​My Buddha Garden Zoo

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on May 26, 2021 # Lifestyle

I don't especially like it when people tell me no. So, when my apartment complex denied me the right to build a garden outside my back patio during last year's quarantine, I decided to do it anyway. For the last year, my beautiful Buddha garden lived outside my bedroom window. I always wanted to build a garden that provided beautiful flowers, herbs and vegetables, but I never had the chance. This was due to years of apartment-style living where rules are rules. Luckily, the powers that be in my apartment complex looked the other way during a most difficult time of isolation while I created what I called my "garden masterpiece."

The area outside my patio was full of garden rocks, not much to look at and quite the eyesore. I was motivated to create a viable garden space, and thus the creative juices started flowing. Building a large square utilizing cinderblock as the perimeter placed right on top of the rocks, I dumped 20 pounds of organic soil from a nearby organic soil farm into the middle of the square creating a nice bed for my upcoming flower garden and vegetable program. Seeds were dropped into the soil, and other plants that the local nursery had already started were planted. I placed a white Buddha statue directly in the middle of the square to create a Zen-like appearance. The final touches included fairy lights wrapping my Buddha for a beautiful nighttime appearance as well as strategically placing the new garden rocks within the soil to create signs and symbols of the Yogi language emitting peace and love.

It was very exciting to watch the garden evolve from a bed of rocks to a heap of soil to a beautiful Buddha garden that was even premiered on my annual Christmas card. I grew a beautiful collection of flowers, including dahlias, marigolds, alyssum, begonias, petunias, salvia, lobelia and even one single Columbine, the state flower of Colorado. I had an extensive herb garden, including thyme, oregano, mint, cilantro, parsley, dill, and my favorite rosemary. I grew kale, strawberries, parsnips, and three of the most extravagantly tall tomato plants that proliferated in the hot Colorado summer sun, reaching almost 6 feet high. The garden took on its life form and became quite the jungle, attracting all sorts of animals, including hummingbirds, sparrows, ants, rodents, and bunnies that thrive on my apartment complex property. Not only was I cultivating flowers, herbs and vegetables, but I unpreparedly created a mini zoo for all of the local animals that found my garden masterpiece a sweet, quiet and protected home. To my delight, I even had a disabled bunny with a bad leg feel so comfortable in my Buddha garden zoo that she gave birth to 4 baby bunnies right underneath the umbrella jungle of tomato vines. It was quite an experience to watch all of this unfold, knowing that only a short few months before, this small space that meant nothing now exhibited beauty, creativity and safety.

Sadly, as nature has it, the summer months came and went. My Buddha garden zoo slowly but surely diminished as the chilly Colorado evenings became non-appealing to the previous months of warmth and growth. To my dismay, the animals evacuated their garden posts to find their next protected home for the upcoming winter months. I could only hope that they would return the following summer.

My Buddha lady spent countless weeks covered up to her head in blankets of snow and even survived one of the largest blizzards we've ever seen here in Denver. Even with 40 miles an hour winds and 6 feet of heavy snowfall, my Buddha never fell over, stood her ground remaining vigilant and peaceful, helping those that admired her on their brisk daily quarantine walks by my apartment patio. I couldn't wait to re-create her this spring. Yet as my luck would have it, a note was left on my door mandating the removal of the garden as it was against the lease, and this past week it was phyically removed by the maintenance men with a couple of shovels and two wheelbarrows in a mere 20 minutes. Knowing that I had been breaking the rules all year, I shouldn't be surprised that my rebellion was acknowledged, but my heart was heavy when my garden masterpiece project that not only myself and my neighbors loved was transformed back to a mound of unsightly garden rocks, a wall of cinder block and a toppled white Buddha statue thrown to the side with no recognition or understanding of her meaning during this last year.

This experience was a reminder that nothing can ever stay the same, change is the only constancy in life and sometimes things just don't work out the way you want them to. For me, I can only be grateful that I had one summer to fulfill my dream of cultivating a beautiful Zen garden that transformed into so much more than it was ever intended to be. My only sadness will be the day when my disabled bunny friend returns to her favorite summer retreat home to find that it has vanished. But I know that she is strong, resilient and creative. She will find another alternative –she will persevere just as we all have during this last year of astronomical transformation.

Anything is possible…

Elizabeth Forst is a nomad Yogi, world traveler and spinal cord injury survivor. Enjoying the mountain life in Denver, Colorado, she is a doctor of physical therapy with roots based both in Western medicine and the Eastern traditions; understanding the connection between mind, body, and spirit is her ultimate life pursuit. Through her writing and advocacy efforts locally and nationally, she is a beacon of light and a source of positive exploration for others traversing the challenges of paralysis. Find her entire collection at: www.ebforst.com

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.