As a naturist I love the feel, the look and the sensation of being immersed in nature. I love the sounds of Lindsley Brook as it flows through the farm. I love the sound of the turkeys as they roam the fields; I also love the sound of an antique tractor chugging across the farm in search of more work. Until recently I hated the sound of chainsaws. I saw them as destruction; another wooded lot lay bare, more houses in a subdivision. Other then when I heard them after a major storm, I rarely saw a practical purpose for them.
I was recently privy to a lot of pictures of the farm over the years. I saw its many changes. Treeless for the most part at one stage, treebound in another. A vibrant brook and then stunted by overgrowth. I saw the difference between a maintained farm and one that due to lack of sets of hands and strong backs that was returning to nature but not in a good way; the brush was too thick for even the birds, some animals had left for lack of proper shelter, trees dying due to lack of room to flourish. It was then that I was taught about healthy foresting. You do not have to clear cut the land like they often do for subdivisions rather you selectively cut to make pockets for the sun to reach, you selectively clear to promote animal shelters, places for birds to fly and nest, you selectively clear so that you may plant healthier trees or vegetables. As I cut with a recently donated saw (sadly the farm’s saws were old and broken trying to get them running proved fruitless, but thanks to a member of the public who heard of our need and donated one they had had for years but did not use, our work resumed) I saw almost immediately that wildlife was returning to the area. It was an awesome sight, birds were flying were it has been too ingrown to be possible.
So here was this naturist in leather work boots, orange safety helmet and face shield wielding a chainsaw, cutting it in in four foot lengths and hauling it to the wood pile, stacking the brush so that it may break down naturally and fill the low lands to help stabilize them and cut down on erosion that typically occurs after hard rains. Some of these areas became productive after only a few days.
This can be true of our clients as well. Try as they may to improve their lives as they are living them, sometimes the only way to truly regain health is by tearing down some or all of what they used to hold close. Relationships are sometimes beyond repair due to abuse, neglect or other situations that make them unhealthy and untenable. Jobs may need to be ended, new careers explored. At times people realize that they need to address the PPT’s in life (people, places and things) that are either contributing to a healthy life or serving as a blockage, some kind of hindrance to happiness and then much like the forest’s need to be thinned, so too must they.
My mentor on the farm did not start out with asking me to clearcut an area and this was for good reason. Had he simply passed me a chainsaw and said “go make me a field” I likely would have told him to go take a hike (and we have a great place to to take on on the farm ;O) ). Instead he taught me about thinning, how to determine which trees could be saved, which ones could not and WHY some could contribute to the farm while others would impede healthy growth. This technique not only got a positive result in that I was cutting trees, but in so doing I knew that I was helping positive growth and change to take place; so too for our time with our clients. Sure we can tell them what PPT’s need to be changed and if they do not resent this advice they may do so but never truly understand why they made the changes. This may doom them to continue to make the negative choices when we are not there to advise them in the future. The other option is to teach them WHY certain things need changing, How to identify the changes needed and What can be gained from these choices now and in the future. This is not advice but humble guidance.
In time I will not have my mentor on the farm; there is a reason he is selling it to us and that is one day he wants to retire but if he does his job right and if I listen and learn I will know enough to not only continue where he left off work wise but also in guiding others to do the same. With our clients our job is to make us unneeded in the future; to give them the tools to build their lives without us.
A healthy forest and a healthy client have much in common: they both need gentle educated hands, unconditional positive regard, guidance and the room to grow. Sometimes we much teach to tear down in order to rebuild.
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).