Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

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.

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Green Healing ~ Over and Over

in the garden, over and over

Crimson and Clover

A short day in the garden continues to be rather taxing for my body, including my brain, but is still very much worth it!

We start a new project each week.  We’re growing beds of Bok Choy, Lettuce, Carrots, a container of Sweet Peas, and we each have a potted assortment of Cacti that we took home.

We take care of the gardens planted last year; the beautiful robust Chard, Thyme, Parsley, Sage and I do believe, some Rosemary too, along with a spontaneous flower garden.

We harvested the wonderful Cabbage plants and next week are going to share a meal together.

after the harvest, we nourish our bodies

Cabbage ready to eat!

I love being in the open air, seeing smiles evoked by simple little things, like a bug or a bloom.  I also love seeing my son engaged, smiling and enjoying nature.

Being around people who are kind, understanding and who don’t put others in a box or see them as diagnoses, but instead as individual human beings with something unique to offer is a blessing.  I wish it was the norm, but I don’t think it is.

Even though I feel great fatigue after the class, I’m able to experience the ‘Green Healing’ as I sit quietly recalling the beauty of the flowers or interesting plants we saw, my son’s smiles and the often moving interactions with the other volunteers while we worked together.

Our visits to the greenhouse are always exciting as well.  Plants change from week to week and there’s usually something new along the path during our walk.  I love that!

people and plants

in the greenhouse

The patch of Crimson Clover (above) where the ladybugs live is thriving with beautiful blooms.  In honor of these awesome blooms, I’m sharing the song via YouTube.

This is an original short version, by Tommy James And The Shondells, as heard on WABC AM radio when it was a hit in 1968.

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‘Green Healing Days’ feed from Flickr