In the Tales of an Orthotherapist
like Milena Bellonotto there is everyday life but also the continuous surprise, which you see in the eyes of an elderly person who enjoys the pleasure of being in that much-desired company and those of a child who rediscovers the curiosity of life within himself. All this simply, if we want to simplify it that way, by putting our hands in the earth, cultivating a vegetable garden.
The dimension of an Orthotherapist
Walking through the vegetable patch and garden, I often observe my hands in the earth and perceive my own eyes full of Nature. I finally feel satisfied and at peace with myself thinking that I have spent most of my life in the city while now, thanks to this work, I experience a new dimension, in closer contact with Nature.
I deal with transformative processes and support interventions for people through activities in the countryside or with elements of Nature, with the aim of facilitating their state of well-being from a physical, psychological and social point of view which is often an Achilles’ heel when talking about elderly people in RSA or children from disadvantaged backgrounds, for whom the social relationship is often dysfunctional.
Tales of an Orthotherapist – The first day at the retirement home
The first day I arrived at the retirement home, to hold some horticultural therapy sessions, I had at my side – as an exceptional assistant – Natalina, 94 years old, quick, industrious, precise hands, used to sowing because you know, I I lived in the countryside.
Despite her age, Natalina proved to be a precious help to her younger and less fortunate travel companions, who needed instructions and support, patience and encouragement, to fill the jars with soil to prepare for sowing.
Strength in the hands
Little by little I got to know stories and names, like Rita, a concentration of sweetness and attention for everyone. But I have no strength in my hands! And I can’t see! But will I know how to glue? It seemed difficult and then… Click! Memories that light up, knowledge that resurfaces, eyes that light up, hands that approach and select, experiment, compose, following the thread of intuition and creativity.
A black card helps to make the colors and shapes of the dried leaves more evident and magically everything changes.
Tales of an orthotherapist – Let’s make a bookmark
Natalina, who only wanted to help, finally shyly asks me to make a bookmark. Can I make one too? You know, for my niece, so she’ll have a memory of me! It’s nice to witness the awakening of voices emerging from torpor and see faces light up: Shall we do another one? I choose the chestnut leaf!
Convinced by so much chatter, even Martino, silent and hesitant up to that point, intervenes: Will you write my name too? And Natalina, maniacal, scolds me with her attitude: Be careful not to fold! And then Carla, Rita, Domenica: I’ll use it when I read the newspaper so I don’t miss the mark. They’re beautiful, what a great job! Thank you!
While we sow, let’s talk…
The elderly have entire worlds to tell, lives full of joys and sorrows that they willingly share by observing and manipulating brightly colored leaves or sowing flowers: an activity common to many of them in their youth.
…and we smile
I brought them some seeds, some plant elements and some reading aloud. They gave me all the beauty and complexity of lives and gestures snatched from oblivion thanks to the tactile and visual memory which, in some cases, reactivated, unfortunately for a short time, the smile muscles.
Tales of an Orthotherapist – Changes in perspective
Vegetable elements, colors and scents are nourishment that I use like the Story and Illustration as expressive forms of support and reflection. In this way, we too learn that points of view and changes in perspective are necessary: in life, at work, in a relationship.
Taking care of a plant, taking care of yourself
About a year ago I started a journey with children and pre-adolescents from socially disadvantaged situations. Nothing is obvious or simple: We Orthotherapists are a window onto another world, onto a different possibility of ‘being’ that they don’t always grasp or understand. The path ensures that the concept of “taking care” of a plant, a seed or a flower becomes, by osmosis, taking care of oneself and one’s unexpressed potential, learning to love and love oneself through Nature.
Their ways are sometimes crude, rude, provocative; but their creativity is powerful: Do you want to put a card for mum made with the leaves chosen by me?
The gift for mom
They seem like banal activities but they give rise to important reflections, like a sentence that accompanies a card just made, where a rocket and a ship stand out sketched with two leaves and some pencil sketches: Gift for mother. From Galaxies to Oceans.
It’s nice to plan and experiment directly with them, witnessing the miracle of emotional involvement, the only one capable of fixing positive memories during the learning phase.
Tales of an Orthotherapist – Street food and trendy tattoos
On a social farm, a handful of kids might pick mulberries from the tree and make small street food cones with the leaves or use dried poppy capsules to improvise trendy and eco-sustainable tattoos
It may also happen that you observe ladybugs, crickets, goats, ponies, guinea pigs, cats, rabbits and turtles. The barriers fall and, sometimes for a few minutes, you can even stay silent and listen to the sounds of Nature.
The giggling stops, the clockwork behaviors defuse.
Silent kids are always thinking
With Carlo – a shy, grumpy boy who doesn’t always participate in the laboratory – we are preparing nature-themed artefacts to sell at a local market.
We have set ourselves the goal of making a small profit that everyone will use to contribute to the realization of their own dream: a gym class, some stationery or some longed-for game.
Carlo and I thus find ourselves walking in the garden looking for lavender and other aromatic herbs.
Can you show me where the lavender is? I want to do something with perfumes. Carlo is involved, he finally chats in a calm way, he opens up, he tells his story, under my gaze somewhere between amazed and moved (in my work it’s surprising to always be surprised).
The precious gifts we keep
The boys’ confidences and “beautiful phrases” are precious gifts that emerge spontaneously:
Francesco: Nature doesn’t need everything to be perfect. (This find is perfect!).
Indro: The most lethal weapons in the world are love, tickling and Nature. (I laugh).
Phrases from children who come from different social contexts, one disadvantaged and the other not, but who, being in Nature, free to express themselves, have unknowingly shared a vision of the world that, in these times, I would like everyone to be able to experience.
Now on horseback! Work awaits us! Our new wonderful outdoor space is about to be born!
GOOD WORK and … if you have any questions please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources of the images: for the photos we thank Milena Bellonotto and her sweet traveling companions.