathways and placed the basalt seating as well. Weeding and planting continue. The next phase calls for the creation of the pathways within the garden itself, more tree, shrub and wildflower planting as well as construction of the trellis. As you can see, there is much still to do.
If you have the opportunity - stop by Cofrin Nature Park. Walk the labyrinth, touch the columns, sit on the basalts seats and take in the beauty of the site. Watch the butterflies; listen to the creek. Picture what the Garden will look like with additional trees, shrubs and flowers. Take a deep breath and marvel at what a handful of incredibly dedicated volunteers have done!