Topher Delaney: Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others. And that’s what a garden is about, a garden is fearless.
Rob Stewart: Landscape artist Topher Delaney makes healing gardens and uses planting and bushes – as her paints and brushes, each one – planting seeds of change.
Topher Delaney: What a garden does – is it’s progressive, it’s cyclic, so it’s moving and growing. So the gardens I do are about things growing and changing and decaying. There is an aspect here that is very important. Its life.
Rob Stewart: It’s life!
Rob Stewart: A life uprooted when Topher was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago and found herself in the hospital searching for a calming garden, a place to heal.
Topher Delaney: And I thought, okay if I get out of this alive I’m going to make healing gardens.
Rob Stewart: Three days after surgery, Topher was designing her first healing garden and she never stopped! Topher has made more than 400 of these, for hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and special memorials. Each a sanctuary designed at her San Francisco studio named Seam.
Rob Stewart: Topher this is an amazing space!
Topher Delaney: Yes it is!
Rob Stewart: And you get to work here.
Topher Delaney: And I get to make it here! It’s an active space that is constantly shifting and it’s just like a garden.
Rob Stewart: Topher tailors each garden – to each healing need.
Topher Delaney: The name of the plant here-
Topher Delaney: Others are memorials celebrating personal growth and new life. But each garden is about a personal journey found in the meaning of Topher’s name, short for Christopher.
Topher Delaney: But what the Saint Christopher does - is that he, or the spirit, takes travelers from one side of the river to the other.
Rob Stewart: That river was filled with tears at the grieving Bayview Police Department when one of their prized officers, Issac Espinoza was gunned down in 2004.
Rob Stewart: On the first anniversary of Isaac’s death Topher unveiled this – the “blue garden,” a space of healing planted right in the middle of the police department parking lot.
Rob Stewart: Topher’s back today – replanting the garden, where healing grows.
Topher Delaney: Hi!
Renata Espinoza: How are you?
Topher Delaney: Good, thank you for coming.
Rob Stewart: Isaac’s wife, fellow officers and Topher’s assistant are getting their hands dirty sprucing up the “blue garden,” pulling out old shrubs and planting new flowers.
Renata Espinoza: It makes me a little sad, at times, you know - but I love the fact that I'm planting plants , it just makes me sad because it reminds me of when he was here, but when I plant the plants I know they are going to grow. And I know that his presence here makes them grow.
Sgt. Chris Martinez: It sort of gives the station a semblance of peace and gives them the idea that - hey, you know what? Isaac would want you guys to keep on going. And it's just some place that they can come and be and remember him and I like taking care of it, I like being a part of it.
Rob Stewart: Ironically Sergeant Mike Adraychac was planting the idea of a small garden here on this patch of weeds in honor of his buddy Isaac.
Mike Adraychac: That's the sketch that I drew up. Just kind of showing how it might look with some different fencing, lattice capped, kind of dress it up a little bit.
Topher Delaney: I think we’ll new flowers in here, what do you think?
Rob Stewart: But that’s when Topher stepped in … with 60,000 dollars of her own cash and healing mission for this department filled with hidden messages.
Topher Delaney: And blue is the traditional color of protection, it comes from the color woad and woad was a plant in England in which when you went to fight, you put blue all over your face.
Rob Stewart: To honor Isaac? Rosemary, the plant of remembrance, dotted with blue flowers to match the blue garden. There are white and red roses for purity. And for the officers, lavender, a plant the calms – something needed for such a stressful job.
Topher Delaney: They have no place to sort of decompress.
Renata Espinoza: I know that he's looking down and he's seeing that when the guys come out here - they find peace in this garden. I think that makes him smile.
Topher Delaney: That's what a garden - it's about the age of time on this planet and acknowledging that the veining of the body and the garden. It's so important to understand that things will shift and that we're only here for a little bit of time.
Rob Stewart: It’s the cycle of life and the cycle of a garden … from the seed to growing and back to the soil.
Topher Delaney: Maintain it, grow it, keep tending it, tending, tending, tending. And things will be okay!