Oliver Sacks On The Healing Power Of Gardens
A neurologist and writer, Sacks noted the importance of green areas to psychological and physiological health.
Oliver Sacks’ dazzling sensibility (poignantly lucid in a letter he wrote as his own death drew near was also affected by one of humankind’s more symbolic spaces, the garden. At some point, the garden even became part of the treatments he issued. “In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical ‘therapy’ to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens,” he wrote. His findings has been confirmed by a number of studies which have pointed out, among other things, that green areas improve brain function.
In his book, Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales (2019), a posthumously published collection of essays, one can find traces of his final obsessions —from ferns, lemurs, and swimming, to the last cases he treated of dementia, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. In one of the essays, “Why We Need Gardens,” the London-born neurologist emphasizes the healing qualities of such spaces, on a psychological and on a physiological level. He doesn’t fail to mention how necessary such spaces were to his own creative mind, as a writer (something Virginia Woolf knew, too).
The calm that gardens induce, the way they fill us with vigor; these are qualities indispensable to collective and personal health, according to Sacks. He reported on several cases of patients with disorders whose contact with the natural environment miraculously alleviated or reduced their symptoms, in some cases more forcefully than drugs. A patient with Tourette’s syndrome, affected by severe verbal and gestural tics, had his symptoms disappear in the middle of a desert trek. A woman with Parkinson’s could only move her body normally while in a garden. Patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s who’d forgotten how to do almost every daily task, suddenly remembered everything when they were in front of a bed of flowers.
In his essay, Sacks explains that nature seems to have not just calming effects, but it organizes the human brain, too. This was something Sacks always found inexplicable. It was these mysteries, precisely, those of the human mind and those of nature, which made him live and write as he did, full of passion, and always moved by a deep, loving feeling:
Clearly, nature calls to something very deep in us. Biophilia, the love of nature and living things, is an essential part of the human condition. Hortophilia, the desire to interact with, manage, and tend nature, is also deeply instilled in us. The role that nature plays in health and healing becomes even more critical for people working long days in windowless offices, for those living in city neighborhoods without access to green spaces, for children in city schools, or for those in institutional settings such as nursing homes. The effects of nature’s qualities on health are not only spiritual and emotional but physical and neurological. I have no doubt that they reflect deep changes in the brain’s physiology, and perhaps even its structure.
Image: Public domain
7 Recommendations for Organizing Your Library
For the true bibliophile, few things are more important than finding a book from within your library.
Red tea, the best antioxidant beverage on earth
Red tea is considered to be the most unusual of teas because it implies a consistently different preparation process. ––It is believed that its finding came upon surprisingly when traditional green
A brief and fascinating tour of the world's sands
To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. - William Blake What are we standing on? The ground beneath our feet
Strengthen your memory with rosemary oil
For thousands of years rosemary oil has been traditionally admired and used due to its many properties. In the Roman culture, for example, it was used for several purposes, among them cleansing, as
Literature as a Tool to Build Realities
Alain de Botton argues that great writers are like lenses through which we can see an infinite array of possibilities.
Mandelbrot and Fractals: Different Ways of Perceiving Space
Mathematics has always placed a greater emphasis on algebra, a “purer” version of itself, one that is more rational at least. Perhaps like in philosophy, the use of a large number knotted concepts in
Luis Buñuel’s Perfect Dry Martini
The drums of Calanda accompanied Luis Buñuel throughout his life. In his invaluable memoirs, published under the Buñuel-esque title, My Last Sigh, an entire chapter is dedicated to describing a
A Brief Manual of Skepticism, Courtesy of Carl Sagan
Whether or not you’re dedicated to science, these tips to identify fallacies apply to any form of rigorous thinking.
How to Evolve from Sadness
Rainer Maria Rilke explored the possible transformations that sadness can trigger in human beings.
Alan Watts, A Discreet And Charming Philosopher Of The Spirit
British thinker Alan Watts was one of the most accessible and entertaining Western interpreters of Oriental philosophy there have been.