Saturday, February 28, 2009

Craziness and Gardening

I was reading an article about Victory Gardens and how people used to plant a vegetable garden in their yards so that they could grow enough to help them eat well during the Depression and World War 2 era. That whole movement was about encouraging people to survive difficult times by being creative. Along the way, lots of people discovered the spiritual sort of joy that comes from planting something, nurturing it, watching it grow, then harvesting and making a meal out of it. I am a gardener and do what I can with what space I have, and though there have been times when I have grown fruits and vegetables, my space now only allows for a few herbs and flowers.

Then, as the mind so often does, a loose thread connected back to another childhood memory which has to do with gardening.

Where I grew up, there was a state mental hospital, a big fenced in set of buildings with a farm adjacent to it, where the patients who were capable worked on the farm to help produce some of their own food.

Sometime later, politicians thought it would be better to close the facility and sell the land to real estate developers. They said that most patients could get the care they needed from outpatient facilities. The old mental facility property is now full of pricey condos. Kind of ironic, isn't it?

In the years since, when decisions like that were made all around the country, we have seen this new phenomenon of homeless people in every city. Many of these are people who may have been some of these former patients who are not quite capable of coping on their own and obviously are not getting their meds. Those who cannot find beds in a shelter end up sleeping on the streets, in cardboard boxes, under bridges and so on.

Now, of course, I have also seen One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest and other such movies, and read books, and I know that not all of those mental hospitals were not great places. But it would seem that perhaps there should be more places for those people who simply cannot cope on their own. Some place where they can get treatment, counseling, medications and perhaps participate in working on a farm. It might do them a lot of good.

When I was growing up, and I grew up in a major city, we did not not have the homeless problem as we know it today. Kind of makes me wonder who were the crazy ones. The inmates or the ones who turned them all loose.

Gardening is good for body, mind and spirit.

1 comment:

Madam Butterfly said...

I happen to agree with you on this one Dan! I get pretty crazy myself in the winter, when I can't put my hands in the dirt(and Northwest Indiana is notorious for long winters!) Connecting with the earth in that way heals lots of ailments, in more ways than one! I have a feeling we are moving in the direction that will lead us ALL into making those connections again!

Much joy to you!
Dorie Bowlin