A Nature for Health and Happiness

Millions of people have been sending their thoughts out into the world about Robin Williams’ recent death, and so, I have to chime in here, too:

How can anyone find happy thoughts

when the funniest man on Earth cannot find enough happy thoughts to stay alive?

Because, depression can take anyone, just like cancer, diabetes or a bad accident.

Gratitude. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Just to make it clear, I, like billions of others, was a huge Robin Williams fan. He was entirely and absolutely awesome and I am so very grateful for his existence. I am also very grateful for his strong fight against depression that he must have kept going for so many years.

I want to talk a bit about the media coverage and the way some said he died:

The term “committed suicide” is very archaic and intimates a crime. “Killed by/ died from/ succumbed to suicide/depression” should be used now instead.

However, I prefer “died from depression”, as it takes away the word suicide, which means “to kill oneself” or “the act of intentionally causing one’s own death”. With severe depression, I think the Depression, the Disease, is causing the death, not the person. The person IS NOT the disease, the person HAS the disease.

I send out my warmest thoughts, hugs and condolences to all families and friends of people who have died from depression. It is a wretched illness.

And to those who are fighting depression right now, I have some words:

Keep fighting, patiently try to wait to see each tomorrow and never give up… because, eventually, (and I speak from extensive personal experience), it can get better.

Remember to Look Up! Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

I have been very close to the devastating effects of depression (alongside other concurrent medical conditions) my whole life. I count myself as a lucky survivor. Without divulging the messy details of my own experience with this disease, (I might still want some fresh information about my life to use in my future memoirs) I can honestly say, I truly know how bad it can get, and I am also living proof it can get better… with time.

I am lucky to say I am Not the fourth person in my family to die from depression. And I promise I never will be, because I have healed somewhat and found effective weapons to use against depression, every day.

My weapons against my family’s genetic predisposition to depression are as follows:

  • Finding purpose and meaning to my existence and working for it like a mission,
  • Speaking, feeling and exhibiting daily gratitude for the existence of so many wonderful people (and dogs) in my life and the things they do,
  • A daily routine of healthy habits such as: a healthy diet, proper hygiene, exercise, keeping a clean home, regular naps, stretching sessions or “yoga”, meditative self-hypnosis, positive self-talk and quite importantly, “work before play” -procrastination of any chores, when one is physically capable of them, is a recipe for negative feelings in the future and often a provocation of feelings of depression.
  • Having family, pets, house-plants and gardens: surrounding yourself with living organisms that will not survive without your dutiful care is a great incentive to get up each day!
  • Fighting for/supporting/learning about the preservation of our environment, worldwide health and earth’s natural wonders – concentrating on things that really matter both on small and large scales.
  • Surrounding myself by nature and revering it as much as possible: hearing bird-songs and insects, listening to tree-leaves rustling, watching flowers blossom and whither, regarding sunrises and sunsets, hugging trees, spotting the moon and constellations on clear nights… all these are crucial for me to nurture my inner happiness.
  • Getting out in the sun: sunlight therapy is a must!
  • Physically creating anything that has a lasting, positive effect and impact is also crucial: laying down stone pathways, planting long-lasting herb and flower gardens, mowing a group of winding trails through a wild field of young saplings and tall grass, photography, drawing, painting, sculpting and writing… creating anything that can potentially last for decades or more, can sometimes be as therapeutic as medicines.
  • Concentrating on future dates, that may or may not have significant meanings to you: for instance, I once focused on surviving until 1999, then I focused on surviving until 2005, then it was 2012, now it is 2022…

Field Trails. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Entrance to the Kitchen Garden. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

The kitchen Garden was a long thought-out project for us that took years to finally get around to doing. We were working so hard on research and development of the Okapi Fan Control Systems, that landscaping around our home became low on the priority list.

However, this year, we found the time and energy and the results were fantastic! The whole area of the kitchen garden used to be just overgrown and unused, (except sometimes as a naughty-dog toilet!). I dug up the 6 inch deep sod, turned the soil, laid out where the paths and planting areas should be. We gathered the river-stones from my parent’s riverside farmland, Julian laid the gravel around them (raked up from an abandoned portion of our old driveway) and he inset the wood-stumps.

I like to sit in the middle of our new garden and think about the years that led up to this accomplishment.

Kitchen Garden's First Year. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Most of the perennials we grew from seed or transplant this year. The mint patch and chives are old transplants from a friend’s garden. They took off this year after some serious weeding and care. I have some mint harvesting and preservation to do! The sage, thyme, oregano and basil started indoors from seed, and now they have already filled out their plots. (I use them every day in my morning eggs!) I then planted: carrots, rainbow chard, lettuce, spinach, kale, yellow beans and bell-peppers from seed. From the local greenhouse nursery we got the seedling cabbage and tomato plants. I also made a border around the outside of the kitchen garden and planted a wild-flower mixture of seeds.

Gardening is good for the soul. It gives purpose, on top of the many purposes we already have in life. Gardens give you something to look at and check on every day, and if you look closely enough, you really do see them growing. I find this extremely rewarding and reviving: much better than TV.

Growing up on a farm, we had giant gardens every year. Now that I finally have my own, it feels like one of my life’s top accomplishments.

And, I am excited to expand and add more garden plots next year!

That very statement above is proof recovery from severe depression is possible. It does take time, and it is possible!

Blue Flowers are Special. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc

Three very special and blue family-members: my grandfather, his son (my uncle) and my cousin all died from depression.

I hope to never see another family member succumb to this disease. But like cancer, sometimes, despite the healthiest of lifestyles and the best treatments available, the patient still doesn’t survive depression.

And it’s never their fault.

We also do not fully understand the causes of depression, but we know for certain they have a huge basis in changes that occur in the chemical and structural make-up of the brain and body. There are many quite valid and supported theories that depression can be caused by short-term and long term infections, malnutrition, exposure to toxins, epigenetic changes resulting from short-term and long-term traumas both internal and environmental, inherited genetics, hormonal imbalances, many concurrent diseases and other yet-to-be fully understood causes of physical changes that affect mood, cognition, behavior, sensations…. Depression is much more than just a “mental-health” condition.

In the words of my grandfather, a practicing medical doctor, whom I never had the chance to meet:

“In the future, we will discover that behind many mental disorders are actual physical causes, that will someday be treatable.” – 1970’s, Thomas C. Donald, M.D., who died from depression.

So, never give up! The breakthroughs over the past many decades we have already made in many forms of treatment have been incredible! Every year we discover new and clever ways of helping those in need discover how they can become a healed and revived person.

If you are feeling blue, consider trying to live green.

Take a few simple steps toward this nice color. You may find it helps, just a little.

Have You Found Your Purpose? Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

There are a million ways to get greener.  It can be as simple as shopping consciously, using reusable bags, less plastic, creating less waste, using less electricity or heating fuels, driving less, buying local produce or growing your own, going for hikes and appreciating nature, or helping educate others about unique ways of getting more grounded, more in touch with the earth beneath our feet.

Live as is there is a tomorrow...because there is a tomorrow. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Green living certainly isn’t a cure for severe depression,

but is can definitely nurture a nature for health and happiness.

Live Green, Live Well. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

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Our Living Family Heirloom

 

 

Spring has its delights.

The pussy willows beckon to be petted, fiddleheads curl me batty, spring-peepers drive Julian nuts

and songbirds serenade us all day long.

Spring can seem so incredible that it can be a wonder how we survived the winter.

Spring is also that time of the year for mother’s day, father’s day, reunions, weddings, births, birthdays, graduations and gatherings: an exhilarating season!

Yet, what I love most about spring, is watching my family heirloom start to blossom.

It lives in our bathroom: a warm, moist environment, perfect for her tropical roots. She gets plenty of eastern morning sunlight, and spends all winter tenaciously growing long tentacles, that once having reached the ceiling, then begin crawling across it.

Spring is all about nurturing the next generations and revering the past generations.

I am usually not one to dwell too dearly on things like dresses, blankets, photos, old plates, jewelery, watches and paintings, yet I do absolutely cherish these objects from my family’s past. I love imagining the people who came before me using and living with these objects and then deciding with deep gravity to pass them on to the next generation.

An heirloom, a thing that shackles a family history together, is a chain of love and care.

The most important living family heirloom, which I might cherish even more than this remarkable plant that lives in our bathroom, would be my chain of genetic code.

Your DNA can be a strange concept of an heirloom to grasp, unless you simply hold your own hand.

My family genetic code is full of wonderous and frightening things:

strange abilities in academics, the arts and athletics; perseverance and dedication in almost everything we attempt; outstanding levels of compassion and empathy; yet also with startling amounts of sadness and despair that have terminally gripped too many of us by the throat; and then there are those mysterious, incurable  diseases that have left a few of us with joint, skin, belly and neurological problems…

Our 100 yr-old “night-blooming Cereus” plant is our living family heirloom.

Our night-blooming Cereus has spanned up to 5 generations in our family. My great-great-grandma acquired it on her travels and handed down a cutting of it to her daughter. (Take a single fat, juicy leaf from a Cereus, stick it in some soil and soon you have your clone.) She then passed a cutting from her plant down to my Grandma. Grandma’s grew large and strong, also. She passed down a cutting from hers to my parents.

I received my cutting from my parents’ plant in my early twenties as a celebration of living semi-independently.

Receiving my piece of the family heirloom was a very precious milestone.

I stuck that leaf in the soil, added water, watched and waited. It has grown into the strongest looking Cereus plant I have seen so far: luscious and green, fat and juicy (as compared to my sister’s cutting, my parents’ and my grandma’s). I think it does so well because I have pruned it frequently or more likely, I have just been very, very lucky.

We often get 7-9 blossoms a year, which is quite a privilege when raising this tropical plant (even though it is always indoors) through the bitterly cold winters of Nova Scotia.

Growing up with my parents’ tentacled plant was fascinating. We got to stay up late on the nights it bloomed, celebrating, watching and smelling it unfold. But our old farm-house was chilly and well shaded by giant trees. Their plant only bloomed about 1-3  times a year, if we were lucky. Its leaves have always been a little narrow and pale.

So here it is: a little piece of my ancestry.

This was taken yesterday, the morning before the first blossom of 2014.

Then came another gorgeous, spring sunset, but my attention was elsewhere:

for as night falls, the Cereus opens.

It remains open all night, emitting an intense perfume that fills the house.

For a night-bloomer, it has an unusally pleasant odor: fruity and fresh, flowery and kind.

It creeps open into the early morning, hitting its maximum size just after midnight.

Everyone smiles and seems excited. My step-daughter swoons, the dogs are cheerful and relaxed. Julian then sleeps so deeply and peacefully, it is as if all is simply perfect in our world.

It makes me feel absolutely elated: full of tinglings of love, gratitude, exuberation and generous satisfaction.

The aroma could very easily be mildly intoxicating. Some say extracts from the plant and its fruit can cause mild hallucinations (we have yet to see ours make any fruit), and were once also used to treat heart conditions.

A relative of the dragon fruit, the Cereus, a type of cactus, also known as the “Queen of the Night”, is exotic and full of mystery.


By sunrise, it closes.

It is done, spent, exhausted and limp.

I imagine the whole plant is resting very deeply today, after such an energetic night.

The night the Cereus blossoms is always a monumental event:

it is a night to remember all who came before us and all who may come after us.


May we all leave a legacy of compassion and empathy:

one that smells sweet and clean,

that is beautiful to behold,

and most importantly,

 strong and enduring. 

And there are more to come this year!

Already, another bud is beginning to grow!