Photo: Xavier Ryan, 2014
We are one week out from Christmas now. The cards are out and most of the shopping is done. I still have cookies to bake and a Christmas Eve meal to plan. There is an on-going battle to keep Maggie and Millie (my 9 month old kittens) out of the tree. I’m losing. Being drenched by a water bottle or having a can of coins shaken at them fazes them little. They are junkyard-tough, little kitties
I wondered if in the run up to Christmas, there was anything I could offer that would be useful. Upon reflection, I have come across something that might be. My life with its ups and downs, pales to those who are dealing with serious illnesses. Recently, I watched a movie called Alive Inside. It deals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Music therapy has been found to be very successful at reaching those who have become withdrawn especially as memory seems to fade. Music stimulates more parts of the brain than anything else and it can bring back connections thought long gone. The problem is that not many people know about it and most nursing facilities don’t offer it. The best kind of music for this purpose is something from an individual’s past, something that makes an emotional connection, something from childhood or early adult years.
So during the holidays, if you are visiting someone with dementia, especially those who are withdrawn, please consider bringing the gift of music into their lives. Forgo the cookies, candy, flowers, or hand-knitted scarves. Take an iPod, CD player, etc. and offer the gift of music to those who are in need of connection.
Here’s the movie trailer. You can watch the full movie on Netflix.
For more information: www.MusicandMemory.org
The Christmas tree is up and as I peruse ornaments collected over decades, I’m struck by how many of them are animals. There are cats and dogs, rabbits and squirrels, hedgehogs and birds (a humming bird, blue jay, goose, partridge), and cows and horses. At the back door, I struggle with getting sunflower seeds and nuts out for my squirrels. Three inches of snow have to be cleared before I can lay down six piles of seed to accommodate the squirrels. After our dog died, we started feeding birds off our deck but soon found the squirrels to be more entertaining. The birds still come to the feeder and the overflow trickles down to feed a family of field mice who will come onto the deck once the squirrels have had their fill. I won’t see the bunny today because the storm is intensifying but I take comfort that I’ll see him tomorrow once the snow melts off. He was here earlier though; because I see his tracks crisscross the yard. The ornaments on the Christmas tree and the activity in the backyard scream BEATRIX POTTER. I live in a world she knew.
Helen Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 in London. She is best remembered for her children’s stories featuring animals. As children, she and her brother spent many happy family vacations in Scotland and the English Lake District. Undoubtedly, the freedom to explore and interact with nature as a child grounded Beatrix in the natural world and fostered her connection to the land and its creatures. She and her brother made pets of wildlife including rabbits, a hedgehog, mice, and bats. Beatrix’s talents in drawing and painting emerged in childhood and were encouraged by her parents. In her teens, she wandered the Lake District sketching and immersing herself in nature. She took a keen interest in archeology, geology, entomology, and mycology. By the late 1890s, she had become adept at scientific illustration concentrating on watercolors of local fungi. She even had a paper on fungi reproduction presented at the Royal Botanic Gardens (women were not allowed to attend).
It wasn’t until her mid- 30s that Beatrix took a set of picture letters she had written to children and turned them into her first book. She had The Tale of Peter Rabbit printed in 1901. Publishers turned down the opportunity to publish the book failing to see its merit (think Harry Potter in the Edwardian Age, JK Rowling was also turned down by multiple publishers). Along came Frederick Warner who published The Tale of Peter Rabbit with color illustrations the following year. Beatrix’s book was highly successful and so were the two (The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester) that came soon after. From then on, Beatrix published two or three books a year. Later her interests in farming and preserving the Lake District became foremost in her life, but she is still remembered fondly for the animal characters and stories she created.
Miss Potter (2006), the movie with Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor