Holdrege Term Paper Fall

Siproena Johnson


As Poetry Recycles Neurons

Kinesthetic Science


There is a capacity for all of us to learn from life whether this life is a human, animal, or in this case, I shall share the knowledge which can be gained with the willingness to accept the mentorship of a plant.  This plant is called lovage or by the scientific name of Levisticum officinale and the connection I find with this plant is that understanding the smallest of life can make a world of differences for my own health.  Cooperation between our lives at all levels is imperative for all of us in our continuous journey in the cycles of life.  This dependence on all levels of life exists whether or not we see it.

Sensing Boundaries:

Science has always been about trial and error for me.  It is a matter of practice, as in doing something, manipulation of my surroundings with my curiosity.  “What will happen if I do this?”  It’s the fun of screwing around with things.  A memorable year brings forth a memorable instructor.  It was eighth grade, his name; Mr. Walton. He was a kooky ‘ol guy with a love for exploration.  The only thing that sucked was my ability to keep up with some of the work.  My fluctuating boundary is illness.  At this time, my fight with Lupus was not in my favor.  Lupus has many forms as a disease while its name is linked to translate as the wolf in Latin.  The disease got the name Lupus by the physical symptoms which emerge such as the flares or active Lupus shown like burns across a person’s face leaving a wolf-like bite scaring the bridge of the nose after the rash dissolves.  Some are afflicted with Discoid Lupus, a far more physically noticeable form where the rash recurs and topical solutions manage this form.  I have the disease at the full capacity which is called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  As the name may show you, it affects my entire body, inside and out.  This chronic illness has created my over reactive immune system that creates antibodies which in turn destroy my cells indiscriminately, like terrorists in my body.   The primary targets in my case are the kidneys. These kidneys became weak and two drastic measures were taken to alleviate this with treatments involving the “cure all” steroid Prednisone, an oral medication and Cytoxan, an intravenous medication was charging my body weakening the illness and consequently weakening me.   There came a point of hospitalization and arrangements were made for my close friends and classmates to start bringing classwork to the hospital so I wouldn’t fall further behind in eighth grade core studies.  Another boundary had two aspects; math and my mother.  My kinesthetic learning style and her impatience spewing through oratory instructions did not help me comprehend materials the way the teacher instructed.  This was a recurring interaction with my mother as well as her verbalized belief that her superb aptitude in mathematics should have trickled down to me.  I’ve made it through these things, thus only making me stronger for myself and others with true empathy for their struggles.

Delicate Empiricism: Science as a Conversation

As I study this lovage plant, first with my eyes, I notice the leaves are larger near the soil.  Gradually scanning skyward along its stems which branch out like little fingers, my eyes are captivated by the small tulip shaped buds marking new leaves position of growth;  beauty.  This act of noticing bits and pieces of the plant begin to remind me of a tale fondly read in my childhood and a particular line stands out; “Are you a good noticer?”  Hugh Lofting’s words in The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.  These words reverberate through my process of conversing with the lovage and guide me though the process of practicing Goethean science.  I next find myself connecting the plants use in the 1400’s and the placard posted designating its position in this particular herb garden.  It was used for urinary tract infections and the prevention of kidney stones in this time period yet, not for the plants growth readily seen by my eyes.  Our potential for good can be in the same manner, it lies in us while the medicinal benefit of this plant lies in the roots.

Engaging the Conversation

Lovage has a small space to work with in this herb garden section and at first I had trouble recognizing which plant is the lovage I wish to converse with.  I ultimately cross referenced the plants scientific name which is Levisticum officinale in order to be certain of its appearance because its space lies next to the similarly shaped Lemon Balm.  Soon after this pictorial research I can begin drafting a picture of my own perception of this plant as I crouch down in the garden.  I am drawn to the capacity of the plant’s versatility, while it was once used for the roots now it is used for salads as a garnish.  Herbal remedies continue to link me to conversations with my grandmother and the awareness of surroundings she imprints upon me since my early childhood.  Awareness is incorporating all my senses, as is the translation I perceive from Goethean scientific practices.  Again in the classroom, stares and glances around the room begin the day until I finally find a comfortable seating location.  After finding an arrangement for my supplies, there is a motion to rescan my materials before the instructors begin a transition signal for their attention.  With pen in hand and the first ruled paper I spot with free space I begin writing the day’s heading and pause at the sound of instructors beginning their expectations.  In this particular space is the opportunity to engage more physical senses such as taste, smell, and audio.  More importantly, what arise are the mental sensations of consciousness.

Stares, glances and a motion to start writing first begin with a slight anxiety.  Today is Wednesday and the instructor is explaining numerous aspects for the major project and the expectations placed upon us as Evergreen students.  I stare off absorbing the criteria while hearing her say “College students are apt to ….” Again, I stare absorbing the lecture while calculations of what I am about to write and when it is safe to begin without missing a key point.  The questions invitation is made and a slight silence fills the room.  A peer from the left begins his conception of the professor’s instructions.  I take this as a moment to apply pen to paper when his laymen terms are affirmed in a way which I can understand more quickly than the instructor’s words.  Now I have a chance to communicate once again with my plant, this time lighting its personality as it enlightens me.

Exact Sensorial Imagination and Living Understanding

While Lupus is the disease in need of control, my control would depend on using my better judgment, good kidney function is a priority for my body to thrive as a whole.  My mentor, this lovage continues to provoke more questions of what alternatives I initially have had as a child following the best interest of my elders regarding the management of my kidney disease.  “What if” choices are long gone now to attempt at reversing the products of my actions.  Due to my physically child size body at the time of this autoimmune disease diagnosis, the question of understanding the influence my choice of actions have on controlling this element of Lupus has often been risen by these caregivers.  Mixed messages for me to obtain perfection in this mist of blatant and implied doubt of my abilities to produce my caregiver’s perception of perfection gave way to depression.  There are still times natural elements in life are reminding me of those that can be manipulated in one’s favor, yet not fully controlled by any one nor group.  The body is a system of components dependent on conversations among themselves in reaction to a foreign entity or place.  This plant is a body, moved to this foreign space, now in part has become dependent upon humans for adequate maintenance in our current time of climate shift.

Lovage- A Portrayal

The character of my lovage plant is life bubbly in shape, curves almost 180 degree crescents sensing its arches and its border created by other plants in the human manipulated location, a garden. Although this plant is not alone in this setting of the Evergreen herb garden it would usually be among other Mediterranean plants with dry weather but it is here in an adopted location. Washington State is my current adopted location in which I have taken root while the hot dry climate and extreme temperatures found in Texas are what I am accustom to calling the environment and place I call home.   This is the physical and mental connection I find in this plant.  These lime yellow leaves with some tiny tulip-like burgundy shaped florets near the skyward tips of the stalks attract my belief that though small in size a potential for large changes can occur.  Each full grown leaf of the plant has short staggered arcs while the Lemon Balm neighbor consists of longer wide arcs as the border for this other plant’s leaves.  The ugliest aspects of the plant are the browning blotches smothering some of the larger leaves near the base.  I notice these aspects with focused searching otherwise this flaw might not have been noticed.  The ugliest part of myself in many occasions is my mind while it is provoking constant conflict of negativity through my eyes.  I see a correlation with my ugliest aspect and the plant’s is the questions of useful existence.  I am often reminded there is not enough evidence to support this contrast by others who interact with me such as children and animals sharing their unconditional love.  This unconditional love stirs from the earliest of childhood I can remember at age 5.  Plants and animals have surrounded me ever since.  My grandmother’s home would have vegetables, herbs, fruits, and animals consistently well-nourished as we would grow together.  I would engage with the 7 cats, 3 dogs, and 2 birds every visit and stay until my brother’s birth in ’93 and his addition to the fun.  Parents, brother, and I retained this lifestyle, while not as large; we intermittently had 3 dogs, a bird and indoor/outdoor cats.  Although the cats and bird did not last long with the growth of my brother and me, a dog or two remains a consistent pet to turn to for unconditional love and compassion.

My brother and grandmother are the ones I have been able to speak most openly to.  Grandma is from the farmland Philippines, and her personality sure shows.  Smart work, diligence, and focus are key practices to succeed as well as the willingness to keep an open mind.  It’s almost like experiencing the stereotypical live off the land country folk with grandma and her lessons.  My brother and I maintain the closest bond to one another from early childhood with her consistent care guidance which would also incorporate the mindfulness she appreciates in the Buddhists practice.  The compassionate love for life at all levels attitude resonates as I think of and talk to her about anything.  Simplicity for stability is what I am reminded when she speaks to calm my uncertainties.  For my brother and me, our mother seemed more naïve and complicated, starting as the seedling rooted in the city garden knowing exactly which brand of fertilizer is coming to her for nourishment and demanding this routine be undisturbed.

The Whole in the Part

This time, I cling to the conception from a peer in this Goethean science approach, which I find easier to grasp.  It comes from a student, a peer less intimidating than an instructor, one who feels easier to question and converse with after the session closes.  My next peer has no gender but does have awareness I am continuing to develop.  It is assisting my efforts to understand my own existence in the confines of this course room.  Its name is lovage, an herb grasping my attention by the mere corner of my left eye with its medicinal description in the Evergreen college medicinal herb section.  This is the plant’s confine.  This garden is its current home far from the Mediterranean’s climate.  I think of the place I now reside and the place my heart and mind embrace as home, Grand Prairie, Texas.  There is a conflict of interests desiring any attention regarding the management of my health.

Unity of the Organism

This is a wholistic approach to science, incorporating a plant to assist my knowledge, a necessity for survival of us as bodies traveling from seed to soil in the cycles of life.  My grandmother insists on the use of natural remedies while my parents revere the doctors prescriptions solely used. Wonder comes upon me as I study the lovage, a medicinal plant in the use of UTT’s and kidney disease.  A number of the medications I’ve taken have been manufactured synthetically, produced for the alleviation of kidney disease symptoms.  In addition, I am reminded of water, a key element in the health of this common life is both a key to my kidney health in regard to the kidney function as a filter and this plants source of some nourishment.  With the return of rain, the plants seem to be receiving too much of a good thing after being without rain for some time.  This observation reminds me of the imbalance I created with my own body by consumption of far too much sodium with weak filtration; my kidneys.  Ultimately my body became flooded, as the gardening grounds and streets do when not enough rain and cleansing of the gutters occur.  Swelling of my tissues with water continued until I died more than once.  Another connection my plant and I have found is a positive response to music.  This response is healthy grown.  What is even more astounding is the type of music with which this positive response occurs; metal/rock.

Doing Goethean Science

Preparing the ground—A new attitude of mind

Practicing Goethean science

Practicing Goethean science translates into the repetition of sensory activities to encourage a better understanding of one’s surroundings as doing Goethean science requires physical hands on experience while applying an open mind with the life you are trying to wholeheartedly understand.  I wholeheartedly wish to know how the things I interact with function and understanding the parts from which the creation is birthed can resolve the curiosity I find in the phenomenon such as how plants like this lovage can stimulate the human body for good health.  I have learned at an early age to analyze everything which goes into my body whether it be a food, drink, or medication.  Understanding all that goes into these items and how they can positively or negatively interact with my body and its particular system has been a practice I learned to be accommodating and patient with from experiencing my not so average lifestyle.


Lovage Poem: Plant to Prescription


Transition, transformation, metamorphosis, phases of change

Taking a life, lovage as a specimen to subdue diseases range

Marvel at this medicinal plant, an herb with potential to stall, disease of kidneys, the filters for us all

Creating an inanimate, medicinal resource, from one once alive again stalling diseases course

The disease finding shelter in my body, taking me over, as its own, Lupus, the wolf, with character all its own


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