Green Care, Veterans, Pine Mulch and BlueberriesI had the pleasure of spending time with children and youth in the RE program this past Sunday as part of a special program focused on honoring our veterans and learning about strategies and programs for healing visible and invisible wounds. With a nod to mindfulness, our monthly theme, we discussed how we often instinctively head to nature and the out-of-doors to cope with upsetting feelings and calm our nerves. I shared the basics of nature as a source for healing, from the immune-system bolstering and stress-reducing compounds we inhale when forest bathing to the good-for-you-bacteria that help reduce depression when we play - or work - in the dirt.
“Green Care” is the more user-friendly term of what is known as “horticultural therapy,” the practice of using gardens and plant-based activities for therapeutic purposes. Perhaps you have seen healing gardens incorporating a variety of scents, textures, plants and pathways on the grounds of hospitals or rehabilitation centers? Or, have experienced this directly by tending your own garden or being a Placekeeper at CUUC on occasions like Days in Place?
Beginning about seventy years ago, hospitals and programs for war veterans began including veterans as active gardeners in a variety of programs meant to support emotional and spiritual healing. As they connect to the meditative nature of gardening and become creators of peaceful places, veterans credit their observations of plant life with showing them ways that life can continue beyond their military experiences. Green Care programs like these can also help veterans cope with loneliness or isolation by connecting with them with one another, re-establishing a sense of trust, building community and fostering a sense of usefulness and purpose.
More recently, a variety of farming programs for veterans have sprung up across the country integrating vocational training and mental health support services. Farming is a good career option for many veterans, and is a way to be physically active and re-capture the sense of being part of a group unit sharing the same experience. For veterans who chose to take on a family farm, the venture often plays a role in helping heal and strengthen the family.
In Sunday’s class, Perry shared selected portions (0-4:48 and 6:24-8:20) of a video of Veteran’s Farm in Jacksonville, FL where we heard first-hand testimony of the healing effects of Green Care from combat veterans farming blueberries and raising poultry. Check it out!
Bice Wilson shared a lesson about CUUC’s grounds, inviting everyone to become Placekeepers. With the help of other adults, the children and youth spent time tending to our inner courtyards, trimming shrubs and bamboo and raking up pine needles and leaves. Having just learned that “all waste is food,” they took the pine needles and leaves down the hillside and mulched the recently transplanted blueberry bushes near the firepit, seeding visions of a bountiful summertime harvest.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a detour and well-deserved “Place sitting” on the hillside. Do you know the pathway that leads to the Place where the stream emerges from the stone wall? Have you enjoyed the calming effect that comes from sitting out of doors there, listening mindfully and – a ha! -- hearing the sound of the water or the rustle of the leaves in the breeze?
How and where does Green Care enter into your practices of mindfulness? What peaceful Place awaits your discovery or creation?