By Anna Campomanes
To hear Jim Embry talk about horticultural therapy is to hear about how humanity is inextricably connected to the environment. In our times, nature is often thought of as separate from the human world, but in Embry’s words, “we need the environment, it doesn’t need us” and horticultural therapy is all about reconnecting people to the elements that we cannot live without: air, water and soil. It is no wonder folks express feelings of being reset and recharged in a garden after being in such intimate proximity to what literally sustains life on this planet.
Jim Embry also talks about another fabricated dichotomy: between science and spirituality. A traditional Newtonian western science perspective often ignores other ways of knowing - anything not proven by a peer-reviewed paper is suspect at best and utter nonsense at worse. However, that mentality misses a lot of folk knowledge accumulated by people who aren’t in academia, but in essence science is just repeated observation and trial and error anyway. So, Nana’s tried and true method of perfect pie crust or the Farmers Almanac may not appear in the “Journal of Biochemical and Microbial Toxicology”, but they are handy and reliable observations. The feeling you get in a natural space may not be quantified, but you know it exists.
Perhaps in the future of quantum science we can understand scientifically, through string theory, about how vibrations affect the world around us. But in the meantime, we can trust in that gut-feeling of what is good for us - breathing in the scent of soil after a rain, the taste of a meal made with love, and the earth spinning beneath your feet.