Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Tag: Garden Therapy

Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour – Thoughts on Letting Our Childen Go

Yesterday, I re-watched Steel Magnolias. Before the movie began, I knew that re-watching this film would make me cry, and I almost opted out of racking myself with that painful experience again. But I took the plunge, and I began to think about my own life. Julia  Roberts died in Steel Magnolias, and as a mother, I was tormented by the mother’s grief of losing her child to death. But I also began to consider that many parents lose their children in ways that do not involve dying. Children simply move on. They leave to marry and to begin their own homes or they leave to begin their own careers somewhere else. The bottom line is that our children leave. and as parents, we are left gripping the reality that we had simply been loaned a set of children–for just a short period of time–and that eventually, we were forced to let our children go.

“You can never go home again.” – Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe is correct in saying that once a child leaves, he can never really return to his childhood home again. Although most children keep in touch with their parents after they move away, they can never really return, and a decent mother doesn’t want her child to do so. But in some nagging, longing way, mothers remember and we ache for the days that we wrapped our children in soft, cotton blankets and brought them home from the hospitals. We remember their first steps. We remember baby food dripping from their chins, their highchairs, and from their hands and hair. We remember bathing our babies’ silky bodies and drying them and then laying them on top of our hearts–where we could feel them as they breathed. As mothers, we also remember slipping into our child’s room at night and at marveling at the sweetness of our sleeping child. We recall our children’s innocent but profound comments–the ones that allowed us to recall viewing life as only a child can view it. We remember the drawings and the paintings that they made as children, and we remember their going to school.

When my oldest child went to school, I grieved. Somehow I knew that both of our worlds had permanently shifted. For the first time, I realized that my child was not a doll. She was not mine, to keep. From that moment on, my child began slipping away from me and into herself. The transition has not been easy. I have discovered that it is often necessary for people to get mad before they can completely sever themselves, and that has happened in my family. I long for the day that my family can close its angry chapter and go to the next. That is the way that it is supposed to be: Our children are supposed to have their lives, and we are forced to have another. We know that, but still, we remember the fleeting moments that God loaned us our children, and we long.

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet….
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears….William Wordsworth
.

Jacki Kellum Garden May 2017

Although many mothers always long for the hours when their children were living in their homes, a wise mother will transition, too, and they will find another home where they will live into old age alone. I am thankful for the years that I was a parent, but I am also thankful for the ever-renewing well of life and for my ability to continually find a new life without my children nested around me. My garden has become my solace.

Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in 2015

“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

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Jacki Kellum Garden

“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell …
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan

Jacki Kellum Garden

Yesterday, my friend shared a slightly bent version of an old Chinese proverb:

If you want to be happy for a night, get drunk.
If you want to be happy for a year, get married.
If you want to be happy for life, plant a garden.

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Relatively speaking, our years on earth are few, and hours that we spend agonizing because we do not feel accepted or appreciated or loved are simply hours lost. Because living can become painful and toxic, we need an antidote and a place to heal. My garden is where I go to be restored, and even during the winter, nature is my solace. My sunroom overlooks my side courtyard, and my greatest winter joy is to sit by my fireplace, watching the birds dipping into my oasis for food and water. Anytime that I can sit alone in nature, I am truly home–the home that will carry me through life.

“I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.” – Thomas Hardy

©Jacki Kellum June 9, 2017

Tender

Kids Need Nature – The Healing Power of Gardening

August42015adj

Jacki Kellum’s Garden August of 2015

I am an avid gardener. I garden to create Zen-like spaces to sit in meditative-like silences and do nothing more than heal from the damages of trying to navigate through life. But I also garden because the act of gardening itself is healing. I have read that handling dirt supports good health–that the dirt involved in gardening has a healing quality, and I can guarantee that my emotional spirit is improved by the act of gardening. As I get older, I also need more and more of the exercise that gardening provides me, but my need for gardening stems back to my childhood. My dad was an avid gardener and his mother, my grandmother was, too.

My childhood home was almost directly behind my grandmother’s house, and at least once daily, I would walk across the lawns from my house to my grandmother’s house. During gardening season, that meant walking through my grandmother’s massive flower, vegetable, and fruit gardens. I would enter through the back door, and my grandmother’s gardening closet was just inside that door.  I used to love to open that closet door and to allow nature and my grandmother, and my grandmother’s garden reach out and embrace me:

grandmascloset

Grandma’s Closet
by Jacki Kellum

The bonnet’s at the very top
The duster’s down below.
Fancy flowers are drying still,
They’re hanging in a row.

Breathe the sunshine, weeds, and dirt,
Catch the seeds from Grandma’s skirt,
Store them in your summer shirt,
Plant them, let them grow.

© jacki Kellum November 24, 2015

My grandparents not only owned their own home, they also owned the string of houses next to them.  Keep in mind that this was a rural community, and my grandparents’ houses had immense lots.  The people who rented had nice yards, but my grandmother gardened the backs of all of the yards that my grandparents owned, and on the absolute back of the land, my grandmother planted a glorious stand of hollyhocks.

There was an alley behind the hollyhocks and my street was behind the hollyhocks.  During the summers, I used to walk through the alley, into the towering stand of hollyhocks, and through my grandmother’s flower garden–and finally, to her house.  As soon as I passed beneath the sheltering arms of the hollyhocks, I felt safe and protected. It was a magnificent pilgrimage, and even today as I retrace those steps, my spirit is lifted.

Certainly, as I labor to create my own garden now, my main ambition must be that of holding on to my grandmother’s garden, my grandmother, and my own childhood.  Actually, there could be no better reason at all, but research proves that there are even more healing benefits to gardening than that. Horticulture is recognized as an authentic type of therapy. Here is what the Horticulture Therapy Association says about the healing power of gardening:

“Horticultural therapy techniques are employed to assist participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost. Horticultural therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. In vocational horticultural therapy settings, people learn to work independently, problem solve, and follow directions.” Read More Here

For several years, I have worked part-time as the Children’s Librarian in my community. For at least ten of those years, I have wanted to create a children’s garden. This year, I have finally received the go-ahead nod of approval, and we will begin tilling our garden this week. April 28th is Arbor Day, and we are having a huge Arbor Day party for our kids. Every child is asked to bring a perennial flower to plant in our garden, a spot from which they can watch their own plant grow. There is something magical about watching nature work through the stages of its own growth cycles, and that will be one of the benefits of creating a garden for our community’s children. We also hope to grow fruits and vegetables in our children’s garden, and we want to cook what we grow with our children. In summary, we want our community’s children to actualize the benefits of growing with and through nature.

I hear increasing reports of the problems that children are having in school. Children have problems with ADHD, problems with autism, problems with depression, and they are displaying an excessive amount of anger and hostility. On the other hand, I read that children are spending less and less time outdoors and are spending an increasingly large amount of time inside, watching television, playing video games, etc. Research proves that children spend a fraction of the time playing outdoors that their parents did, and other research shows that children are simultaneously dealing with increasingly large problems with obesity, depression, and other emotional issues. Further research proves that the issues are connected. The well-being of children is adversely affected by too much time indoors and not enough time outdoors. Encouraging children to garden can help resolve some of those issues.

Disney conducted research into this area of concern and has begun a campaign to create more spaces for outdoor play and to improve outdoor conservation. The National Wildlife Foundation is doing the same. Here is part of the NWF report:

“Little kids love to play. That’s not news. Play comes naturally and is necessary for the development of physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills. Play is part of being human. But, as it turns out, not all play is equal.

Recent research shows that young children who play outdoors in spaces that are specifically designed for 0-5 year olds actually garner more developmental benefits:

  • They engage in 22% more physical activity.
  • Their behaviors improve.
  • They exhibit fewer Attention Deficit Disorder symptoms
  • They tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

“In addition, children who spend time outdoors at a young age are more likely to remain active as they get older, and they tend to prefer outdoor experiences into adulthood. Whether you aim to reduce childhood obesity, improve social development, increase cognitive skills or build the next generation of conservation stewards, getting children to spend regular time outdoors at the earliest possible age is a recipe for success.” Read more of that report Here

I know from experience that gardening is important for children. Gardening is a way for kids to get outside and to become part of nature, and Kids Need Nature. Although this is fodder for yet another post, Nature Also Needs Our Kids. Kids and Nature: It’s a Win-Win Situation.

©Jacki Kellum April 8, 2017

Heal

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