Helen Keller in her garden at Arcan Ridge no date Helen Keller in her garden at Arcan Ridge 1951

As holidays and spring time approach it is a good time to reflect on Helen Keller’s love of nature and its possibilities for transformation and renewal. In September 1940 — a year after she and her companion Polly Thomson moved into their new home in Westport, CT — Keller wrote to her close friend "Uncle Walter." Here is an excerpt from that letter:

This place is already amazingly transformed. Between jobs at the desk Polly and I have worked with our faithful Herbert to make our four acres shady in summer and charming in winter. Through the kindness of friends we have obtained a large quantity of laurels, some evergreens, bits of box and climbing roses for the terraced wall, but we still need pines and hemlocks to fill large open spaces. Polly has busied herself in the cool of the morn pruning the big cedars which were planted before we owned the land, I have helped to weed and water the grass. When we first came, the trees looked as if they had never been loved or cared for, and now it is touching how richly they respond to our attentions with fresh foliage and fragrance. Another reward is the bird colony. We fed the little feathered folk last winter, and different people sent us bird shelters. As a result many birds have made their home near us — robins, thrushes, bluebirds, woodpeckers. To my surprise a pair of martins have started a settlement in the big bird-house — I hadn’t expected them until the second or third year!

Now Herbert is contriving a marvelous walk, the like of which I have never had, out of good-smelling cedar posts. It winds in and out, passing a grape arbor and stone walls and going way down to the dog kennels. Along the line zigzag about sixty trees and shrubs I can touch — maples, birches, oaks, beeches, apple, hickory — and wild-cherry trees, cedars, wild azaleas and huckleberry bushes. You should see our six dogs following me, Kenzan-go marching at the head majestically like a Samurai, the little Shetland Collies jumping on the wall to draw my attention to them. They are elfin — a sudden warmth of fur under my palm, the lick of a dainty tongue, and they vanish to jump on me under the next tree. When the railing is finished, it will be about three thousand feet long! What a domain of liberty all my own! I call it the Communion Walk because there He seems nearest who stretched the sky as a dome over the earth, and since my soul sings most in freedom, I feel sure that my prayers will be answered.

Images left to right: Helen Keller walking in her garden at Arcan Ridge, Westport, CT, no date, and Helen Keller with her dog in her garden at Arcan Ridge, Westport, CT, 1951