Coping with Life's Blows by Being "Adopted by Nature"

by Connie Saindon, MA, MFT, CTS

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An "herb" affair was held this weekend at a local park. I joined my daughter, Cathy and my "adopted" daughter, Nancy, for a look see. I was the most impressed with an inspiring talk on Herbs by Pat Welsh. The title of this article came from a phrase she said. She explained that her parents weren't raised to be parents, no fault of theirs, they just weren't raised that way. They were rich and suffered the "big crash" during the depression.

"Mother divorced dad as she couldn't handle being married to someone who didn't make money;" she explained, in her matter-of-fact way. She says that she and her siblings were left in England, when she was seven for a whole year. Her mother had to leave and went to America during the war. "Nature adopted me;" she reports with glee.

Even in such turbulence, she remembers a happy childhood. Not able to connect emotionally to either of her parents nor her nurse and being English, she couldn't complain about anything; she found solace and happiness in her environment. Listening to her, you get the impression that this knowledge is one that she has gained by looking back on her life. Pat tells about her emotional connection to nature in her recently released book: All My Edens (1996). I've just bought it and am looking forward to reading it. Her love and ease around plants shows her deep passion. One minute she was hugging and stroking a rosemary plant and the next minute she took and knife and hacked off half the root-ball. She would then find one, longer root and wrap it around the base of the plant to strangle it to set in a dish for a bonsai arrangement.

Her childhood set the stage for her emotional connection with plants. When she was later brought to American to be with her mother, she found herself in Hollywood with manicured lawns and studio sets. She felt no connection to them. One day when she went up into the hills and walked among the sagebrush. She was flooded childhood memories from the smells she encountered. So far away from her childhood home in England, she found her place again.

Currently, life has dealt her a couple of painful blows. Her spirit seems undaunted, nevertheless. Her husband died last year and she finds solace for her grief in her gardens and work with plants. They provide her with the emotional nourishment and she trusts they will be there as they have been in existence for centuries. Her second blow came when she had a bad knee. She now has to have a "helper" assist her in her work as she suffers continued problems from a failed knee replacement operation. Her remarkable forgiveness is demonstrated again when she says: "Doctors make mistakes, which happens; so you just get on with your life."

The spirit of this woman and the home she finds in her "nature family" is a reminder to us all to use and find the source of our own resilience. Coming from troubled, families or troubled times and being delivered life blows does not mean they can not be overcome.

Life's blows do not always rob us of all the joys of our childhood nor the pleasures and meaning in our lives. Like Pat, life must be dealt with; there is little escape from adversity. Blows that seem unbearable are especially challenging. Our hope though can sometimes be found in our individual passions which may be blinded from us in our most turbulent times.

When Pat Welsh was introduced today, she was labeled the Julia Child of gardening. She has published another book that she reported today has sold over 40,000 copies, Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening,1992. In addition to writing for Sunset Magazine for years, producing videos for Home and Garden Magazine, she now has some shows on the Home and Garden TV channel.

Finding ways to heal your traumatic blows is a long term process. Your journey may not lead you to a discovery of being adopted by nature. I hope this article suggests some ideas for your own resources for healing and meaningful spirit. Please let us hear from you about ways that you have found to be passed on to others to help them in finding their own personal resiliencies.

4/15/98

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Connie Saindon is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Trauma Specialist with offices in Mission Valley in San Diego and La Jolla, CA.

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