Senses of Living® Holidays

May 2003
© 2003 by Bret S. Beall

It's May! May is my favorite month of the year, as virtually every important event of my life has occurred during May! Births, deaths, loves, losses, beginnings, endings … but every ending is actually a new beginning. It was May when I left my job as a manager for not-for-profit associations to work on Global Organic Designs. It was May when I publicly announced Global Organic Designs. Now, it is May once again, and I want to emphasize and celebrate two themes: Growth and Freedom.

For me, few things are more relaxing than gardening. Nurturing, tending, watering. I love to trim my 100+ plants every spring, creating cuttings to give to friends or to further enhance my own collection, while encouraging bushier, more compact growth in my original specimens. New shoots sprout, leaves become larger, and flower stalks emerge. Even though entire books are written on the following topics, and even though I have mentioned some of these issues in previous columns, it doesn't hurt to have a reminder.

Plant propagation: There are SO many families, genera and species of plants, that I cannot discuss each in detail right now. Because I emphasized the flexibility and value of the Araceae (aroids) in last month's column, I'll emphasize their propagation here. Many, if not most, aroids are vining plants. This habit makes them ideal for propagating, but it also tends to make them rather leggy after a long winter. Perhaps the easiest solution to this legginess is to grab a pair of scissors, and cut the entire long vine off right above the first leaf near the soil (if there isn't a leaf, cut above the first 'node' (where a leaf used to be). Now you'll be holding a length of vine. Start cutting the vine into pieces so that each piece has 3 leaves and/or nodes (if the vine has become very leggy, just allow 2 leaves/nodes per piece, or your will start your new plant with unattractive proportions). Many people recommend dipping the end of each cutting into hormone powder and then inserting that end and the lowest node into special soil … this is WAY too much trouble for me. I cut up the vines, stick them in stray glassware, and keep them in indirect sunlight until little roots start to appear at the lowest node (the lowest leaf may turn yellow and need to be trimmed, but that's OK). Sometimes, if the weather is too cool, the lowest part of the cutting will become covered with algae before roots emerge, so just take your scissors and cut off the lowest ¼" of stem to open up the vascular bundles. After the roots are about 2" long, it's time to pot your new plants!

Potting: There are as many potting soil mixtures as there are gardeners. Different mixtures are good for different types of plants. The easiest (and most expensive) option is to use prepackaged "Potting Mix" (do NOT confuse this with "potting soil"; these are different products, and if you use potting soil solo, your plants' roots will rot and the plants will die). If you want to try more economical options, you can make your own mixes. Various combinations of potting soil (or top soil), humus/peat, sand, vermiculite, perlite, bark or other materials have been recommended as all purpose potting mixes, but I have found that their success is truly contingent on your particular environmental conditions (the window exposure you are using; light brightness; amount of air circulation; indoors or outdoors; ambient temperature, along with type of heating and air cooling).

Fertilizing: First of all, DO NOT fertilize your newly potted plants for a month or so after putting the cuttings into soil. New roots are very sensitive, and the mineral salts that occur in most fertilizers can actually "burn" these young roots (one friend reported failure with the cuttings I had given him, despite fertilizing the water every time he filled the container; I had to break the news to him that he was probably poisoning or "burning" the plants … more is NOT better). You might consider experimenting with different types of fertilizers: time-release, fish emulsion, or some organic product that made my entire home stink every time I used it. At this stage in my gardening life/career, I still experiment, but I'm quite content with Miracle-Gro© Liquid All Purpose Plant Food; it's affordable, easy-to-use, and widely distributed.

If you believe you need some more personal guidance with your indoor plants, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. Or, if you are still shy about adding greenery to your home, wait a month; next month's décor ideas will depart from plants, with the exception of some low-cost, low-risk "kitchen gardening" that will transport you back to elementary school!

Meanwhile, once you have succeeded in potting your plants, you deserve a celebration! Pick one (or more!) during May:

Better Hearing and Speech Month: I have given lectures on several occasions that communication will both prevent and solve all problems. Hearing and speech are important aspects of communication, so everything that we can do to increase awareness of potential problems with hearing and speech should be done!

Better Sleep Month: The vast majority of Americans (and many other peoples) are sleep-deprived. We all just have get a little more done, push ourselves just a bit more, finish just one more project. The net result is that our bodies gradually, almost insidiously, become more and more tired, leading to more and more stress, leading to less productivity and poorer health. Seek balance, and if you can’t find it, call me.

Mental Health Awareness Month: As someone who has seen the ravages of mental disease and psychological trauma firsthand, I have become sensitized to the importance of early diagnosis of these problems and prompt treatment of their core causes. For more information, please visit their website.

Older Americans Month: I don’t really know when it happened, but I suspect the problem started in the 1940s and 1950s following WWII when the economic boon allowed that generation to buy new, shiny, pretty items and dispose of slightly older yet still perfectly functional items. While this trend continues to the present with regard to material goods, even more horrific is that the most mature aspect of our population has been dismissed as obsolete. I’ll admit, age does not necessarily equal wisdom, but then neither does youth equal energy or enthusiasm or novelty. We must get beyond the point where entire groups of people are considered homogenous … every single human being is unique, and each of us must be evaluated based on our uniqueness rather than lumped in with others for the sake of convenience. With this in mind, re-evaluate your attitude toward “older Americans” this month, and help make the world a better place.

In keeping with this month’s theme of Freedom, I find it interesting to note that May includes the Independence/Liberation/Constitution/Victory days for: Marshall Islands (May 1), Japan (May 3), Poland (May3), Denmark (May 5), Netherlands (May 5), Czech Republic (May 8), Slovak Republic (May 8), Norway (May 8), Russia (May 9), Croatia (May 9), Ukraine (May 9), Channel Islands (May 9-10), Micronesia (May 10), Paraguay (May 14), Cuba (May 20), Germany (May 23), Eritrea (May 24), Jordan (May 25), Ethiopia (May 25), Ghana (May 25), Liberia (May 25), Libya (May 25), Morocco (May 25), Sudan (May 25), Tunisia (May 25), Egypt (May 25), Algeria (May 25), Cameroon (May 25), Guyana (May 26), Georgia (May 26), Azerbaijan (May 28), South Africa (May 31).

May 1: May Day/Beltane: it’s all about growth, growing, fertility and playfulness. Flowers and greenery should be the themes of any décor decision. As I did last month, I will encourage you to grow plants in home. Place vases of flowers around your home to offer color and brightness. The warmth is returning in the northern hemisphere, and it should be celebrated. Learning to celebrate and be playful is crucial to leading a healthy life. Get out and celebrate life itself, daily!

May 4-10: Teacher Appreciation Week: I believe our children are one of our most valuable resources. Not only is proper care by parents necessary, but so is daily care by our professional teachers to help our children grow into healthy adults. To learn more about the activities of this week, please visit this website.

May 4-10: National Wildflower Week: please visit www.nationalwildflowerweek.com for a complete history of this tribute to some of the most important natural resources of our country and world.

May 4-10: Be Kind to Animals Week: Although officially the first week of May, we really should be kind to animals 100% of the time. How we treat other beings is a reflection of how we feel that we should be treated. Did you know that cat purring is a healing mechanism? Try humming while petting your cat, and see if you both don’t feel better! And visit this website for more information.

May 5: Cinco de Mayohttp://latino.sscnet.ucla.edu/cinco.html.

May 6: National Teacher Day: Occurring right in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week, this day seems to be a designation for those who like to focus their celebrations. All jobs well done should be rewarded, so designating National Teacher Day is a no-brainer (after all, we have Mother’s Day [see below] and Father’s Day [see June’s Senses of Living® Holidays]). Please visit http://www.nea.org/teachday/

May 7: Childhood Depression Awareness Day: If you suspect that your child is depressed, DO NOT HESITATE to have that child examined by a healthcare professional. Depression does not go away by itself. Please visit this site for more information. This is consistent with this month’s theme of freedom: freedom from mental/psychological disorders.

May 7: Anxiety Disorders Screening Day: anxiety disorders are another problem that can be helped once it is identified. On this day, you may receive screening at a number of facilities that can be found by calling 1.888.442.2022 . For further information, please visit their website . Free yourself from potential anxiety disorders.

May 11: Mother’s Day: There are many ways to celebrate Mother’s Day. Sometimes there is a brunch. Sometimes there is a party. Sometimes there are presents. I would suggest that the best way to celebrate Mother’s Day is to pretend that every single day of the year is Mother’s Day. Our mothers may be the single most important force in our lives. Do not allow any opportunity to go by where your mother might think she is not as loved by you as she loves you. Before you know it, she may be gone, and I can assure you, if you have clearly communicated your love to your mother, you will feel a great peace even in her absence.

May 17: Pack Rat Day: Although I am unable to identify a sponsoring organization for this “holiday,” I think celebrating it is as good of an excuse as any to begin to clear out and organize your entire abode, office or storage unit using the guidelines presented in April’s Sensational Living® column, as well as the current May column for Sensational Living®. Just do it!

May 26: Memorial Day: I am not in favor of war, but I do recognize that sometimes war is necessary to protect that most precious of commodities, Freedom. Memorial Day is the day that we acknowledge the sacrifices made by those men and women who gave their lives in defense of America and all it stands for (and I’m talking about defense from a real rather than perceived threat). A history of the holiday can be found at http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyseneca/memorial.htm .

May 31: World No Tobacco Day: I come from a tradition where one’s body is one’s own to treat as one pleases, as long as one harms no others. If one wishes to use tobacco, one has that right, but one should be mindful of the effects tobacco has in all of its forms on the human body, not only one’s own, but to others in proximity. http://www.wntd.com/ has some exceptional resources and explanations of this day of mindfulness to help you keep with this month’s topic of Growth, both in terms of your treatment of your own body, and your tolerance of how others choose to treat their own bodies.

Remember, your environment affects your personality, sometimes in glaring ways, and sometimes in subtle ways. What you want is for your environment to help you GROW as a person. What you want is for your environment to FREE you from the bounds of your own personal history. This is my specialty, helping others find new directions to grow via an understanding of their physical environment. Let me help you.