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Winter 2001 Home

Around the Pond


 

FUNNIEST MAN ON CAMPUS

ONE IN THREE MILLION

LET THE SUN SHINE THROUGH...

PICTURE YOURSELF ON A ROCK, BY A BONSAI...

EVERYWHERE A MOLIÈRE

FISH STORY

READING UNDER THE LINES

DEPT. OF DISTINCTIONS

IT STARTED WITH

THINKING ABOUT IT

JOEGOLDSTEIN, THE ASTEROID


JEAN HOSMER


PUBLIC HOUSE


STUDIO 204


OVER THE TOP

 

 

Picture yourself on a rock, by a bonsai…

Durfee Conservatory

SMOOTHING THE EDGES: John Tristan of Durfee Conservatory, left with bonsai, here showing visitors around. (Photos by Ben Barnhart)

Close your eyes, inhale deeply, exhale slowly, and imagine yourself in a tropical paradise with palm trees swaying overhead and the rich smells of damp earth and exotic plants rising up all around you.

     Relaxing, right? Makes all your troubles drop to the ground like ripe mangoes, right?

     Now step inside Durfee Conservatory. Leave New England’s iron-gray winter sky behind you, along with your midterms, your roommate’s annoying girlfriend, your own precariously unbalanced checkbook. Close your eyes, inhale deeply, exhale slowly and imagine yourself in a tropical paradise . . .

     JOHN TRISTAN ’73, the conservatory’s director, would like more of the campus community to seek out the soothing company of plants in the university’s historic greenhouse. Along with other horticultural therapists, Tristan is convinced that plants can have a salutary effect on people’s mental and physical states. And with the help of campus colleagues, he’s been working to prove these stress-reducing benefits scientifically.

     Last summer at an international symposium in Illinois, Tristan presented a paper, coauthored with nursing faculty MARY ANNE BRIGHT ’74, ’86G and JEANINE YOUNG-MASON and then-student CHANTALE DUGUAY ’99, citing the preliminary results of a horticultural therapy tour given to 137 students. In the 45-minute tour, small groups of students were encouraged to touch, feel, and smell various plants. Using guided imagery, Tristan helped place the students in imaginary scenes.

     A potted bonsai – a 25-year-old white-blooming serissa – includes a tiny Japanese figure and a pebbled path suggesting a stream bed. “Sit under the tree,” urges Tristan. “Look at the curve of the tree’s limbs, at the ancient wise man. These are safe places to go, to release your worries.” The students assess their stress levels on a scale of high to low at the beginning of the tour and again at the end. Stress is reported to be significantly lowered.

     The next step is to provide more objective measures: Participants will have respiration, pulse, and blood pressure measured on arrival and departure. Tristan hopes the results will help his hypothesis bear the beautiful fruit of scientific certainty.

– Marietta Pritchard ’73G

 
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