(Hospital) room with a view

While looking for good pictures of scary hospital rooms for the last posting, I came across the image above. The caption reads: “View from Ron’s hospital room at Good News Clinic and Hospital in Banaue [Philippines].” 

Let’s see, brick wall or tropical paradise, hm, let me think about that…

Thanks to Uncommon Photographers for this image. 

Happy New Year!

Image courtesy Henry Domke Fine Art

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to a healthy, peaceful, and joyous 2009.

The Therapeutic Landscapes Database – International Visitors

Today I took a look at our “stat counter,” the tool that gives information about who visits the Therapeutic Landscapes Database and Blog. Of the hundred-plus hits so far today, most were from the United States, but we’ve also had visitors from Sweden, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, Israel, Nepal, Australia, and Canada. For all the griping we do about technology and the internet, it can be a pretty useful and wonderful tool, when used for good. 

Stepping out the front door

Photo by Henry Domke

The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm that I belong to, Common Ground Farm, publishes a monthly newsletter by and for its members. The following excerpt, by the farm’s educational director, struck me as relevant, and served as a reminder (again) that although Evidence-Based Design (EBD) is critical in this field, it’s important to balance the academic and the quantitative with individual, qualitative experiences that come straight from the heart:

This past weekend my son and I went for a walk on the Sierra Trail [near Beacon, New York]…He wanted to find animal bones and I was looking for inspiration for one of my upcoming children’s workshops on Animals in Winter. Neither of us went home disappointed. He found the skull of a small mammal next to a decayed tree stump…and I was able to spot pine cones, acorns, all sorts of berries and a magnificent array of mushrooms which will provide sustenance to the wildlife in the woods this winter. When we returned I realized we had found a few other things too: We were both calm, content, relaxed, tired and more joyful than we were when we left the house. 

I should know by now that the hardest part of a hike is taking that first step out the front door.

Don’t Forget to Vote on Tuesday!

I don’t usually get political on this blog, but here goes:
Tomorrow, 11/4/08, is Election Day in the United States. So get out there! Make sure your friends and family get out there, too! Call people you don’t know to remind them and help them get to the polls (phone drives are going on today and tomorrow). I’m not going to tell you who to vote for (even though part of me really wants to) because that doesn’t feel right for this blog and organization. 
If you don’t know whether or not you’re registered or where you’re polling place is, or how to get there, here’s a handy website: http://canivote.org.
It’s easy to forget that people actually died in the fight to win the right to vote. If we do nothing else, we should exercise that right when we can. If you can do more, now’s the time. You might just be a part of making history.

Halloween Posting: Scary Stuff

Some things are scarier than ghosts and goblins. 
Hospitals lit by buzzing fluorescent lights; patient rooms with no windows; the sound of machines beeping and shoes squeaking on cold linoleum floors; nursing homes where “clients” don’t have anywhere outside to go to feel the breeze and the warm sun on their faces, watch the birds, smell the flowers, take a stroll, even dig in the dirt; health clinics where the staff can’t escape for a few minutes, take a break, exercise, re-connect with what’s important to them; “healing gardens” that consist of a few spindly potted plants and a standard picnic bench where people go to smoke; “award-winning” outdoor spaces in healthcare facilities that are designed for the architect’s ego, that aren’t based on research, and that don’t serve the people for whom they were designed; children’s gardens made out of plastic that have no design element other than that they are “lawsuit-proof;” kids who would rather stay inside because “that’s where all the outlets are;” parents who don’t let their kids play outside because they are afraid of bad people and scary insects; people who don’t know or care where their food comes from; cookie-cutter landscapes that could be anywhere and do nothing to provide a sense of place; outdoor spaces that make you feel worse after spending time in them instead of better. 

Downright spooky. These are some examples of the scary stuff I, and many people like me, are working to ameliorate (or get rid of altogether!). Here at the Therapeutic Landscapes Resource Center, our mission is to provide information, education, and inspiration to designers, health and human service providers, and everyone interested in this subject so that we have fewer examples like the ones above. We strive to create meaningful outdoor spaces that nurture, rejuvenate, connect, fascinate, inspire, and even heal. Happy Halloween!

– Naomi Sachs, ASLA
Executive Director, Therapeutic Landscapes Resource Center

Petition to the Surgeon General to Promote Outdoor Time

Photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation

Wow, you know there’s a movement afoot when the National Wildlife Federation starts circulating a petition urging the Surgeon General to “promote the health benefits of daily, unstructured outdoor play for children and families.” I got the news about this petition from the Green Hour, a website and blog from the NWF encouraging families to get their kids outside in “unstructured play and interaction with the natural world,” even if just for an hour a day. I signed up a few months ago, and every week they email me news and great ideas about getting kids (and even grown-ups) outside. 

Must be part of Richard Louv’s “No Child Left Inside” campaign, which I wrote about back in February and March (see archives on the right). Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, really touched a nerve in this country, and has since ignited a powerful movement. If you haven’t seen his organization’s website yet, go there now: the Children and Nature Network. But come back here after to sign the petition!

This is an exciting time for people in landscape architecture, city planning, public health, and education (to mention just a few professions) – it seems that the public is finally catching on to the idea that maybe closing our doors and hearts to the outside natural world isn’t such a good thing (as comfortable as that AC is…), and maybe our kids are missing out on something that many of us took for granted but benefited from in ways that we are only beginning to understand. 

I spent most of my childhood playing in the Nipmuck woods and Fenton River, both walking distance from my house, in rural Connecticut; these experiences instilled in me a deep love of and respect for nature, and I’m sure had a lot to do with my choice of landscape architecture as a profession. 

If you want to sign the petition, click HERE, and if this is a cause you believe in, then spread the word!

Here are a couple of excerpts:

We the undersigned urge you to issue a Surgeon General “Call to Action” to promote the health benefits of daily, unstructured outdoor play for children and families. 

Regardless of age, being in nature helps us lower our stress levels, get exercise and relax our minds. For children, contact with green space and natural settings improves their ability to learn, hones their agility and balance and can significantly calm those with anxiety and mood disorders. And, a childhood connection with the outdoors can lead to a lifelong ethic of respect for a clean and healthy environment.

Today’s kids and families are missing out on nature. Recent research shows that the amount of time U.S. children spend outside has declined by 50 percent in the last two decades alone! Meanwhile, the rate of childhood obesity has skyrocketed, and children now spend 44.5 hours a week in front of some type of electronic screen. We find this trend, which goes by the name, “nature-deficit” alarming. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware of nature-deficit and the implications for their own health. 

From Farm to…Healthcare Center

A farmers market at a hospital? To many of us, this idea seems as incongruous as hospital gowns that leave you with a shred of dignity. Still, the trend is catching on. It’s another example of several movements – patient-centered care,* the nutritional and obesity crisis, and the “locavore” movement (see my post from 8/27) – converging to create some meaningful and healthy change. 
The Project for Public Spaces has featured farmers markets, including the Kaiser Farmers Markets (pictured above) as places that build community, facilitate local economic sustainability, and improve public health. Dr. Preston Maring spearheaded the campaign to bring farmers markets to Kaiser Permanente in California, which began in 2003. Here’s a nice article and photo essay about it, in the Journal of Life Sciences. That success has encouraged similar models all over the country, from Indiana to South Carolina to New York.
To me, farmers markets at hospitals and other health care facilities are another good example (though perhaps slightly more abstract) of “landscapes for health.” See my postings from 8/23 and 8/24 for a discussion about that term and the term “healing gardens.”
If you’re interested in getting a farmers market going at a hospital near you, read this article, “Farmers’ Markets and CSAs on Hospital Grounds.” published by Healthcare Without Harm, for a primer.
*I linked “patient-centered care” above to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, but if you google the term, you can find many more examples. If you want to get the feeling rather than just the words, go to the Planetree site, www.planetree.org.

Community gardens, CSAs, and other “locavore” delights

Spring Has Sprung (and the blog posts have become few and far between…)

This is the problem with running your own design firm and running your own non-profit organization: In the winter, things are relatively manageable and you start a blog, intending to post every day-ish; in the spring, design and supervision of installation takes priority, and the website and blog get shoved to the back burner. Gotta make hay while the sun shines. So, I’ve been neglecting my blog and even got a comment about it! Thank you, Angelina!

I had a great query recently about plant lists for Gardens for the Blind, and I’ve been compiling that list, so look for that in the near future, as well as some good examples of built works. In my research travels I’ve come across a wealth of information about Sensory Gardens in general, and I’ll discuss that aspect of Landscapes for Health, too. Soon, I promise!