It’s hard just to “be.” I sit on the porch swing with my cat Smokey, who’s curled up beside me, lulled to sleep by the gentle movement of the swing. I reach for my cell phone to check the news and social media postings. I do that much too often, because it’s hard to just sit and do nothing. My flowers are present, but I am not. I’m not taking advantage of their calming effect and exquisiteness. John Burroughs reminds me of the benefit of being with my flowers: “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” Lesson learned: To be in the present moment, ditch the cell phone. I can’t take in the beautiful purple hues and vibrant reds or smell the sweet aroma of the petunias when I’m preoccupied and not present in nature.
A balanced life is vital to thriving. Because I live where the deer are plentiful and visit often, most of my flowers require being out of harm’s way, which means for them, living on the upper deck. Many of them are in oblong planters that straddle the deck railing. Since their little faces gravitate toward the sun, and in order to stay as symmetrical and balanced as possible, the planters need to be turned end-for-end periodically so each plant has an opportunity to soak up the sunshine and be the best it can be. Dave Davies has said, “We need balance. We need to balance our inner life with our outer life. Nature is always sitting there waiting to help us, but we need to do the work.” Lesson learned: To live a balanced life, give equal attention to spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional needs. I’m out of balance when I devote too much time to intellectual or emotional needs but neglect spiritual or physical needs. Seeking balance allows me to be the best I can be.
It’s important who is next to you. While most of my flowers live on the deck, I now have some near my front door. I discovered the deer aren’t crazy about marigolds, so I plant marigolds on each side of my geraniums, as the marigolds keep the deer away and protect the geraniums. The quote by Epictetus pretty much says it all: “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” I’ve heard many stories from patients whose friends are chronically negative or believe it’s helpful to share horror stories of relatives with cancer. Of course, that is not helpful. Lesson learned: It’s important to choose the company you keep but also the ones to avoid. Most are familiar with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Life is a journey not a destination.” Equally important is who is with you on the journey.
Nature therapy, often referred to as ecotherapy, is the practice of being in nature to boost growth and healing, and especially mental health. Experts in the field report it can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. My flowers are my therapy. The black velvet petunias – new to me this year – remind me to seek out new ideas and adventures. The tiny orange moss rose next to the double pink and white petunia reminds me that each flower or person is a gift and more than enough. The jam-packed planter reminds me there’s room for everyone. Yes, there are many messages from my flowers.
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SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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