Pokemon GO gets us outside, but then what?

July 12th, 2016
Is there something wrong with this picture? (Screenshot of Pokemon GO video)

Is there something wrong with this picture? (Screenshot of Pokemon GO video)

I’m trying hard not to be an old fuddy-duddy, so please help me out. I want to hear from you about Pokemon GO (and other technology that gets people outdoors, but mostly PG). It’s only been around since Thursday, but the sensation seems to be sweeping the nation (or the world?), perhaps at a time when we could all use some positive distraction. It is summer, after all… And Pokemon GO does get people outside… kind of. Check out the official video:

 

 

I gotta admit, I was kind of appalled when I watched it. The players are outside, even in nature, but they’re glued to their phones. They smile at each other in passing, but they’re still on their own. But I’m sort of old-school when it comes to nature. I think that to best experience nature’s restorative benefits, you can’t be hooked up to technology. You have to unplug to recharge. There is some research that affirms this, but right now we’re talking about Pokemon.

My friend and I were sitting outside a café on a lovely morning last weekend when we spotted a young couple walking down the sidewalk, each staring at their individual phones. Then we saw another couple doing it and tried hard not to resort to the usual tut-tutting that we thought was reserved for our grandparents: “Kids these days, no one talks to each other, they’re all obsessed with their own devices,” etc. Then yesterday a Twitter friend said she’d gone down the Pokemon GO rabbithole and I looked it up and – bingo! Those kids were playing the game! So, they were outside (good!), they were sort of interacting with each other (good…), playing a game sort of with each other (good…)… but glued to a tiny screen, immersed in a fake reality, chasing a cartoon character, not interacting with anyone around them—not even the other couple that was doing the same thing. Hmmmmm…..

I try to be open to–and even embrace–new technology. I love apps that help me identify trees and butterflies, or that help me not get lost when I’m on a hike, or that connect me with other nature- and garden-lovers. I’m very excited about this invention that provides positive distraction to children before they go into surgery. I’m pretty sure that gazing at a nature view would not immerse these kids enough at that stressful moment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 3.25.15 PM

I heard this piece on Morning Edition (“Pokemon Go: The Live Video Game Everyone Seems To Be Playing“) and this snippet brought up some interesting points:

Laura SYDELL: The western edge of Golden Gate Park is amazingly beautiful. There’s a view of the Pacific Ocean, a historic beach LA restaurant with a view of the water. Today, there are dozens of people that are in the restaurant parking lot. And they could [sic] care less about the ocean. They’re looking down at their smartphones. Danielle Sheridon says she’s searching for fictional monsters called Pokemon.

Dean Speer, 28-year-old personal trainer says Pokemon Go takes you places. You can’t play it sitting down. And the search reveals more of the world, like the entrance to a trail you’ve never noticed.

SPEER: I had walked by the entrance many times, never really realized it was an entrance. But then you’re like, wait, that’s a trail. And then you walk back there and suddenly there’s creeks and trees. And I’m like, oh, there’s more of this than just Golden Gate Park.

But, “judge not lest ye be judged,” or at least “see for yourself,” so today I reluctantly downloaded the app. And – surprise! – the site is so busy that I haven’t been able to try the game yet. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is Pokemon GO fantastic, good, bad, evil…inevitable…all of the above? Leave a comment here, or join our conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. We’ve been getting some great comments, click on “comments” below to read up.

Screen shot from the video. Is he sort of looking at the fountain…?

 

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Happy Solstice!

June 20th, 2016
Photo by Henry Domke, henrydomke.com

Photo by Henry Domke, henrydomke.com

 

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The Hero’s Journey as Healing Journey – Guest post by Dan Mallach

May 31st, 2016
Bartram's Yellowwood. Photo by Dan Mallach

Bartram’s Yellowwood. Photo by Dan Mallach

Landscape Architect Dan Mallach contacted me after he finished his MLA thesis, “The Folktale Journey in Healthcare Facility Landscapes,” and I suggested that he write a guest blog post on the subject. If you’re interested in the thesis, please leave a comment!

“The Hero’s Journey as Healing Journey: A Transformational Path for Healthcare Facility Landscapes” by Dan Mallach, RLA

“A healing is a spiritual journey” – Lewis Mehl-Madrona

In order to promote mental relaxation and physical recovery, many therapeutic gardens at healthcare facilities feature sense-pleasing designs with achievement/reward paradigms. While such designs have been shown to improve clinical outcomes, a design framework based on the landscape features of the archetypal Hero’s Journey of folktales may heighten their effectiveness, such that an individual may achieve a state of health that has been described by the World Health Organization as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Joseph Campbell and others have described the successive “stages” common to the folktale journey. Protagonists travel a metaphoric road, and in doing so, encounter a world that reflects, and stimulates, a transformative process of inner travel.

In a typical story, the Hero begins his or her journey in a familiar location such as the village square. Following an interpersonal conflict or other communal challenge, the Hero becomes lost in the forest. The Hero wanders, and may meet a guide who points to a literal path forward, and may offer advice to help resolve the prime conflict. The Hero must travel to a mountaintop– but first a river must be crossed and other tasks completed.

Eventually, with newfound inner strength, the Hero succeeds in reaching the mountaintop, to discover that the journey itself has restored emotional balance and provided the tools for resolution.

This Hero’s Journey may be considered analogous to the Healing Journey, and many cultures have produced remarkably similar stories. Good resources are Parallel Myths by J.F. Bierlein, and World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places, by Idries Shah. According to the theory of “independent invention,” these stories were produced in relative isolation, rather than through “geographic diffusion.” Consequently, narrative similarities (such as among natural features) suggest a relationship between the outer and inner landscape, employing what Carl Jung referred to as “archetypes of the collective unconscious.” An understanding of this relationship, and the mechanisms by which the brain identifies and translates external images into personal metaphor, can lead to the design of effective therapeutic landscapes.

Designers have many tools with which to create the folktale landscape. Techniques from traditional Japanese gardening can help to generate a progressive sense of travel in a small space. Carefully chosen plants, along with water features, thoughtful grading, and the retention of mature trees where possible, can emulate diverse narrative settings (village green, forest, riverside, mountaintop). Facilities could also employ a trained “gardener-therapist” to perform the role of providential guide.

Certainly, for many visitors to a healthcare facility, any outdoor experience that is unambiguous and unchallenging may be best– the institutional experience, and the trauma that may have preceded it, is stressful enough. However, for those who seek an enhanced experience, the archetypal landscape of the Hero’s Journey can provide a foundation for a transformational Healing Journey.

Many thanks, Dan, for this post! Dan Mallach is a Landscape Architect and Planner living in Pennsylvania. His own Healing Journey inspires and informs his work.

 

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Snapshots from the Chicago Botanic Garden

May 16th, 2016

It’s a beautiful day at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Day #6 of the CBG Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program. Today we’ve had presentations by Marni Barnes, Gwenn Fried, Nilda Cosco, and Clare Cooper Marcus; and Mark Epstein led a super discussion about “real nature vs. virtual nature” outside in the Walled Garden. Here are some snapshots from my walk today…

Cercis canadensis (redbud). Photo by Naomi Sachs

Cercis canadensis (redbud). Photo by Naomi Sachs

Cercis canadensis. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Cercis canadensis (redbud), with blossoms springing right from the branches. Photo by Naomi Sachs

New soft leaves. Photo by Naomi Sachs.

I wish you could feel these new leaves. So velvety soft! Photo by Naomi Sachs.

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Chicago Botanic Garden Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program – There’s still time to register!

May 3rd, 2016
Euphorbia at Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Euphorbia at Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Registration is still open for the upcoming Chicago Botanic Garden Healthcare Garden Design Certificate Program, and for the one-day seminar, “Gardens That Heal: A Prescription for Wellness.”

Where else can you learn from top designers and scholars in the field, meet and work with a diverse array of talented and enthusiastic colleagues, and receive a certificate in Healthcare Garden Design, all on the grounds of the stunning Chicago Botanic Garden? Answer: Nowhere. You might even cuddle up to a giant Echium, as instructor Naomi Sachs did last year… Hope to see you there!

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