May 18, 2016

I'm hoping to loosely partipate in an open course called Collaborative Community: Designing Community Engaged Research through VCU this trimester.

One of the first things we're asked to do is to create a visual representation of what community means to each of us.  Perhaps because it's spring, I knew I had to use an image relating to the community that emerges in my garden each year. 

A highlight of spring for me for the past decade has been the flowering of my peony - coming after the daffodils and tulips have died back but before the daisies and coneflowers bloom. This particular peony has moved with me at least five times. I inherited it in 2002 (?) when a friend was going through a divorce and couldn't bear to leave her plants behind. 

It flowers each year, and each year it's almost unbearably gorgeous. Here's a flower I found on my peony this morning:​

peony in flower

See what I mean? 

Beyond it's stunning flower and show-stopping scent, the peony is also embedded in the garden community. 

When we think of flowers, we often think of cut flowers in a vase. In a literal sense, these are disembodied and disconnected. ​

In the garden, the peony doesn't only serve as a thing of beauty. If you've ever grown peonies you'll know that as the buds emerge ants begin to swarm over the plant, attracted to its nectar. I've never seen the peony without ants; the two are inextricably connected in my mind. 

white peony with an ant in the petals

In a simplistic world I tend the peony because the peony brings me pleasure. But it's much more than that. I tend the peony, which feeds the ants, who feed the birds and salamanders, and so on and so on. ​The nourishment of the soil, the cold of the winter, the heat of the sun - all of these tend the peony and me as well. It's not just about me, and it's not just about the peony. 

Which brings us to my image representing community.


ant on peony bud

A Teaching Connection

Essentially every introductory anatomy & physiology text contains a section at the very beginning about the "Levels of Structural Organization." Like this one

And it bothers me SO MUCH that they all stop at the level of the organism.

As if the levels didn't continue on to population, community, ecosystem and biosphere. As if the human body stands alone, like a cut flower in a vase, separate from her environment. ​

cut flowers in vase on counter

About Camille Freeman, LDN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for highly-trained herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.

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