At forty years of age, I’ve amassed relatively few skills. Nothing to write home about, I can dig a hole like nobody’s business, grow a salad or walk you through the foreign nature of a fancy-pants restaurant menu. And why my stellar organizational skills have not won some sort of prestigious award is beyond me. However, the skill I rely on most, thank my lucky stars for and can’t imagine life without, is my ability to cope.
No matter what curves life throws my way, be it fear, uncertainty, despair or boredom, I can comfortably cope. All I need is a little time to assess, reconsider perspectives, regroup, and I’m usually good to go. Usually.
Last week, I voluntarily observed the four-day, local trial of The State of Georgia vs. Richard Norred. To say that it was an emotionally complex experience would be a complete understatement.
Long after the trial’s conclusion, I sat alone in the courthouse’s outdoor courtyard, listless and full of an unfamiliar kind of grief. It began to drizzle and yet I sat, continued to gaze into the trees’ canopy and waited for enough composure to safely drive home.
Not even the comforts of home provided relief. I slouched in my favorite chair, my legs dangled over the armrest, and peered out the window at nothing in particular for a good, long while. The myriad of unanswered questions required analyzation, but my prized coping skills were failing me.
I stared at the oscillating fan. Back and forth. Back and forth. Its rhythm carried me further and further from the state of mind I longed for. I became transfixed on the dust bunnies holding on to the fan’s grill for dear life amidst hurricane-strength winds. Back and forth. I should clean that, I thought.
Suddenly, I found myself standing in the middle of the kitchen with a towel in my hand, but forgetting exactly why. Nonetheless, I was finally upright.
I wandered outside into the garden, still in the lady-like shoes donned only for weddings and, now, courtroom trials, looking for inspiration...anything. The vivid magenta zinnias? Not so vivid anymore. The bird frolicking in the birdbath? Frivolous.
A noxious vine threatening to strangle my robust rosemary bush caught my attention. I reached inside, and with a degree of misplaced vengeance, yanked its roots from the soil.
Instantaneously, a gazillion volatile compounds, released from the herb’s essential oils, flooded my airways and I was awash with feelings of mental clarity and vigor. Within milliseconds, the haze lifted, revealing my two best friends, Reason and Motivation already busy regaining control and preparing for healthy coping to ensue. “Welcome back,” I sighed with relief.
Take rosemary, for example. When you brush against the plant, molecules from its essential oils (naturally produced by the plant to combat disease and the onslaught of pests), enter the air and are taken up into your nose. Molecules, that don’t produce a sneeze, are drawn into the nasal mucous, where they dissolve, and are taken by olfactory receptor cells into the olfactory bulb, located behind the nose. Their swift journey then takes them past the pineal and pituitary glands and straight into the limbic system of the brain, the part of the brain that supports functions like emotion, behavior, motivation and memory.
Now, understanding which part of the limbic system a particular molecule is sent to, and what it does when it gets there, is complex. Each essential-oil-producing plant, whether it be rosemary, geranium, chamomile, basil or a rose, release varyingly shaped molecules which combine with proteins found in the olfactory receptor cells differently, thus providing different results. Lucky for us, there are aromatherapists, experts in the field, who help the rest of us traverse these mind-boggling connections.
The verdict is in. Without a reasonable doubt, we, the gardeners, hereby find the garden guilty of mood-lifting in the first degree.
Happy garden huffing!