Picture yourself on a rock, by a bonsai
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 Englands iron-gray winter sky behind you, along with your midterms, your roommates 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 conservatorys director, would like more of the campus community to seek out the soothing company of plants in the universitys historic greenhouse. Along with other horticultural therapists, Tristan is convinced that plants can have a salutary effect on peoples mental and physical states. And with the help of campus colleagues, hes 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 trees 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