The Healing Properties of Green.

A short post this month due to a crazy workload and struggling with yet another cold as I look out of my grey arch of a window. I’ve been blowing my nose now for a straight 48 hours despite the pints of hot water, honey and lemon and not feeling a whole lot better. There are always a few weeks in January and February that drag at times like this – when the ache for some sunshine, for snowdrops and the bright optimistic heads of aconite becomes almost physical. I fully subscribe to the idea that nature can improve people’s health and it’s certainly green that I crave at this time of year.

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My window looks out onto a stately elm tree, presumably planted at some point in the late 19th century. Clearly there were some grandiose thoughts of continental style tree-lined boulevards in my British seaside town. I’m lucky to see an elm in Britain at all – mostly they have succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease but Brighton has managed to keep them safe on the whole. The protective embrace of the South Downs creates its own microcosm and perhaps it protects the trees too. Come the spring, pale green leaves will start to pop from its grey branches and the two wood pigeons who hang around most of the year will start nesting. I’m looking forward to seeing that.

(Image from a historical medicinal herbal held by the Wellcome Collection)

Traditionally, the healing properties of trees have been well recognised. For centuries, elm bark has been stirred up as a tonic easing digestive disorders. Alder soothes sore throats and skin problems. Birch helps heal urinary tract infections. Move on through time and some of that old knowledge is still used in modern medicine – the pain-dulling qualities of willow bark find their way into aspirin for example. Recent Japanese studies increasingly show that Shinrin-yoku therapy or ‘Forest Bathing’ – sitting mindfully under trees in order to connect with nature – has benefits for a variety of mental health conditions. Many people might think that sounds like a whole load of mumbo jumbo but I have a hunch there’s some truth in it.

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At the end of last year, I was asked by therapist Janet Seabrook to create a logo for her counselling practice with the ‘healing’ of trees as a theme. The practice premises are airy and barnlike, overlooked by what must once have been a small copse. Somehow the connection with trees seems even more appropriate.  I used elm, willow and alder as a framework to ‘hold’ the central title banner and handpainted both branches and lettering. The design is ultimately simple but I went through a variety of iterations before landing on it.

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The ‘thumbnail’ board of concept ideas. It also gives an opportunity to check for spelling mistakes (!).

The logo is currently being used for business cards but will eventually make its way fully onto all elements of stationery, advertising and marketing. May it bring those who need help to a good place.

And in the meantime, I will salute my elm every morning, waiting to get well and wishing for the green to come… 

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