Nurturing Nature

When we sow a seed, we plant a narrative of future possibility.

Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith, “The Well-Gardened Mind”

Thank you, Rebecca Mead, for sharing that powerful sentence in your recent piece about the solace of gardening in The New Yorker. We are all so weary, so disinclined to optimism, so quick to jump on the real — or perceived — slights of others. To be reminded that there is a future filled with possibilities is a gift.

Rebecca Mead, who is based in London, writes that the benefits of gardening on mental health is widely acknowledged in Britain.

Primary-care doctors increasingly give patients a “social prescription” to do something like volunteer at a local community garden, believe in that such work can sometimes be as beneficial as talk therapy of antidepressants.

Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker

We are lucky to live in a year-round gardening environment in South Florida. I’ve grown an avocado pit into a full tree that gave us more than 40 avocados this year. The mango tree, also grown from a pit, should begin producing next year.

A rambling vine had completely overwhelmed the arbor next to our porch — the screen enclosure called a lanai — so my husband pulled it down. While we were contemplating what to plant in its stead, the stubborn vine began a new life, seeming to grow inches a day. We just harnessed it into place once again.

The milkweed bushes in our front yard reveal an entire life-cycle of the monarch butterfly. The plant is the only type that the caterpillars can eat, and they really chomp away, until they spin themselves a cocoon and emerge a gorgeous orange butterfly.

The twenty-foot palm tree that dominates our view no matter the time of day was a $15, two-foot plant when we brought it home.

And the orchids that I transplanted from their boggy pots have wrapped their roots securely to the palm tree trunks where they will cycle through blooming and resting forever. Orchids can live 100 years.

When hurricane season is over and Florida’s steamy heat subsides, I’ve decided to plant a small vegetable garden along the side of the house where my husband created a raised bed some months back. Digging in the dirt will be delightful, and watching seedlings become sturdy plants and flowers become fruit and vegetables will buoy my spirit.

The meditative and repetitive aspects of gardening can function as a form of play for grownups.

Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker

To life!

Has the Coronavirus Ended Dressing Up?

Most of the clothes in my closet have not been touched in more than a year, largely due to my illness last year. During my three-month hospitalization, I lost one-quarter of my weight, so my clothes hung on me when I was finally home. As I regained my strength, I slowly regained my weight, and am right back to where I was before my ruptured aneurysm. In theory, I can wear anything in my closet.

But I haven’t. Just about the time I felt like myself again, ready to enjoy a night on the town and maybe even doing a little traveling, the pandemic hit. I haven’t been inside a retail shop or a restaurant since mid-March. My bank is doing business only in the drive-through window. I’ve been to FedEx twice, feeling moved to share physical possessions with family and archival repositories — my mother’s collection of family letters, poetry and other paper ephemera is going to the Winona County Historical Society.

So, I’m home, laundering the same small pile of clothing over and over. Workout clothes for the morning, one of three pairs of shorts and a t-shirt for the afternoons, sweats or even pajamas by dinner time. Now and then, a pair of jeans. A suit and cover-up for a couple of careful beach visits. Sketchers. Running shoes. Flip flops.

Forget heels. Even in my professional 1990’s business days, the height of my heels was never more than 3 inches. I last wore a pair of pumps to read at the annual luncheon of a Boynton Beach book club a year and a half ago, and my daughter assured me that they had seen better days. Into the garbage they went.

Who knew that I’d have something in common with opera diva Renee Fleming, who has traded her 5-inch heels for clogs. Yes, clogs! In her recent article in USA Today, reporter Carly Mallenbaum quotes the star:

I don’t think I’ll ever wear high heels again.

Renee Fleming

The sales of dress shoes has plummeted 70 percent, Mallenbaum cites. Slippers and Crocs are the Coronavirus shoes-of-choice. Crocs were my go-to shoes in the hospital. About half-way through my three-month stay, one of my many roommates left behind a pair of worn pink Crocs and they became mine. Although it took a minute, I could get them on and off without ringing for assistance. The day I first walked, they were on my feet.

Walking for the first time, OLVG Physical Therapy. A fellow-patient took the video on my phone, for which I thank her: Dank u wel!

And socks. Mallenbaum tells us that socks are now qualifying as shoes.

Socks certainly make a statement. My gift of palm tree socks to the nurses and doctors who saved my life in Amsterdam was a huge, optimistic thank-you!

The nurses at OLVG, 7-A!

This pandemic has people wondering if dressing up is a thing of the past.

In April, clothing sales fell 79 percent in the United States, the largest dive on record. Purchases of sweatpants, though, were up 80 percent.

Stephanie Gonot, The New York Times Magazine

I’m right on-trend with the slob-chic style Patricia Marx wrote about in The New Yorker:

People are feeling that they are getting away with something. We’re conducting business and making money, but — ha ha! — we’re in our pajamas.

Polly McCall, psychotherapist

It is bad enough that everyone is dressing like a hospital patient, but now I’m realizing that it’s worse: the working cohort has stolen the retiree wardrobe.

No. You are supposed to earn loose-fitting lounge wear by suffering through years of tight waistbands and pantyhose and high heels. That’s why they call it work. Slob-chic has lowered the bar.

I worry that the lowering of the bar threatens retirees with losing our special status until I remember that there is still one thing that we can call our own: carping about change. “Why, when I was employed we wore slips and padded shoulders and heels…”

It’s good to know that you’ll still know us, not by our outfits but by our endearing whining.

Celebrating Physical Independence

As a former dancer, I have never felt my body so lightened, steadied, and purged of anxiety as I have at the end of class.

Jennifer Homans, The New Yorker

In her recent piece “Solo Acts: Choreography Under Lockdown” in The New Yorker, Jennifer Homans, Director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, taps into why, for me, moving is so, well, moving.

I have just finished my morning exercise, a combination of a two-mile jog with our dog, a half-hour upper body weight lifting series, and delicious stretching. While it can be a drag at the start, there is no better feeling than that AFTER a workout.

No one ever said, I wish I had not done that.

Anonymous, re working out

A year ago, I was lying in a hospital bed in Amsterdam, thrilled to have regained the use of my arms and torso and working on moving my legs. Six weeks of being immobilized in the ICU following my near-deadly ruptured aneurysm had sapped my muscle strength. I sat in my wheelchair like a rag doll, and collapsed in my bed like a sack of potatoes. I knew that I would not be able to fly home to Florida without being able to walk.

I had spent a decade dancing and another four decades teaching movement of one kind or another. To be disconnected from my body as I came into my senses following my illness was frustrating at best and frightening at worst.

Dancers begin class slowly…and find their “center” — center of body, of gravity, of mind.

Jennifer Homans, The New Yorker

I worked my way in from the edges — my fingers, my mouth, my feet — seeking the center from which I could confidently move forward. Flexing my arms, bending my knees, lifting my hips, sitting up straight, pulling my shoulders down, opening up my chest.

Then came the day I stood up. My legs felt as hollow and weak as the tubes inside paper towel rolls. I did it again. Then again.

Then, I danced with Gemma. That’s what my physiotherapist and I called it when she faced me, holding my torso as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. I danced. I brought my iPhone so we could play Angelique Kidjo’s album, Celia, on the fitness center speakers.

The next week, I was walking alone, holding myself up on the parallel bars. And then I got wheels and walked right onto a plane bound for home.

You will not receive calls while driving.

My iPhone while I’m using my Rollator, a walker with wheel

Finally, after six months of work, I found my center. Pelvic floor therapy reconnected my core muscles and I was emancipated from incontinence. I don’t take that liberty lightly and continue to do my exercises every day. Check out Easy Kegels.

In considering how dancers are staying connected to their bodies and minds during the pandemic, Jennifer Homans looks back at the post WWI German Expressionistic dance, an early influence on American modern dance (and on my mother’s dance career). Originator Mary Wigman’s weighted, contracted style was influenced by her work with combat veterans and her own suffering from tuberculosis. Trauma produces art that connects.

Jamar Roberts choreographed, designed, directed, performed, and shot (on an iPad) “Cooped” alone in his basement. The music is by David Watson and Tony Buck. The commission was from the Guggenheim’s “Works & Process” series.

Take five minutes and be part of this experience.

Flying Blind Into the Storm

I am spitting mad that the people making decisions for Americans — in the government, who we have elected to help us live our lives — are opening the doors to the resumption of economic activity without knowing — through widespread community testing and contact tracing, none of which are even discussed — what we are likely to face. Remember that trust exercise in which one person is blindfolded and told to fall back into the arms of others? It’s like that, only this time everyone is blindfolded.

The callous disregard is rending our county, our state, our country into shreds.

Do you honestly think that the governor would take the risk with the health of the entire state by opening hair salons and nail salons without any scientific input?

Hal Valeche, Palm Beach County Commissioner

We are at risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory here.

Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy

Send more people back to job sites, restaurants and retail stores before we have a proper handle on things, i.e. testing and will get sick more people will die.

The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board

This is state-sanctioned killing. It is deliberately sacrificing the old, factory workers, and black and Hispanic Americans, who are dying at higher rates.

Dana Milbank, The Washington Post

Trump gets protection from others [wearing masks] but will not protect them in return [by wearing a mask] for utterly selfish reasons. No single action better captures Trump’s narcissism.

Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post

Nobody is blaming me.

Donald J. Trump
Cover, The New Yorker Magazine

Yeah, people are blaming you. Lots of people. As you like to say, “many people“ are saying this.

You are so far over your head, and you’re taking our country down. You need to go.