If you love a gentle movie that slowly reveals an extraordinary and memorable character, then you will love Gardening with Soul. Film-maker Jess Feast reveals the rich and thoughtful life of Sister Loyola, a 90 year old nun in the Home of Compassion just outside Wellington, New Zealand. If you can’t imagine that such a woman would have a story worth telling, think again.
We have much to learn from the older members of our community. Often ignored or overlooked, they hold wisdom and experience that could benefit many of us, if only we took the time to ask the questions and listen to their answers. Sister Loyola is of that generation that doesn’t chatter and volunteer information but, when encouraged, can tell a story in a way that moves you to tears, or laughter, or compassion, whether it’s about the making of compost and collecting seeds, or the caring for a child rejected by her mother.
Gardening With Soul follows Sister Loyola across four seasons in her garden, a garden that feeds many in a literal sense, but also nourishes souls, encouraging community engagement, sharing, and a contemplation of nature, the metaphysical and personal faith. At a time when the Catholic Church is under close scrutiny for the terrible crimes committed by a few and the inept or complicit hierarchy that allowed it to happen, it is so refreshing and restoring to see the work of those in the church who really did, and continue to do, good.
As Sister Loyola says:
“unlike other many other interests, the garden never stops”
From watching her thriving winter vegetables covered with snow while she busily plans her spring and summer crops, through the new growth of spring, the bounty of a summer harvest and then the winding down of autumn, Jess Feast shows Sister Loyola’s garden in a way that makes you feel like you could easily find your own way around it in real life. Current day TV filming of gardens is so annoyingly brief and superficial that you forget what good film-making and quality cinematography can show. This garden is truly four-dimensional and as a gardener, I instantly related to its weeds and pests, seasonal change, layout and crop choices, and Loyola’s clever and thrifty ways.
Through Loyola, we see how gardening creates sharing, a sense of being in the present (now favoured by many psychologists as an antidote to depression), a feeling of not being alone, a way of understanding your god, and a constant metaphor for life – and death. Says Sister Loyola:
“The garden is saying to me all the time ‘Life is evolving…..life is evolving…'”
Sister Loyola’s generation of nuns is probably the last ‘flowering’ of this kind of religious service we will see, as noviciate numbers continue to decline. I’m not a religious person and am even a little confounded at the whole idea of priests, monks and nuns, but I do wonder about who in our community will take their place.
I recommend you see this film – 4 stars. And who could resist a woman who says of a stinky bag of composting seaweed:
“That’s our idea of lovely!”
Gardening With Soul opens nationally around Australia on May 29, 2014. To find your nearest cinema, visit the Gardening With Soul website
If you’d like to think about the spiritual side of gardening, the way gardening can build resilience, relationships and communities, and how we now think about religious service and even our old people, have a listen to my conversation with Gardening With Soul’s film maker Jess Feast.
GardenDrum has 5 double passes to give away to see Gardening With Soul at a cinema in Australia. To be in the draw to win a double pass (at participating cinemas), just leave a comment below about an older gardener who inspires you……
[Congratulations to Anne-Marie, Techa, Rhonda, Jennie and Lou whose names came up in my draw to win the movie double passes]