Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alive and Well

In the garden we laid down this fantastic biodegradable mulch, which is basically a special paper, to suppress the crazy weeds that are trying to take over. And when I say crazy, I mean crazy. There is one prickly little weed that stings like a jelly fish. Rolo calls this weed "mala mujer" which translates from Spanish into "bad woman." After I had my first run in with this trampy little plant, I decided that definite action needed to be taken to tame the unsavory vegetation in our garden.

The mulch is an act of preventative medicine, so to speak. Eliot Coleman, the handsome brilliant guru of organic farming discusses in his book The New Organic Grower, if you keep your plants well watered, give them plenty of space to breathe, and sunlight then they will not fall prey to pests. Mr. Coleman explains that bugs or fungus will attack a plant that is stressed by improper care, whether it be choked by weeds, or dehydrated, or over watered for that matter.

How can we apply this philosophy about organic farming to our own lives? I think there is a parallel between his theory about plants and pests and the human being. All too often our lives seem crowded with stress, and we neglect our well being.  This leads to the our bodies becoming weakened and susceptible to illness.

I have an example to share from my own life. On Halloween 2002, I tore the meniscus in my knee at a party. It was one of those nights when everything was telling me not to leave the house. I was in a terrible mood, mainly due to all the stress in my life. It was near my senior college examinations, my thesis was due, and the non profit organization that I was running at the time was struggling. I should have stayed home and knocked out some work, relaxed and enjoyed Trick or Treaters, but Halloween is a holiday that I enjoy celebrating more than most and I was determined to go out and dance. Dressed as a super hero, namely Super Fly, there was nothing neither super nor fly with the terrible spill I took on the dance floor. Note to self: Jack D and platform shoes don't mix.

I awoke the next morning and my left knee was swollen and would not bend. I went to an orthopedic surgeon who told me that I needed surgery. Knee surgery frightened me. Everyone I had ever talked to who has had orthopedic surgery, more often than not have had to have multiple surgeries. The doctor wrote me prescription for physical therapy and sent me back to school until exams were over. At the time, I had a part-time job at a preschool in Asheville, NC and one of the mothers there was a physical therapist, specializing in Integrated Manual Therapy (IMT). She offered to treat me.

The first day she told me, “The human body has an amazing capacity to heal itself.” The sessions consisted of her placing her hands on different parts of my body for different intervals of time. My homework was to sit with one hand on my heart and one on my knee for twenty minutes a day, and to do the same with one hand on my kidneys and one on my knee. Crazy, huh? Trust me, I was skeptical at first, but I would try anything to avoid surgery. Six months of IMT, along with poultices of Comfrey, known in Chinese medicine as “the bone setter plant,” I returned to the orthopedic surgeon. He did an MRI and told me with great surprise in his voice, “I don’t know what you have been doing, but your cartilage has healed itself.” I took great joy in telling him that I had been crushing leaves and making poultices and the therapy which had done nothing more than stimulate the circulation in my body allowing it to heal itself.

Chef thinks I am nuts when I tell this story. His idea of preventative medicine is to take antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle. Me, I am a great believer in mind over matter. I did not believe surgery was my only option for healing; therefore it was not the only option. I instead spent 40 minutes a day relaxing in bed, which never would have happened if I had not hurt my knee. Looking back, that time I devoted to doing my therapy at home did more for me than just heal my knee, it also allowed me a little time each day to rest during a very stressful time in my life.

Like a plant that is crowded with weeds, parched for water, or not getting enough sun, a human that is overwhelmed with stress will become weakened physically, becoming more susceptible to illness. It is up to each one of us to make sure we give ourselves the space, water, and sun we need to stay it preventative medicine.

Good Life Read # 2/ The New Organic Grower By Eliot Coleman

*this is a fantastic book for anyone interested in organic vegetable growing.  It is geared to small farms or large gardens in some ways, but it is so full of information that can be applied to the smallest veggie patch.  


christina said...

Hey Nan, who was the physical therapist that you went to? just curios.

Nan said...

I can't recall the woman's name, but it was called the Center for Integrated Manual Therapy. CIMT. Check it out online.

emily said...

Oh Nan! I just loved this post. I am forwarding it on to my sister, who is an accupunturist. I think she'll really appreciate it.

See you later today!!!!
just got to get through 10 hours in car first...
can't wait!

suzanne said...

good post....the best preventative medicine is poultices of Comfrey in my white wine.....or abstaining - and the latter is not an option for me. :) the heart and the knee exercise probably did more than anything!