Cancer survivor Deborah Marqui maintains two acres of farmland and gardens by herself. In the Midwest humidity and heat, she seeds, weeds and feeds dozens of flowerbeds. Each day she looks forward to tending to her gardens because 15 years ago she began the fight for her life.
The battle began when Marqui was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1995. However, something changed during her treatment. Something opened her eyes to the beauty in turmoil. She discovered nature, and its greatness.
"It was powerful for me. When I finished with the first chemo, I knew that when I was out in nature I was lost in time," she said.
Marquis set her watch to Chiro's time, Greek for "God's time." She found an outlet from the disease when it came back again as breast cancer in 2001. It was then that she realized she needed nature.
"When I was in the garden I had no thoughts of cancer. It was a very soothing, calming, peaceful endeavor," said Marquis.
Marquis and her husband bought the land 34 years ago, and today they welcome the public to enjoy the beauty of the Healing Gardens.
"I see it as a place of quiet and calm where people can access where they want to be, not do," she said.
I recently visited their garden and discovered a quaint oasis away from the busyness of suburbia.
Every second Sunday of the month Marquis opens her home and gardens to the public for you-pick bouquets. My mom and I visited and created our own floral arrangement including purple cone flowers, purple asters, lilies, snap dragons and sunflowers. The bouquet sits on our dining room table, but we got a lot more than a bunch of flowers from our experience. We met a woman who truly appreciates nature for everything it offers. She taught us to take in the beauty surrounding us, regardless of the city atmosphere in which we live.
"I would like people just to chill, and walk slowly. I want them to soak in nature," she said.
There are plenty of opportunities to soak in nature at Healing Gardens. Her land consists of six unique gardens: a rose, memorial, perennial, you-pick, vegetable and children's silo gardens. There are pathways through the woods, too.
"If anyone comes and absorbs the stillness and the beauty, they will absorb nature," she said.
Marquis appreciates the variety that nature offers and highlights that in her gardens. Each one has its own unique personality. My favorite was the memorial garden — a dedication to those who have perished.
As a part-time social worker, Marquis dedicated the garden to a client who died from cancer. The garden continues to grow, honoring those that have passed.
"I knew that I had to do it [start the garden] and dedicate it to her. It became a memorial garden not just for me, but for every one else's loved ones," she said.
Marquis plans to continue adding on to the garden as well as hosting more events on the land. Yoga, women's retreats, group outings and educational lessons for kids have all taken place within the garden. This year Marquis plans to continue appreciating nature's beauty in every season.
"It all depends on your perspective. In August things die back, but the mums are in full bloom. The roses stay beautiful until frost. In September and October you've got the trees and the leaves changing color. Springtime, to me, is magical — I can't wait to get outside and every blade of grass turns green ... it's a miracle to me," she said.