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Dig I must!


From 1950 to 1964 I spent my entire childhood living on the same corner in a two-story house--with a small property space--nestled in the quiet town of Keyport, which is located within New Jersey's Raritan Bay area. Most young boys my age wanted to be a cowboy, jet pilot or even "President of the United States"; but I was always going to be a farmer. At dinner time, I would flatten down my mashed potatoes with a fork and plant corn, peas or lima beans, and anything else available at the time, before eating everything on my plate. All chileren play with their food, but now that I think back on the matter, it does seem a little strange!

When I was about nine years old, I stumbled upon a weekly television program entitled--you guessed it--"The Modern Farmer." It came on at dawn and I would sneak downstairs while everyone was asleep to watch it. Then, afterwards, I would creep outside to sniff the distinctive aroma of tomato plants at one end of my tiny vegetable plot. This, shall we say, eccentric behavior thrilled by grandmother who was raised on a dairy farm. As we worked together in my garden, grandmom would tell me stories of her life on farms, and I would hang on to each word.

It turned out that my childhood experiences and enthusiasms later saved me from despair...

Three years into my marriage, (with one son, and an almost completed house on a small piece of wooded property), I was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. My world seemed to fragment, but I decided right then and there that I would try not to alter basic plans, only the way I'd solve my problems. We completed building the house and, of course, I immediately established a garden out back not realizing the role it would play in my emotional salvation...

As you well know, in a disabled person's life, all kinds of accidents and incidents occur frequently within any given day. My answer to such problems tends to be to scream over stupid mistakes or verbally abuse myself (as if that really helps)!

But in the midst of my turmoil, a small voice rings out reminding me of my agricultural bloodline. I wheel over to my garden that has evolved, over many years, into an accessible growing plot filled with flowers and vegetables.

This small parcel of land, scaled down to meet my requirements, is an oasis of peaceful relaxation, a place to go for sanctuary freed from barriers. Here I can compete in a society that's tailored for the more able-bodied person. Here, I am creative. I am a nourisher. I am an accomplisher...

A few years ago, I was forced to leave my position as an industrial sewing machine mechanic. As I began to devote extra time to gardening, my wife Kathy noticed a complete change in my attitude--and I could see it, too. There is a rejuvenating quality in gardening that helps to heal the body and soul.

Now that I've attained the ripe old age of 39, time is slipping backwards for me, and I see life--as if in my childhood--from a completely different perspective. When the borage plants blossom in a profusion of fragrantly blue-floreted stars, beneficial insects (the pollinators) are attracted to them in great numbers. Quickly I call my two sons over to see a 1/2" hover fly, suspended in mid-air. While I am preparing the garden for fall planting, an extremely brave squirrel comes near to scold me for digging up his acorns. Seizing the opportunity, Kathy points to me and says, "Look, he found a big nut!" I laugh, then go back to my work...

I am at peace.

What horticultural therapists advocate professionally, I came to through my lineage. How lucky! Now, if I could only apply what I've learned outdoors to my life when I'm house-bound!
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes gardening tips from multiple sclerosis patient
Author:Dehnz, Jess H., Jr.
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:The mind and MS.
Next Article:Rebuilding myelin from scratch.

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