Peaceful places to reflect, relax in Baltimore

After a convulsive week of emotion – from grief to anger and to fear – Baltimore needs time and a place for some quiet reflection, agreed Randolph Carter, who teaches meditation in the city.

And he knows how important it can be. Carter took what he has learned to people in Ferguson, Mo., in the aftermath of Michael Brown's death at the hands of police.

"The events that have come to Baltimore have taken decades to accumulate," said Carter, who teaches at the city's Transcendental Meditation Center and runs a nonprofit to introduce meditation in schools.

"We want to not only help individuals deal with the stress, but it can help the environment become less stressful. It has a radiating effect." He said meditation and quiet reflection can also help people think more clearly and in a more positive way.

"They may not know why, but they just feel better," he said.

Baltimore has many quiet places dedicated to the restoration of the human spirit. Here are a few.

Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden

Baltimore Basilica

409 Cathedral St.

Pope John Paul II made two visits to the basilica — in 1995 as pope and in 1976 as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla — and this garden on the grounds of the church commemorates those visits.

It is an outdoor spiritual retreat in a green space in the middle of the city. The statue of the pope with two children is the centerpiece of the garden. It was based on a photograph taken during his visit as pope.

The overall shape of the garden resembles a fish, an image often associated with Jesus. Stainless steel bands are embedded in the wall around the garden, are inscribed with the symbols of the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, as a testament to the pope's outreach to other religions.

It is open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed during inclement weather and on holidays.

Northeast Interfaith Peace Garden

St. Anthony of Padua Church

4414 Frankford Ave., Gardenville

The Peace Garden was planted on the grounds of St. Anthony of Padua Church in 2000, and it has continued to grow. It now includes flowering trees and shrubs that change with the season, a steppingstone footpath through a perennial garden, a lighted fountain and pool and benches in both sun and shadow.

There are journals where you can record your reflections and read the thoughts of others, and you will find yourself in the company of songbirds, butterflies and hummingbirds.

The focal point of the garden is a labyrinth made of brick paving stones to walk in peace and contemplation and perhaps pray. Brochures are there to explain how to walk the labyrinth.

(There are a number of labyrinths in the Baltimore area, and they can be found on labyrinthlocator.com.)

Sacred Writings Garden

In 2008, this garden was added to the Interfaith Peace Garden at St. Anthony's, dedicated to understanding through the writings of the world's major religious traditions.

In the garden is a peace pole, a hexagonal obelisk on which are written the words "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in 16 different languages. It is one of more than 200,000 such poles that have been planted in 180 countries since 1955.

Here, visitors will encounter five smaller gardens, individually dedicated to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Earth religions and the Eastern religions. The gardens are planted with flowers and herbs mentioned in the sacred writings displayed in the gardens.

There is also a Garden of Forgiveness, where visitors can reflect on the importance of forgiveness in our lives. Overhead are Tibetan prayer flags on which are written prayers for peace and healing.

The gardens are open to all. There is plenty of parking and they can be reached by public transportation.

Sherwood Gardens

Guilford, one block east of the 4100 block of St. Paul St.

The gardens are bounded by East Highfield Road, Underwood Road, Stratford Road and the Greenway

No gates or fences surround the six acres in the Guilford neighborhood best known for its stunning spring tulip displays. There is no admission and no reservations are required. Visitors are free to wander the gardens.

They were part of the estate of A.S. Abell, founder of The Baltimore Sun, and they were part of an area designed by the famous landscape architects, the Olmsted brothers.

In the 1920s, petroleum pioneer and conservationist John Sherwood planted the gardens with tulips he had imported from the Netherlands. His hobby would become the most famous tulip garden in North America.

When he died in 1965, he bequeathed enough money to keep the gardens planted for a year. After that, the Guilford Association purchased lots from the estate and took over their care.

About 80,000 tulip bulbs are planted each year, along with other spring flowering bulbs. Around the flowers bloom dogwoods, flowering cherries, wisteria and magnolias, in addition to brightly colored azaleas.

The tulip gardens are at their peak right now, but the Guilford Association replaces them with annuals for the summer.

Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens

Druid Hill Park

3100 Swann Drive

The historic "glass house" with its indoor gardens has always been a peaceful place to visit.

Opened in 1888, it contains five distinct areas: the original Palm House, the Orchid Room, the Mediterranean House, the Tropical House and the Desert House. Something is always blooming or smelling sweet. In the Tropical House, a small pond burbles and fish circle lazily.

In addition, the conservatory is surrounded by 35 beds. Right now the tulips planted there are in their glory. Nearby is Druid Hill Park Lake, surrounded by a 2-mile jogging or biking circuit.

The conservatory is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, except when events are scheduled there. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

sreimer@baltsun.com

Twitter.com, @SusanReimer

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