The Technical Side of Green

Now for a little detour from my usual posts to a topic from my professional website on the benefits of viewing greenery in the landscape.  Be sure to take in some natural plantings this Winter wherever you are.  What evergreen trees and bushes are still leafed out or putting on a show from their peeling bark or knotty branches of interest?  Subtle hues of beige and cream, dark brown even red can pop against a fresh snowfall, glisten when covered in layers of ice.  Taking a moment to capture these scenes is good for us!

Here’s my article published this month in the Allen County Master Gardener newsletter and at Two Step Solutions.  Enjoy!

boy, under a tree, child, reading, book, green spaces, nature, benefits, viewing, attention

The Technical Side of Green

By Julie H, Advanced Master Gardener

There probably isn’t a person big or small that doesn’t like the view of a lush countryside, bubbling brook, or vibrancy of the Fall colors in the Midwest to brighten his or her day. “Natural elements grab and hold our attention in effortless ways, even in urban settings,” and this has a profound beneficial effect on us according to research by Dr. William Sullivan, Professor and Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Illinois.

In his book chapter* entitled, “In Search of a Clear Head,” William Sullivan shares research supporting the premise that:

It is clear that being in or looking onto a green space can improve people’s ability to focus their attention. But is the effect of green space on attention useful to a variety of people under a variety of circumstances? The evidence shows that a wide range of people benefit from exposure to green spaces. Studies have demonstrated links between green spaces and higher performance on attentional tasks in public housing residents, AIDS caregivers, cancer patients, college students, prairie restoration volunteers, and employees of large organizations.

Green spaces help us to recover from mental fatigue, help us make better decisions, and behave with less irritability. Simply put for our homes, work, schools, and communities:

We need nature at every doorstep!

Further, the more senses that are engaged, generally the more stress reduction occurs as well. In one study, students looking out a classroom window onto a natural space had the power to improve test accuracy TENFOLD! So why are we sending students into windowless classrooms? This is something important to think about as we craft study and workspaces at home and in our communities.

So you might ask if these benefits would include an adult playing golf? A child engaged in athletic team sports? “Yes” for the golf although probably more from the exercise than the putting “greens,” and “No” for outdoor sports. Although the playing field may be a green space and it is usually good to be outdoors, the benefits are better during unstructured activities. Better examples would include walking in display gardens (!), growing a few vegetables, viewing natural waterways, and even observing animals in their native habitats. Taking a walk outside is generally a good idea for many reasons yet in another study, only students who walked in an arboretum showed statistically better test scores than ones who walked in the downtown area of their college town.**

To boost the restorative benefits of everyday contact with gardens and green spaces, view and actively engage in those spaces around you. Such is the heart of the Master Gardener (and other community horticulture, 4H, gardening) programs isn’t it? Engaging the public in educational, exploratory, and experiential gardening activities is the fun and heart of what we do as Master Gardeners for persons young and old. A little “dose of nature” is a great low-tech idea for all of us.

*Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing Out Our Best; Edited by Rachel Kaplan and Avik Basu.

**Based upon William Sullivan’s lecture entitled “Attention Restoration” presented at Gardens that Heal: A Prescription for Wellness; Chicago Botanical Garden, 5.10.17.

 

Trusting Jesus

The following is an excerpt from an article entitled, “The One Who Returned Home” by Naomi Zacharias on page 14 of the recent http://www.rzim.org quarterly newsletter (Spring 2017, I believe).  She quotes a letter that recounts a story from Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz, about a friend who was a Navy SEAL.  The closing remarks are from Naomi.  I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did!  JJ

(The Navy SEAL) was performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a dark part of the world.  When they entered the room, it was filthy and dark.  The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified.  The SEALs initially stood at the door and called to the prisoners.  They identified themselves and asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn’t move.  Alienated and frightened, they instead hid their eyes in fear.

This particular SEAL put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the other hostages.  He was trying to show them he was one of them.  After meeting their eyes, the Navy SEAL whispered that they were Americans and were there to rescue them.  “Will you follow us?” he said.  The man stood to his feet.  First one prisoner did the same, then another, until all of them were willing to go.

(The person sharing this story) reminded me that Miller concluded this:  “I never liked it when the preacher said we had to follow Jesus.  Sometimes they would make him sound angry.  But I liked (this story instead).  I liked the idea of Jesus becoming man, so that we would be able to trust him, and I liked that he healed people and loved them and cared deeply about how people were feeling.”

(The storyteller) shared that it reminded her of what Jesus has been for her.  But it struck me how she has embodied this message in her ministry.  (The storyteller’s name is Analise.)

When Analise hit rock bottom, the reason she found safety in (a program called) the Word Made Flesh is because they were willing to sit in that place with her; they remember their own lostness and the mutual need for a Savior who rescues us.  He did not choose to do this in grandiose fashion.  No, he chose the utter loneliness and pain of the cross.  And so it is he who beckons us by sitting down beside us, showing us he became one of us.  He tells us he is our Savior, and he leads us home — so that we may all be the one who returned home.

In my neighborhood

If all I could see most days was that beyond my window

I would delight in the four seasons of color, of life given the neighborhood.

If all I could hear was the barks, creaks, whirring, whoosing inside our home

I would be reasonable for the solace of being alone brings peace between each one.

If all I could smell was the beast under my feet in our mostly clean house that we share

I would concede in the relative order of things that hasn’t gone to awry in my senesence.

If all I could feel was an occasional cool breeze blowing in from the opened blind beyond

I would love that this Fall has been quite mild, keeping my toes a wittle warmer at night.

If all I could sense was the softness of my baby blue-colored robe as I write these words to you

I would be glad for one area of comfort that stands out amongst the rest . . . in gratitude.

And if all of these things came true as they have this day in our home, in our neighborhood

Then I say that I am at peace with the world:  God is good.  All the time.  He is so very good.

For it is in the ordinary things of life in which we live and find our meaningfulness each day

On this street here with my hubby, our pup already asleep, with me saying “good night” one and all, and Godspeed too.

Psalm 121, peace, coming and going, gratitude, rest, forever

Sunday afternoons can be the hardest

After my former spouse left me, I experienced what most would now call a “Extreme Life Makeover!”  Moving my residence 5 times, losing my home, the work injuries, the condo fire, feeling destitute, deaths in the family, oh my!, I could go on.  I won’t because every single trial was ordained by God to bring me to His throne of grace, to rely totally on Him, and to understand Him as my Heavenly Husband, Lord, and King.  The restoration that followed would blow your socks off if you knew me in 2003 and in 2012.  Many thought I would turn away from the Lord during those dark days.  Er, no, I became humbled, dependent on a worthy Savior. He sustained then restored me and for that I am grateful.

I am grateful that He has chosen to bless me in this season of my life.  Wow.  I thought I was going to write about how difficult Sunday afternoons were as a “separated” then “single” woman in her late forties, back then.  I thought I was going to vent the trouble I had this Sunday afternoon when I found myself very alone.  Er, no, guess not.

Isn’t blogging great?  You can talk yourself out of all kinds of things.  Barking with a purpose.

Take care all.  With love,  Julie