Volunteer Work

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” (Booker T. Washington)

Spirits thrive in the dirt

Volunteers starting the Bok Choy garden together.

Beautiful Rainbow Chard is thriving.  We harvested the large outer leaves this week.  Our bed of lettuce and carrots are coming along well and the Bok Choy is gorgeous!  I’ve never grown or seen Bok Choy growing before, so it’s exciting. 

I have a special affinity for the Bok Choy.  Transplanting the tender babies into larger pots was the first vegetable we planted when my son and I started volunteering in the horticulture therapy program.

Participating in the group is fun and therapeutic.  I like being around and working with the other volunteers and enjoy the little things I become aware of, either during our activities or after I get home and have time for reflection.

Watering the gardens throughout the week, which I recently enthusiastically agreed to do, with help from my son, is rewarding in several ways.

The plants, especially the ones in containers and young crops need water.  I need something to do outside my personal life.  The responsibility makes me feel proud, gets me away from the challenges and hardships I’m experiencing and, the work brings immediate visible positive results.

“Sometimes you can feel the plants take a fresh breath of air after you give them some space and water,” the horticulture therapist remarked after we recently transplanted several leggy tomato plants.

I hadn’t wanted to work with those plants on that day.  It was cloudy, damp and a little chilly outside.  I was sleepy and tired.  I’d wanted to stay inside the big open educational room and make something out of dried herbs or take cuttings from the scented Geranium. 

I’m not sure of the moment when my lack of enthusiasm changed, but I soon became engaged with the plants and other volunteers in the group.  I enjoyed helping a young man continue the project after a plant broke when he had taken it out of the pot.  Helping him felt good, but I think it was after we were finished and I looked at the plants that I realized how my frame of mind and mood had greatly improved. 

I was moved, literally, to walk closer to the tomato plants.  They looked so happy!  I wanted to touch them.  It was a good feeling.

My son tells me he loves the group and it’s clear to me that he benefits from it, as well as from the time when we go on our own to water.  

“This makes me happy,” he told me the other day, while watering the lettuce and carrot bed.  Our day together had been terribly challenging.  We were not happy campers.  We almost didn’t make it that day, but we both knew that going would help us.  Plus, we knew the dirt was dry and the plants needed people to water them.  We got there just in time before the gates closed.

Seeing my son smile and hearing him say he’s happy is a sign of wellness, even if it’s brief in our notion of time.  This piece of time gives me hope.

The natural positive effects of working with plants is healing to our mind and body.  Having a sense of belonging and an awareness that we have something meaningful to offer a community is big medicine.  I strongly suspect that having more days filled with meaningful and rewarding work could reduce symptoms of ‘mental illness’ and heal wounded spirits. 

It’s hard to know whose on the receiving end of our time volunteering.  I know I’ve said this before in my earlier posts about our Green Healing days, but I am truly grateful for this opportunity.

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog!  Please feel free to leave a comment.


24 thoughts on “Volunteer Work

  1. Thought it was time for me to drop by and say “Hello” after your friendly visit to my blog the other day! I love being able to visit friends without needing to fix my hair and get dressed. I drop by and you’ve been gardening with your son, growing bok choy! When your greens are ready to harvest, let me know and I’ll put my shoes on to visit. ha!

    Gardening restores peace…away from the digital world, the television, radio, the telephone. When my anxiety creeps up, it’s time to grab a trowel and scoot my bottom on the grass, pulling weeds.

    Gardening really does improve one’s frame of mind, doesn’t it?



    • Hi CZBZ!

      How nice of you to come visiting. I wish I’d been right here when you came and we could have had some tea by the garden, or should I say, a spot of tea? Hmm, no, I bet you just say tea. ha!

      Yes, I enjoyed my visit to your Cinema/blog/ awesome site. I LOVED that movie, The Company of Strangers. I loved everything about it, including the lovely scenes and nature sounds, but mostly, it was the women. The way they each had unique personalities, and likes, but they accepted each other. Wow. I’d like to have my blogging gals like you, and we get stranded (with food) –What a great time we’d have. You strong ladies would have to carry me places, but I don’t weigh much, so it would work. I could design us a horticulture garden, while you laughed at me and told me to just “scoot my bottom on the grass” (hahaha) and pull some weeds!

      Anyway, seriously, You live in my heart, forever!


      • I’m sooooooo glad you loved that movie! I was going to ask but thought maybe you didn’t watch it and didn’t want you to feel pressured.

        I have watched it four times now. Just hearing their voices makes me tear up—I’ve waited my whole life for a movie like “Strangers in Good Company” and what a treat it’s available online. Now that my age is creeping up on me, women’s lives are more interesting to me than ever before. Seriously. There’s an amazing story in every woman we meet. Blogging brings us together as we tell our tales.

        This is a link in case some of your other blogging friends would like to see the movie: http://woncinema.blogspot.com/2012/04/company-of-strangers-1990.html

        I feel as if we ARE traveling together on our cyberbus. ha! If we get stranded on the side of the road though, I won’t be the one fixing the bus. You might talk me into cooking frog legs. Depends on how hungry we get. ha!


        p.s. I have a new short film on the Cinema right now called “The Butterfly Circus”. It’s a beautiful film with an inspirational message for all of us.


        • Hi CZ, Thanks so much for sharing the link to the movie.

          AWESOME MOVIE!

          I honestly can’t find my way back to blogger some of the time. I can’t stand that! My brain challenges me so.

          I also feel the same way as you do. Women and their lives are interesting, amazing, and important to me as well.

          You’re cinema is amazing. The movies you choose are awesome. I mean, when I watch them, particularly the ones like “Strangers in Good Company” (I guess I had the name incorrect) I think wow, that is a life changing movie. It helps us grow, change our perspectives, see things in a different light.

          I highly recommend people check it out.


          I’ll try, or hope, to do better about responding after I visit and enjoy your site and/or the movies.

          Big hugs,
          Love, Michelle.


    • Dear HL,

      Thank you for sharing your life as well. I haven’t been writing too much, or at all lately, about fatigue, or pain, and so it sure helps me to read your story, because I relate so well. I wondered today if I should write ‘between the Green Healing times’ because there is right much between time.

      Thanks for stopping to read, and as always, for your genuine encouragement and inspiration you offer me.

      With gratitude, and love,
      Peace to you my friend,


  2. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and for your kind comment on the Poem ‘Unseen’.
    This was my first published attempt at writing a poem, so I was pleased its content brought some pleasure to you ( and one other so far!).

    Impressed by your well written and illustrated blog – something to learn here I believe.
    Will be adding your blog to my list of regular reads.

    We have a common interest in dogs. In my case through my daughters dog – an english cocker spaniel.

    Best wishes to you and your son, will be following your progress with interest




    • Hi John,

      Thanks so much for popping over to my blog, and esp., for your very kind regards. I think I had searched for Green Healing and found your blog, and your lovely poem. Indeed we do have some things in common. I love dogs, of course, and hope to tell some dog tales soon:)

      Take good care, and I look forward to reading more of your work!



  3. Michelle, its always good to see what you and your Son have been up to… I wish I could inject some more energy your way my dear friend… Drum beats are a beating!.. Did you and your Son ever get together and have that ‘jamming’ session😉 lol… beats alot of that Negative energy away I promise..
    Also Michelle.. if you do not mind me saying… I have started to say the words Om..
    in tone you know like the Monks.. Ommmmmmmmm
    Keep the vibration low and in your throat, and while Om-ing think of yourself as healed and well. Sound Vibration Heals as I am certain your own Healer has informed you.. But when I am tired and feeling of a low ebb, thats what I do..

    Lovely to read about the Garden and different plants,, and the ones we dont have here in the UK. I am putting together various sub pages of My Grow your Own, and a Recipe page.. That Red Cabbage ( Purple Cabbage ) the Braising recipe is alread up in full, if you ever need it. I shall be adding more and some about Herbs and Healing .. When I get the time..

    Sending you a Big Cosmic ((( Hug))) your way, and tell your Son I am also so proud of him seeing his progress and I feel both your enjoyment when blending your energies with that of Mother Nature..
    Love and Blessings ~Sue xxx


    • Hi Dreamwalker, Thanks so much for your healing ‘beats’ as they are always very much appreciated by me and my son. We didn’t get to make it to the particular jam session you speak of. Kind of sad, but the young man whose home we had planned to visit isn’t feeling so great these days. Hoping that changes soon.

      I look forward to your recipes! I also want to give you a recipe I have for Chard. it’s simple, but very good, with red onions and Romano grated cheese. Yum.

      I might put together a book about Green Healing days. Was looking at various ways to do it, and once you have your written material, the rest is relatively easy.

      I am practicing some meditation, and a lot of acceptance. I was invited to a friends, both my son and I, and she has a music studio in her home. She lives about ten hours, so it would be a serious road trip, but I am hoping my son and our dogs can go pretty soon, if our sweet Tiny can make it. He has arthritis, so I don’t know yet, but has a great doggie therapeutic bed, and we’d take that of course, letting him have the back area of the hatchback area in the car.

      Still growing the Cherokee Purple tomato, and it has two on it already.

      Talk soon, and I’ll share the recipe with you. Maybe I’ll leave it on your blog, and you can add it to your recipe list. Our horticulture therapy intern gave it to me recently.

      Big hugs, and Love,
      Michelle xoxoxo


  4. I am so glad you have the opportunity to work in the gardens – they are so clearly soul-healing to you both. It is wonderful reading about your experiences, and makes me remember my lon-ago gardening days. We keep quite a few plants on our deck, flowers & herbs, and some over-winter inside. I love watching them grow from little to big & strong, an.d Rhiannon loves cooking using our homegrown rosemary & parsley.

    Many blessings to you both, sweet Michelle!


    • Thanks Ash, Me too. It’s great that we have the higher raised beds. They are going to build beds high enough so that a person doesn’t have to bend at all.

      I have a few more plants growing this year than last, but just not much sun. We are hoping our tomato plants will thrive, but I have a feeling we may need to move them. And of course a few herbs. I love the herbs. I get Neil to take the Thyme off the stems and stuff like that. He likes that.

      Blessings to you and yours, and tell Kodi his gf is here, still as pretty as ever, and more ready to play than ever. I should send him a photo so he can look at her anytime he wants to:)
      Hugs, Michelle.


  5. A Green Healing book is a great idea. The tragedy of our current approach to the “management” of psychiatric disorders is that in most countries there are no more working farms attached to the institutions. (Cooper-Riis being exceptional!) The psychiatric facility in our city is surrounded by farmlands and gardens that were once owned by the hospital to enable the patients to work in the gardens and with the animals. In recent decades the patients largely remain indoors in drab conditions. Patients used to be paid for their outdoor work, and my understanding is that paid work for psychiatric patients began to be seen as a human rights violation (slave labor). What a sad state of affairs.

    Michelle, I also sent you an e-mail recently about labyrinthis. There’s one near where you live.


    • Hi Rossa,

      I updated this reply, and wanted to tell you that I didn’t see the email about the labyrinth. There are two near me. I hope we can go visit one soon.

      Thanks again for your kind comment.


    • Oh, what a sweet comment. I hope you find a place where you too can go and if not sow seeds, then reap in what has already been sewn. Wishing you plentiful health and many moments of happiness.


      • I’ve got my crew outside building raised beds and starting seeds. You really did inspire me that day. I’ve also been in touch with one of our local Nature/Bird sanctuaries… I volunteer with them (well before i injured myself). We’ve made some plans to start a program with frail elders in June. keep advocating Green healing. I so adore your work


        • inventingeden –hi!

          Well, I am surely delighted to have inspired you:) and esp., to build raised beds. You might like to check out the website of the NC Botanical Gardens Horticulture Therapy program. The people who work there love sharing their knowledge. I recently attended a workshop about it, and the subject of using plants to help elderly people came up quite a bit during class I was surprised at the different ways plants help people, such as with memory loss.

          Congrats to you for your work and I hope your garden grows well! I hope you’ll share as it grows. And, thank you very much for your compliment.



  6. I think these green healing posts would make a wonderful book; you have been documenting you and your son’s time there through words and pictures in such a wonderful way. I’m glad you are sharing your experiences; it’s also good to read that the experience has been benefical for your son as well. It must feel good to see him smile.
    I agree with your observation: “I strongly suspect that having more days filled with meaningful and rewarding work could reduce symptoms of ‘mental illness’ and heal wounded spirits.” And, a compelation (spelling) of these blog posts would help people find a way to heal body and soul.
    Good luck with both projects! And “Green Healing” is a wonderful title for a book!


    • Hi Phylor! So nice of you to read and comment. I feel badly for not keeping up as well with my blogging friends, and I miss each one of you. I do so enjoy the time in the gardens, and most certainly seeing my son feel good about doing something. But it does make me tired, esp., my brain, but then, times aren’t easy lately either, so that makes me tired too.

      I’ve never thought of the Green Healing being a book. I guess it could be. I ought to try to write one. I always thought if I ever had the chance that writing a book would be exactly what I would do. I guess illness puts a damper in our dreams though, you know.

      I hope things continue getting better for my son and I. He isn’t out of the woods, so to speak, but is much better than he has been in such a very long time.

      I hope you are doing alright these days, and have good medical care. I think of you often, esp., when I see the fairy dust and rocks. It’s on my desk beside my photo of my late dog Free. I think of her a lot in April.

      Take good care of yourself, and please know I mean it when I say I hope to visit your blog and read soon. Big hugs to you, With love, Michelle.


    • Hi Laurie!
      A book? I wish. I can’t even think of a name for a blog to document my/our Green Healing days, lol. If you have any ideas feel free to pass them along.

      Speaking of books, I was just over at Dispatches from ConsterNation, (John Hayden’s blog), reading his post about Ebooks. Says there is a good market there, and that every writer has a chance to make at least a little money. I should try.

      You are such an inspiring friend! Thank you!
      Love, Michelle.


Feel Free to Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s