While we cope with racial injustice, violence, a pandemic, other illnesses, finances, political squabbles and the uncertainties and unpleasantries of modern life, Deborah Marqui of St. Charles offers a respite. She’s opening “The Healing Gardens at Stone Hill Farm” on Sunday.
“It’s what has kept me sane,” says Marqui, a 73-year-old survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer who celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, Buzz, in April. Their 2-acre perennial gardens and woodland, located at 37W249 Dean St. in St. Charles, generally opens on the second Sunday of April.
“Last year, there was a snowstorm, and the previous year, it was so cold,” remembers Marqui, who started opening her gardens to the public in 2005. This year, COVID-19 restrictions kept the gardens closed during our cold and wet spring.
“Then I got to thinking it would be important to open the garden more than ever now,” says Marqui, who knows firsthand the healing benefits of nature. “It ends the anxiousness inside. Nobody has to do anything. Just walk and be.”
Toiling between rain showers the last couple of weeks, she has the gardens ready for guests.
“It’s work, but it’s also a joy,” Marqui says. “It’s a wonderful feeling to think something is created for a purpose.”
Open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Sunday, and then June 14 and the second Sunday of every month through October, the gardens also will be available by appointment during the week this year for the first time ever. Marqui asks that people text her at (630) 740-2597 or call and leave a message to schedule a visit. Admission is $5 per person and $10 per family, but cancer survivors will be admitted for free. Masks and social distancing are encouraged.
Guests also may participate ($20, but free to cancer patients and survivors) in a gentle Yoga In The Garden class from 1 to 2 p.m., taught by Nancy May, a 68-year-old Elgin instructor who is in cancer treatments now for the second time. Visit yogafromtheheart.org or phone (815) 319-3500 to register.
“I love teaching outside,” May says. “It’s much more expansive as far as breathing, and looking up at the trees and the sky, and listening to the sounds of nature.”
Depending on the weather, the Healing Gardens can draw anywhere from three to 40 people a day, Marqui says, adding the gardens are open rain or shine. When she was undergoing cancer treatments, she sat in those gardens and discovered the joy of watching plants, animals, “even spiders,” she says.
“I got a lesson in nature, about God and myself,” Marqui says. “I don’t want to look at nature any more. I want to be in nature.”
She wrote her story in a book, “From the Fire into the Gardens,” and is working on a shorter e-book about the gardens.
She was inspired last September by a guest on a cool and rainy day.
“Thank you for opening your gardens. I loved being here,” a woman told Marqui. “Your gardens are spectacular. They are perfectly imperfect.”
That phrase embraces Marqui’s philosophy of appreciating rotting logs, wayward branches and other aspects of her garden, but it also works for people, she says.
“That’s been my whole journey,” she says. “I am, and you are, perfectly imperfect.”
Our current pandemic has brought to light many of our imperfections during the last few months.
“We can use a respite,” Marqui says. “I think nature is just the ticket.”