Bird feeders and healing environments
Every summer my family and I spend a week in a lake cabin by Nisswa, Minnesota. Waking up before the others, I enjoy a quiet routine of sipping coffee while gazing at a birdfeeder immediately outside the window. I lose track of time watching colorful finches flitting in and out. Their activity fills me with wonder about the richness and variety of nature.
Recently, a patient and his wife spoke to a group of Park Nicollet leaders about their experiences. One story surprised me. However, given my early morning summer routine, I should not have been surprised.
The patient is receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center. He described how a relatively insignificant item, a bird feeder outside a window in the cancer center, is critical to countering the effects of chemotherapy on his concentration and memory. He beautifully described how watching the birds at the feeder contribute to his recovery.
Once again, his story reminded me that an essential part of our work remains the development of environments for people to facilitate their own healing. Together with patients and families, we create therapy plans, support and environments enabling individuals and families to heal. The story of the bird feeder also reminded me of the importance of paying exquisite attention to the details of what patients and family find helpful.
Watching the bird feeder from the cabin window connects me with the healing forces of nature. Watching the bird feeder from the window of a Frauenshuh treatment room connects this patient with healing forces that augment his chemotherapy. Head + heart, together. The chemotherapy represents the cognitive “head” work of healthcare while the birdfeeder appeals to the “heart.” Together, they remain more effective than either one alone.