View From a Prairie Home

by Hege Hernfindahl, Columnist

Most mornings, I just sit and stare at the birds and the trees, at the flowers, at the sky. And how the branches of the trees and shrubs seem to dance in the breeze. My mind is empty and I am at peace. God’s world does that to me. Gives me peace.

Research has shown that nature and green spaces are restorative and healing places for people of all ages. It calms the mind and lifts the mood. To watch the dance of hummingbirds, of butterflies. Of bees as they fly from flower to colorful flower to get nectar.

I was amazed and thrilled as I visited a special green space last week. I was volunteering for the annual (hopefully) garden and quilt tour that highlights the many talents in our community. The ability to take cloth and make something beautiful and practical and also to take a piece of dirt and fill it with flowers and shrubs that attract bees and butterflies. The creativity and patience it takes to make quilts and also plan and maintain a green space fills me with wonder. Quilts to enjoy and also to snuggle under. Gardens to gaze at. It all makes life a little easier. And as we age, life gets increasingly difficult. Our memory isn’t what it used to be and we worry it will go completely. Our bodies can’t do what we want it to do and we lose people we love.

Many of us might not be able to live alone anymore and we have places like assisted or independent living facilities to move into. If we are lucky, we will find a facility in the community we have lived in most of our lives. People we know live here and we no longer feel so alone.

Good people who volunteer to make local health care (which includes elder care) in our community better; Swift County Benson Health Services Foundation in conjunction with the Hospital Auxiliary decided that the people who lived in Scandi Haven Village needed a green space. They visualized a space where residents could hang out or just watch from their windows. To make them feel better.

And The Green Space came to be. The boards made a conscious decision to only hire local people to do the work. Together with volunteers they created “The Green Space.” The funds came from both fundraisers and private donations. There is electricity for lights, water and green grass. There are walkways smooth and wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers and also for friends to walk side by side. There are comfortable places to sit, one of which has a pergola for shade. There are raised gardens that enable the residents to help with the planting without having to bend down. There are shrubs to attract birds, butterflies and bees. There are bird feeders and wind chimes. It is truly an oasis. Patients on the south-east wing of the hospital can watch The Green Space from their windows. A friend who was recovering from surgery said he felt better being able to watch nature from his bed.

I picture in my mind a beautiful July morning. The sun is rising as a couple walks out to The Green Space. They are arm-in-arm. She needs guidance since she has dementia and gets easily confused. The flowers are nodding their heads in the slight southerly wind. The hummingbirds are busy flying from flower to flower their wings making the distinct buzzing sound. Dew glistens on the vivid green grass, but they walk safely on the walkway to the pergola where there is a comfortable sofa. They sit down. He takes her hand and gently kisses it as they look at the paradise around them. He points to the sights and talks to her as her anxiety and agitation lessen. They don’t lament over yesterday or worry about tomorrow. They just are. In this moment of peace and comfort.