As I walked through the park on another drippy rain morning my eyes were drawn to the weeping willow tree in the park. I always find it comforting to walk past, and for me it’s the stand out tree in the park. Part of the reason for the feeling of comfort goes back to being a young child – in our primary school we had a huge weeping willow tree on the school field and a highlight for me was when the weather heated up and we were allowed to have story time in the cool shade of the willow.
It’s a memory which always stayed with and often springs to mind as I see willows trailing their branches into rivers along river banks. I have some great memories of being a child and exploring nature – we had a reasonably large garden where myself and my brother were allowed to run wild. We would spend hours making balls out of the clay we would dig up and making pretend meals out of flowers in our outdoor kitchen. I still feel a pang for those times when I visit my parents garden. As children we became convinced that one of the bushes in the garden was magic – it would often ‘deliver’ items for out imaginary games such as pottery or bricks which we could grind down into dust for our clay models.
I presently work within an NHS service which supports people with dementia, I am only in Admin so can’t purport to be an expert, but I understand that reminiscence therapy can be really helpful to people. Last year I read about a project called ‘Woodland senses’ by the Woodland Trust. Their volunteer advert stated the following:
The Woodland Senses Volunteer would take the woodland to people who are
unable to go to it. By using a range of materials to bring woodland to life, we hope
to share the experience with a wider audience, so that people can reminisce or
have a new experience of woodland, brought to them.
Ways in which we would hope to reach out to people might include;
Playing a recording of the sounds of the ancient woodland
Showing a video taken of ancient woodland
Taking materials from the woodland, such as leaf collages, boxes of leaf
mulch, sticks, twigs and flowers and allowing people to interact with them
Reading a story about a woodland
Painting with materials from the woodland
I love this idea – imagine going and spending your Sunday in a woodland and being able to take something back to someone to share the enjoyment the following day. The sweet smell of blossom or elder flower to sniff, ‘Whirligig’ seeds of the Sycamore to drop and watch spin, flowers to look through or press, the tactile seeds of various plants or just items to illustrate a walk which you’ve had the day before volunteering. Our service helps to run a woodland well being group for people living in the community with dementia and hearing people talk about their experiences of working with the group is really moving, there’s no denial that it has a huge impact on the people and their carers who attend. There’s an interesting article on the following website which goes through a number of case studies including the following:
“Research in Denmark studied people with dementia who lived at home, at a forest day centre in the municipality of Hillerød in North Zealand. The results showed days spent in the forest gave people with dementia meaningful experiences, which they remembered better than indoor activities, and communicated them more readily with the group.”
As I was looking at the willow tree today I wondered why we sometimes shy away from simple pleasures which bring us enjoyment, often we will only come back to them when we have children. People will pay a huge amount of money to take part in events such as ‘mud runner’ but are we missing the point that these sorts of activities should be within our day to day lives?
The joy of getting soaked jumping into the biggest puddles we can find, running down a steep hill at full pelt just for the hell of it, playing hide and seek, sitting round a camp fire or making daisy chains in the park. Next time you are feeling too ‘adult’ reminisce about what you enjoyed as a child and give it another try.