Coche, Judith

Dr. Judith Coche.

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What could be more necessary than breathing fresh air and cultivating fresh flowers in a garden? 

For over a decade, I've cared for two special homes. In Center City Philadelphia, near Rittenhouse Square, I've maintained a historic Victorian-style apartment building, where my husband, John, and I occupy one unit. Although Spruce Street has only a few window boxes and planters in front of the stately historic buildings, our property is easy to spot.  

Two large black planters house evergreens thriving in the city's air if they get their hose feedings regularly. In front of our home, we also planted a young tree given to us by The Horticultural Society of Philadelphia, as a gift, and to our relief, it seems to love city living. As I view the window boxes and trees planted in spots left for them by the sidewalk to my right and left, I see a thriving variety of evergreens, deciduous trees, ivy, and many assortments of hand-selected flowers beginning to have blossoms ready to open.  

At 18th and Walnut, delicate yellow daffodils push their way through the soil in their boxes to find enough city sun to bloom.  

As much as I enjoy Rittenhouse Square's busy sophistication, I am delighted to get to the beach.  

As I rush from city responsibilities to our beloved seaside cottage, my welcoming committee is usually the damp smell of marshland air. Sulfur heightens my awareness as I come to Stone Harbor Boulevard. Not only does the island air smell fresher, but it is also healthier, and health must be part of what matters most every day of our lives.  

High oxygen levels enhance physical well-being and have been linked to better health, including a lower return risk of cancer. Every physical system thrives on oxygen provided by fresh outdoor air, which often provides lower pollutant levels.  

Thank fresh air for allowing you to live daily. Flowers are less of a necessity, or are they?  

In 2009, when we rebuilt the cottage that hovers at the water’s edge, we installed 40 feet of flower boxes over the marshland waters. Now, red Mandeville bloom all summer.  

Each morning, I pull the blinds to greet an army of red-uniformed soldiers, standing at attention or waving in the wind, and on a hectic Stone Harbor Boulevard, we have installed large white boxes filled to overflowing with gigantic red hibiscus and periwinkle lavender. These hardy souls consider the traffic dirt no hindrance to voluptuous bodies and a heady smell, but even our hardy marshland blooms were blighted by last winter’s storms.  

It is easy to overlook the importance of our natural elements, like air and water. In cultivating delight, naturalist Diane Ackerman alerts us that we are unable to control ever-changing life elements, such as the seasons, the air we breathe, and the inhabitants of our gardens, stating that our gardens offer us firsthand experience of the beauty of impermanence.  

Ackerman says life, according to many religions, begins and ends in a garden.  

With the flowers embedded in the lush green of the summer grasses and the soothing blue summer sky, what could matter more?  

Like Ackerman, I find myself amazed by the garden’s beauty. My joy is palpable, and I am filled with admiration for the plants that pass through my hands each summer as I tend my modest marshlands garden.  

To Consider: This spring, note which forces of nature matter most to you. Literally and figuratively, take a deep, fresh breath and smell the fledgling spring flowers, then stop and think, "Is the air I breathe and the garden I walk through part of what matters most?" If so, take a moment to feel fortunate. T 

To Read: Diane Ackerman. Cultivating Delight. Harper Collins, 2006. 

ED. NOTE: Dr. Judith Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, 

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