By P. Berman, K. Hecht & A. Hosack
I don’t understand who I am. I feel so torn up inside- except with the plants. I can feel comfortable around them!
Larry came back to live at the monastery last week and most of the time he feels tortured by questions about himself. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why is he here? Two months have gone by, since his accident. While his physical rehabilitation exercises have helped him regain physical strength, none of his brain exercises have brought back a single memory. While some of the memories he had lost were bound to have been bad, to have no memories at all was so alarming. The closest thing to memories he has were feelings of familiarity he gained doing small everyday things. When he drank coffee, he felt as if he must have done this countless times before. Back at the monastery, the outside courtyard and his bedroom feels familiar, yet none of the people do. They all look like strangers – yet they know his name.
Everyone is kind to him. But they all seem to have so many questions. He has no answers. Only here amongst the plants does he feel safe. The plants don’t ask him any questions he can’t answer. They don’t look disappointed that he doesn’t want to talk.
Ted was laying on his back in the courtyard when Larry finished with the garden and was shutting the gate. Larry heard Ted swear and looked to see his hand touching the ground all around a tool that was just beyond Ted’s reach. Larry knelt down and put the wrench into Ted’s groping hand. Ted just went on with his work, as if nothing had happened. He understood that Larry wasn’t ready to talk and just left him alone.
Ted had picked him up at the hospital when it was time to return to the monastery. He knew Larry was struggling to remember his past, so he had filled the time back with stories of the different car projects they had worked on. Larry appreciated Ted saying he had been a great assistant, but somehow it was even more spooky, than not remembering anything, was to have this strange man knowing so much about him.
As the days became weeks, Larry’s time began to follow a regular schedule. He got up at 6, had breakfast with the monks and participated in morning prayers. Then, he worked in the garden until lunch time. After lunch, he often had to go directly to sleep for a long nap. Ted would wake him at five so he could eat dinner and attend evening prayers before falling to sleep again.
Everyone is so patient with me. Why is it so hard for me to be patient like them? Why does my head always hurt?
Larry was amazed at how calm things always seemed to be. Even though he wasn’t talking much, inside his brain was rushing around in circles, trying to remember something. His head either felt completely blank or so full of images he didn’t understand that his brain ached. His only sense of peace came in the garden. His back might ache if he re-potted too many plants, but just sitting still and looking at the garden was enough to make his aches and pains disappear.
The abbot had explained to all the monks that Larry needed a great deal of rest and as much help as they could give him remember who he was. Slowly, they had been reteaching him their names. The monk who oversaw the garden was slowly teaching him the names of all the plants and how to care for them. Larry felt better in the garden than anywhere else.
Is it strange that Larry is more comfortable around plants than people?
Have you ever felt that way?
There is some evidence that just being around green spaces, whether you work on the plants or not is good for your mental health. To learn how greenery and plants are good for people read: