Future horticultural therapy leaders?

Check out the following video as well as a description of the H.E.A.L.T.H. (Healing Environments Ambassadors Learning Through Horticulture) program from a post on Instagram today by the Chicago Botanic Garden. This kind of program gives me hope about the direction that horticultural education, and horticultural therapy in particular, might increasingly take in the future.

From the CBG’s website:

“The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Healing Environments Ambassadors Learning Through Horticulture (HEALTH) internship launched in April 2019. The program connects high school students, their schools, and families to the health-promoting benefits of nature. Over the course of a spring-to-spring year, including an eight-week paid summer leadership intensive, students learned about therapeutic horticulture, videography, environmental stewardship, and landscape design. A new session starts in spring 2021.”

Right now, I’m knee-deep in Plant Science classes at another botanical garden and early in formal horticultural therapy (HT) training, although I’m already a healthcare professional. You know how I love food and edible gardens. In the best of all worlds, HT’s would partner with local community leaders so we have a program like this in every city (for those that don’t have one already).

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Change is a’ coming

This website will receive an additional overhaul over the summer to shed outdated blog entries and the influences from my former psychotherapist days, to focus primarily upon education related to mindful food literacy, therapeutic horticulture, and food justice. My language keeps shifting because as I do my own work and witness who is speaking up – and who isn’t, I’m realizing that old identities, roles, and organizations with which I’ve affiliated no longer serve the antiracist cause – which is also my cause, as an ally and also as the mother of a Black daughter.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, as many of my personal and horticultural social media feeds have went back to “normal,” I’m heartened by the protesters that still walk the streets of my current and soon-to-be new cities (Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, respectively). Here’s a list of the progress made, in the past few weeks, courtesy of the Movement for Black Lives:

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Commitment

Many large organizations and businesses have released statements of solidarity in recent weeks. Others have remained conspicuously silent. I’ve also witnessed a frequent challenge to such supportive statements, along the lines of “yes, I hear your white words. But what are you doing, specifically, to remedy wrongs and support our Black communities?”

In other words, is this performative allyship while #Black Lives Matter is trending?

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Balance Due

Support with your money or your action, support Black voices, support with your bodies and your hearts and your votes and your anti-racism work. We’re all needed in this movement. Be imperfect, be awkward, be messy, be scared, be willing, be courageous.

I’m with you.

Black Health Matters

I’ve committed to centering BIPOC and especially Black voices, now and ongoing, but I’m briefly pausing to forward on this digital storytelling video I just discovered by University of Washington public health students, which discusses the health inequities inherent in our country’s response (or lack of response) to those with COVID-19, especially within our communities of color. This information is directly relevant to the racial justice issues many of us have been discussing in recent days. The video was shared by University of Washington School of Nursing Professor Josephine Ensign, who presented at a Narrative Medicine conference I attended several years ago and is doing impressive work in our local communities.

As a healthcare professional and as the mother of a Black daughter, I find the statistics on Black maternal health and existing health inequities within the Black community deeply disturbing. I continue to educate myself and I have a long way to go, but I appreciate resources like this to guide me in my efforts to support policy and systemic change.

Today’s letter to my white friends

Today, in the midst of other responsibilities, I’ve been struggling to write this post because I felt compelled to continue speaking up. However, I find that a clear pattern is emerging – what I think I’m going to say, and what I try to say, and what I ultimately end up saying, are often quite different.

Instead, I’m going to share the second half of what I did write because I do believe it’s helpful and might serve as guidance for others.

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On Gratitude

I’m a lover of Sun magazine; their collection of poetry and prose continues to astound me. In one of this month’s essays, a series of letters exchanged between Ross Gay and Noah Davis touched me deeply with their expression of intimate, loving masculinity. I recommend you check it out, especially since Sun removed their paywall temporarily and all of these great pieces are free to read (although do subscribe, if you haven’t already!).

I’ve seen a few of Ross Gay‘s poems circulating lately, so here’s an excerpt from Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which calls out to be savored and taken into your bones:

“…thank you/the ancestor who loved you/before she knew you/by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long/journey, who loved you/before he knew you by putting/a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you/before she knew you by not slaughtering/the land…”

Just like Gay’s essay, my heart ached the entire time I read it. You can find the poem in its entirely on the PoetryFoundation.org website.

Mindfulness in nature – savoring color

I adore the color purple. Put me in a full-bloom field of lavender come July and I’m giddy with happiness. I’m continually impressed but not surprised by what we’ve learned in the field of therapeutic horticulture about the many health benefits available through our interactions with plants.

Savoring nature is especially important because it’s helpful to intentionally seek out positive experiences to balance out the more difficult parts of our day. But savoring isn’t about clinging to pleasure, or surrounding ourselves with things that make us feel good 24/7 (as if that were possible). Savoring is a useful tool, one of a number of mindfulness-based practices that ground us in our body, combat stressors, and boost mind/body health.

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green spaces belong to everyone

Black Birders Week: May 31, 2020 through June 5, 2020. Follow on Twitter and Instagram.

“We should be out here. The birds belong to all of us,” he said. “The birds don’t care what color you are.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/nyregion/amy-cooper-christian-central-park-video.html

“This is a story beyond one person, a story beyond that park. It is a story writ large of who owns spaces, who has privileges to those spaces,” says author and black birder Drew Lanham. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/may/31/being-black-while-in-nature-youre-an-endangered-species

“We are a coalition of social media influencers – bloggers, athletes, activists, and entrepreneurs – who share the goal of promoting diversity in outdoor spaces where people of color, LGBTQ+, and other diverse identities have historically been underrepresented. We are passionate about promoting equity and access to the outdoors for all, that includes being body positive and celebrating people of all skill levels and abilities.” https://www.diversifyoutdoors.com/

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the earth is a living thing

Some days I need poetry just as much as I need the garden. I’ve read a little of Lucille Clifton but in a new book I recently ordered – “Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry,” edited by Camille Dungy, a whole new world of words has opened.

The following poem is in this book and can also be found here.

the earth is a living thing

is a black shambling bear

ruffling its wild back and tossing

mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling

the burying ground circling the bones

picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water

is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing

is a favorite child

of the universe

feel her rolling her hand

in its kinky hair

feel her brushing it clean

Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010)