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Posted By Opening the Heart

When I moved into my new office in April 0f 2010, I was so happy to have more space in a much quieter building with great parking available to my patients. But the piece that I loved the most was a big south-facing window on the second floor that looked out on a flat porch that could be accessed by a door in my adjacent waiting room. That whole spring I began to create my serenity garden. Over many weeks I brought up beach rocks, black river stones and smaller, multicolored aquarium stones for the roof floor. I planted pansies in wooden window boxes along the metal walkway. I hung spring planters from the fire escape and put all kinds of annuals in blue-glazed pots along the walls.

As it began to take shape an interesting thing began to happen. Patients in the waiting room began to notice. One patient brought me three organic scarlet runner beans and I put them in the window boxes so that they would climb up the hand railing along the walkway. Another patient brought me a beautiful blue-green ceramic bird bath. Another brought in a beautiful, unusually- shaped yellow stone and asked to place it in the garden herself. One patient I did not know wrote to me that she had been coming to that waiting room for six years and the garden and plants and water were "a pleasure and an urban joy!"

A final touch was to hang bird feeders so that they were just outside my office window: suet feeders, a wild bird feeder, a thistle mesh bag for finches and a small nectar feeder for hummingbirds. For the first five months no one came. I put ads in the East Side Weekly, I spread seeds on the ground, I breathed and held positive thoughts. Each morning I would go on the roof and weed, prune, water, change the bird food just as the sun was coming up in the east at the end of Angell Street. It was quiet and peaceful and I could smell the freshly baked breads and scones from the first floor cafe.

It was amusing for me to watch what happens to the mind when things don't go the way we expect: I have the wrong bird seed, I advertised in the wrong papers, I have bad bird karma. And of course, when they finally did come, they were "just sparrows"- not that there's anything wrong with sparrows, but would it throw the universe off if a chickadee or a goldfinch stopped by?

And then the squirrels came to my serenity garden. They would dig in my plants and kill the roots of my flowers. They jumped up onto one tray feeder and I remember in the middle of a couples' session, jumping up and banging on the window yelling "Get outta here!" By the time the couple looked out the window, of corse they saw nothing and I made up in my mind that when they left the office, they would exchange knowing glances and she would say "George, we're actually coming here for help from him!? "

One day, I swore the squirrel set himself on the window ledge, looked in to find me, and made provocative faces at me. My mind, again, wandered from serenity to murder. I thought about building a 'squirrel blind' (think camouflaged tent) where I would wait for the critter to come and then shoot him with a paint ball pellet and he would have to go home to his family and friends and explain why he had a big yellow blotch on his rear end.

So what did I learn from this experience? 1) Birds come when they want to- lots of them; 2) Serenity takes some work; 3) Guns, not such a good idea (at least with small kids around). With Respect and Love, Jon


jon berenson