An Opus con naturam:

Labor, Care, and Transformation in the Garden


  • Rinda West Oakton community College, IL



This essay proposes that a garden can be a site and an occasion for a labor with nature, an opus con naturam, to play with the alchemical phrase, a collaboration that can potentially transform both nature within and nature without. A garden, that is, nurtures individuation. A garden embeds culture in the land and informs culture with the processes and needs of the land. Like ego and Self, body and soul, reason and instinct, in practice land and culture are not separate or opposed, but interwoven. The garden is a symbol, then, of that connection, a place of healing, retreat, and labor. Frances Hodgson Burnet’s novel, The Secret Garden, illustrates the healing power of the garden, and an analysis of the labor of gardening suggests how that power works.