A September Song. 2019. With the foreign and sweet nostalgia of Lotte Lenya. I had not returned to the country of my birth….since my birth. Paris to Frankfurt on the high speed bullet train. Then Frankfurt to GieBe on a regional train. And then on again to Grunberg by local train. Further and further into the German countryside. I noticed at some point the schoolchildren noticing me. It took me a while to realise, given their curious but harmless attention, that it may well have been possible that daughters of duskier tribes such as myself, were an unfamiliar sight. But the weather was kind and warm, like their muffled giggles. I alighted from the train at my stop and walked the 15 minutes to the conference centre, noticing a poster for a Jazz Hall along the main road.
The Conference Hall was set in a very green and tidy property with an incredibly diverse number of plants and trees. The sunny days were to our advantage, allowing for time well spent outdoors getting to know the other organisation members. It was good to see Andreas Niepel again after so many years. We had met in the halls on the 9th floor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York while I was working with my mentor Matt Wichrowski. Andreas is a german practitioner of Gartentherapie in neuro-rehab, and a published thinker and teacher of the profession. He was MC for the IGGT conference and my host.
The weekend long gathering of German, Austrian and Swiss-german garden therapists was enriching, inspiring and relaxed. I got to meet the founders of two other young europeean horticultural therapy organisations: notably Spanish and Czeck. Like the french FFJNS of which I am a founding member, they are part of a new wave of horticultural and nature assissted therapies. We were able to exchange points of view and swap stories ahead of our presentations to the public on our respective practices. It would prove to be the beginning, the sowing ground of new projects. Other personal highlights included a mentoring word from Konrad Neuberger while we served ourselves more peas at lunch on the third day. Participant for the occassion and an important thinker and avant garde doer for the profession, he expressed a point to me concerning metaphor and mental health and specific evocative actions such as digging in the soil.
This was my second professional presentation on horticultural therapy this year, shortly after the Nature of Cities summit in Paris. It became suddenly apparent that to go public or to be public (usually in my case performing artistically on stage; or speaking in an educational academic context) is always flush with risk of a particular sort, beyond just the anxiety of making a mistake or doing poorly. It really is more like militant organising and a stealthy gathering of resources. Here then was an administration of the proof that something profound is at stake every time we –even in the adjunctive profession of horticultural therapy– manage to get anything done.