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November 10, 2017

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Metamorphosis and Transformation

By: Danielle Zandbergen, Therapist

“If the fires that burn innately inside our youths are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, the youth will burn down the structures of the culture, just to feel the warmth.”

-Michael Meade

Before transitioning into the clinical team as a primary therapist, I began my journey at Pacific Quest as a program guide. I worked many weeks in the rite of passage portion of the program, Huli Ka’e, where our students step into a “threshold” experience and begin to “end their old story” and “begin stepping into the new story.” I’ve always viewed this phase similar to a metamorphosis or transformation that we often see in nature.

PQ_therapist

Danielle Zandbergen, MA

During one of my shifts in Huli Ka’e, I was working in the plant nursery with a student.While we were planting seeds together, we both noticed a cocoon on one of our growing papaya trees. We then began to bear witness to the cocoon cracking and opening up to a new life, as we watched the once known caterpillar morph into a beautiful monarch butterfly. As the student and I watched in awe, there was an intense emotion that welled up between us, to the point where we looked at one another silently and began to smile and cry at the sight of this rarely seen transformation. In so many ways, it was much like a student’s experience when participating in a rite of passage.

In grade school I remember learning about metamorphosis through the lens of a physical transformation many animals experience, where a caterpillar hatches from larva, then stuffs itself with leaves, grows plump and through a series of molts sheds its own skin. The caterpillar stops eating, hangs from a twig or leaf and spins a silky cocoon around itself and sometimes molts into a shiny chrysalis. It is then that the caterpillar experiences a radical transformation and eventually emerges as a butterfly. Tadpoles go through a similar transformation, where an egg mass is laid, cells grow into a tadpole, and the organism lives completely underwater, while a hormone in the tadpole’s thyroid gland initiates their metamorphosis.  Then the tadpole develops into a frog, and all the organs and physical features transform in order for it to live outside of the water and learns how to adapt to a completely new environment.

Metamorphosis in the natural world is very much like the transformation our students experience as they embark on their own Rite of Passage, and in the grand scheme of things, what many of us experience throughout our lifetime. At Pacific Quest, we set the stage for a meaningful and transformative rite of passage that many teenagers never fully experience in their lives. Often named “liminality,” the threshold experience is paramount to the rite of passage and in a lot of ways, a student’s experience at Pacific Quest is seen as a “liminal” or threshold event. Liminality may involve a significant challenge, ambiguous features and sometimes disorientation between the “old and the new.” This often looks like a pattern that is no longer serving the individual, thus inducing a need to “sever from” and begin a transition into something new in order to get those needs met, or adapt to a new way of living.

Our students often “stand at the threshold,” between the two worlds, in which we hold ceremony and ritual spaces to represent severance and incorporation. However, oftentimes a student needs to fully sever from certain behaviors, thought patterns or addictions in order to step into their new intention. Without this significant threshold experience, many teenagers and young adults seek various alternatives to mark this transition. Some resort to substances, buy lottery tickets or cigarettes, some engage in sexual activity, where some may engage in all of the above in order to feel as if they are stepping into their adulthood, but may not engage in the important ceremony and ritual that creates a meaningful experience for their transition.

Although at first glance it may seem that these are unhealthy manifestations of a mental health issue, and subsequently may lead to even more unhealthy choices, there is also an element to these behaviors and choices that represent a child’s search for that threshold; signifying meaning and purpose in their lives. Our society tends to hold a lot of weight (and responsibility) over “ages,” such as turning 16 and being able to drive legally, or 18 when one is expected to move out, get a job, and continue college. Although all of these represent a form of rite of passage, over time they have come to be an expectation that has negated the entire meaning behind ceremony, ritual and celebration that is so much a part of a rite of passage.

One of our goals as a program is to facilitate and provide this experience to our adolescents and young adults. One of my goals as a therapist, guide, role model and caregiver, is to help our students find meaning in their life and recognize that what they are worth is only as much as they value themselves and their experiences in life. It is all of our jobs to celebrate these important marks of transition and develop intentional and positive ceremony around reaching these important life stages so the legacy can continue on.

October 10, 2017

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PQ Featured on LA Talk Radio

Wilderness Therapy Hawaiian-Style

This week Dr. John Souza, Primary Therapist and Mike Sullivan, Alumni & Family Services Director were featured on LA Talk Radio “Answers For the Family“.  During the program they shared their experiences with developing and implementing family therapy with young adults, often referred to as “emerging adults”, in an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare setting. Additionally, Mike and John compared the common “myths” with the facts of emerging adulthood, while also providing insights into the importance of deepening family engagement with this population, as well as how nature-assisted therapy can promote both immediate and long-term improvements in family functioning.

Listen to the full radio show here:

http://www.latalkradio.com/sites/default/files/audio/Answers-100917.mp3

At Pacific Quest we fully utilize family participation in the therapeutic process.  By involving the whole family in the healing process, we strive to improve communication, increase empathy and develop usable conflict resolution skills, which help deepen each individual’s understanding and trust in the greater process.

For more information about our Family Program visit:

https://pacificquest.org/our-programs/young-adults/family-involvement/

May 30, 2017

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Dr. Freedle Published in Routledge International Handbook of Sandplay Therapy

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director at Pacific Quest Wilderness Program, was asked to contribute her original work to The Routledge International Handbook of Sandplay Therapy.  Dr. Freedle’s chapter, “Healing Trauma through Sandplay Therapy:  A Neuropsychological Perspective” explores the underlying mechanisms of Jungian sandplay therapy that promote neural integration and wholeness of personality.  It also chronicles the sandplay journey of Liv, a teenager who came to Dr. Freedle to heal from traumatic grief following the sudden and violent deaths of loved ones.

Dr. Lorraine Freedle

“This chapter is not just a brain-based theory, it’s anchored in depth psychology.  And so as we explore how sandplay helps traumatized people safely access and reprocess their pain, we don’t lose the importance of connection to the deeper Self,” Dr. Freedle shared.

As a board certified Pediatric and School Neuropsychologist and international Sandplay Teacher (STA/ISST) Dr. Freedle has practiced and lectured at the crossroads of neuropsychology and sandplay therapy for over 25 years.  The contents for the chapter emerged over a number of years building upon her prior presentations and publications.

When asked about what makes this chapter unique, Dr. Freedle shares “The chapter makes the neuropsychology of therapeutic change accessible and explains how sandplay works.  This is very important for people and programs who would like to utilize sandplay to effect meaningful change.”

This text will be used worldwide in universities to teach sandplay therapy. Pacific Quest congratulates Dr. Freedle on this prestigious honor and accomplishment!

For more information on The Routledge International Handbook of Sandplay Therapy as well as information on how to purchase, please visit: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-International-Handbook-of-Sandplay-Therapy/Turner/p/book/9781138101692

For more information on Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Programs, please visit: www.pacificquest.org

March 24, 2017

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Learning Differences at PQ

By Brian Konik, Ph.D. and Kristen McFee, MA, LPCC

I am always inspired and impressed when I watch a student complete his or her legacy garden project: they are beaming with pride, smiling, wiping sweat off their soil-covered faces. And I know how many steps it took them to get here. Managing their schedule to find extra time with all of their other obligations. Days are full of academic work, therapy, yoga, groups, gardening, cooking, cleaning and yet they learn to develop a schedule and make time to create something special. The goal is to find inspiration and work hard to produce something that others who follow will benefit from. To give back to the land and the Ohana (family). I have seen beautifully constructed lava rock walls, medicinal herb gardens, and bamboo furniture pieces, all created by students. Such accomplishments would be great for any student but they are uniquely important for those who have struggled with a lifetime of frustration dealing with learning differences often coupled with executive functioning deficits.

Pacific Quest’s horticultural therapy focus provides a unique environment for students who struggle with a combination of cognitive and emotional/behavioral issues. Pacific Quest utilizes a strength-based, “multiple intelligence” approach to learning. This approach is rewarding for students who may not have achieved acknowledgement for their strengths and abilities in traditional settings. The garden setting especially promotes growth in students’ executive functioning skills like organization, planning, abstract reasoning, memory, and attention.

Gardening provides a soothing environment where the nervous system can become regulated, offering opportunities to “access” cognitive-behavioral interventions. By placing the student in the role of the project manager and creative problem solver in the garden, each is forced to simultaneously engage in visual-spatial organization skills and interpersonal communication. This combination of skills can be particularly challenging for students who struggle with executive functioning deficits.

Many students find that their executive functioning deficits not only impact academics, but just as importantly affect their social relationships. Effort is taken to encourage social relationships, learn and practice social pragmatics and for students to have an integral role in a supportive peer group. A series of therapeutic horticultural experiences are offered with the intention of accessing the biological processes of the garden in order to increase interaction with the non-linear aspect of nature, increasing mental flexibility.Learning Differences at PQ - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Therapists help the family reach an understanding of how learning differences contribute to the the stress response of the student, help the family avoid negative attributions to the student, and create understanding and acceptance within the family system. The family works toward balancing emphasis on both struggles and strengths, as it can be easy to lose sight of the strengths in face of struggles.

It is a unique experience to be apart of how this integrative approach is helpful in understanding and treating those with learning differences and executive functioning deficits. It is rewarding to see students empowered through their success in the garden. I am grateful to be a part of the growth process of so many students who work hard to learn and grow every day, taking one more step to overcome their challenges.

March 7, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist

“Happiness, fulfillment, and joy in everyday life should be the bar we set… instead of taking an extreme view, I strive to take a wise, balanced, and integrative approach.” -Dr. Voloshin

Pacific Quest has an incredible new member of our Clinical and Wellness teams, Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist. Dr. Robert Voloshin is leading the Integrative Psychiatry team at Pacific Quest with the goal of cultivating mental health for our students. The Pacific Quest integrative psychiatric model is unique in its methods of treatment.  It combines psychiatric care with naturopathic medicine allowing treatment to be individualized to the needs of each student, achieving a dynamic and comprehensive treatment approach.

Dr. Robert Voloshin: Pacific Quest Integrative Psychiatrist

“Integrative psychiatry is a way of approaching adolescents and young adults from multiple different perspectives. We use the perspectives of modern psychiatry, naturopathic medicine, developmental psychology and family systems to understand the young people and families we work with …”

As a lifelong observer of the human condition, he was innately curious about “what makes us well and what makes us sick.” Through medical school, residency, fellowship and beyond, his training in psychology and psychiatry led him to the conclusion that the origins of our mental health or lack thereof stems from our early years and our family systems, which led to his pursuit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Read More

February 20, 2017

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Eating Disorder Treatment: A Different Approach at PQ

By: Andrea Sussel, MSS, LCSW

It’s time to talk about it

Eating Disorder Treatment: A Different Approach From Traditional Models | Pacific Quest

Andrea Sussel, MSS, LCSW

The National Eating Disorders Association has created National Eating Disorders Awareness (#NEDAwareness) Week to shine the spotlight on eating disorders and put life-saving resources into the hands of those in need. This year’s theme is It’s Time to Talk About It. Andrea Sussel, PQ Therapist, shares how we can make that happen without doing further harm.

Eating disorders, food and body image are not easy things to discuss. Conversations can be riddled with unintended triggers, for example, I have heard from many people who are in recovery say that when someone tells me I look “healthy” they instead hear “you look fat”. So how do we discuss these issues without contributing to the struggles of another?

  1. Focus on what our bodies can DO and how they FEEL, not on how they LOOK.
    Because our approach is one of whole-person wellness, students can begin to focus on what their bodies need and how their bodies feel versus how they look. While this is occurring, we are simultaneously providing a lot of education – including lots of research – about whole-body, whole-person wellness. From a programmatic perspective, shifting this focus includes de-emphasize mirror gazing (at PQ we have very few to begin with) and also having students wear clothes that are loose fitting and uniform.
  2. Remember that exercise and movement is for our physical and mental health, not for weight loss.
    Experiencing what are bodies can do, and moving them shamelessly is an essential part of healing from an eating disorder. At PQ, we educate our students about metabolism and how food as fuel translates into a greater capacity to live our lives with more vibrant energy. Movement takes the form of working in the garden, yoga, swimming, weekend hikes, and daily core workouts. It takes reinforcement to rewire the societal messages that tell us to exercise to control weight. At Pacific Quest, we move for a higher quality existence, one that helps us feel more connected to our bodies and our passions.
  3. Speak up when we hear “Fat Talk”, don’t let it go unaddressed.
    Pacific Quest is a Fat Talk free zone. Having appropriate boundaries about what we can and can’t talk about helps not only break the pattern of negative self talk, but gives space to encourage new and healthier patterns to emerge. PQ is also “lookism free”. Lookism is defined as a “construction of a standard for beauty and attractiveness, and judgments made about people on the basis of how well or poorly they meet the standard.” At Pacific Quest, you can be healthy at any size. We don’t subscribe to one “look” being beautiful – all looks, shapes, and sizes are!
  4. Remember, food is medicine.
    Sometimes what isn’t being said is just as important as what is. Getting involved in food preparation can be a healing activity, as individuals start to rebuild their relationship with food. And at Pacific Quest, growing your own food is akin to teaching someone how to fish; learning and beginning to appreciate that entire developmental process can lead to lifelong shifts in understanding and healing. Students have the opportunity to learn about their own relationship with/to food as well as the relationship with their body. The place where these two relationships overlap is in the garden, making Horticultural Therapy a powerful therapeutic modality. There is also a lot of healing that comes from preparing your own food in a community setting. Because Pacific Quest is not a primary eating disorder program, students with eating disorder patterns are able to observe and “rise to” the normative eating habits of the rest of the group.

The Pacific Quest model imparts skills to make progress and healing sustainable for eating disorder recovery for a lifetime: You learn how to truly feed all your hungers at Pacific Quest.

February 13, 2017

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Oh Coconuts!

By Kate Goodwin, Young Adult Wellness Medical Supervisor

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut has many uses and health benefits

The tropical coconut is an incredible superfood with endless uses, especially in Polynesian cultures.  The Hawaiians used “Niu” or coconut for drink, food, thatching, hats, baskets, furniture, mats, cordage, clothing, charcoal, brooms, fans, ornaments, musical instruments, shampoo, containers, oil for fuel, light, ointments, soap and more.

Traditionally, a coconut palm was planted at a Hawaiian’s birth with a he’e (octopus) under it for fertilizer.  After the tree fruits at age seven, it will continue to fruit for 70-100 years to provide food for the individual or community.  Just one tree can produce 50 coconuts a year!

Coconut meat contains high quantities of lauric acid, a rare medium-chain saturated fatty acid.  Lauric acid is the reason coconut oil is so good for your skin, it can reduce bacterial and fungal infections while moisturizing.  Consuming the coconut meat provides B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Coconut water is an alkali producer in the digestive system and can help balance the body’s pH.  The water inside a coconut is sterile, yet packed with nutrients and electrolytes, it could even be used in a pinch for IV rehydration.

During a recent wellness training with Annie, the students learned how to pick a perfect coconut and “tap” into it to drink the water.  The coconuts were then cracked open to enjoy the delicious meat inside.  They also learned how to fashion a makeshift deodorant out of coconut oil as well as learning how the niu is culturally relevant to the Hawaiians.

How to select the perfect drinking coconut:

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut ready for drinking!

The perfect drinking coconut is full-sized, yet immature. Green and picked from the tree is ideal (yellow color and found on the ground is okay and still delicious).

Up to one quart of water is inside, but you should not hear “sloshing” when you shake it.  If the nut sloshes, it is no longer sterile and could cause some digestive irritation.

The yellow or browning coconut is mature when it drops to the ground. There is still some water in the cavity, which can be combined to make coconut milk. Coconut milk is a blend of coconut water and the scrapings of the coconut meat. This milk is a good source of iron and contains calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins.

Wahi ka niu, break open the coconut!

November 16, 2016

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Moving Forward: The story of a PQ alumna

By: PQ Alumni Student

I didn’t realize how much of my life I was hiding from, and how much I didn’t know about myself, until the three months I spent at Pacific Quest.  Prior to going to PQ in February, I was in a severe depression. I hated every minute and everything about myself.  It was a time that I don’t wish upon anyone.  I hid behind alcohol, sex and shopping, anything that would avoid the idea of feelings, and moving past my pain. I was filled with anger, and major giddiness because the emotions were almost non-existent. I wanted nothing to do with the way I felt, and the fact that I was drowning slowly, falling into pieces I would not be able to pick up myself.  I pushed away friends, family, anyone who cared for me, and I refused to see therapists or take my medication regularly.  After a very dark few months and three days in a psych ward, I realized how much I needed help.

Pacific Quest alumni student shares her experience at PQ and beyond.

Alumni student working in the garden

When I first came to PQ, I fought it, not interested in anything, but as time went on and I learned more about myself I began to love it there. There was no doubt that the program was not easy, but the things I learned and overcame at Pacific Quest, I am convinced saved my life.  I found out at PQ, I have major childhood traumas, anxiety issues and my medications were wrong.  My therapist and the PQ guides helped me regain confidence, realize how incredible I can be, learn to channel my anger, my impulsivity, and cope without addictions taking over. They helped me get on the right medication track, and work out many great things with my family. I have never cried, laughed, yelled, struggled and enjoyed myself so much in my life. It was so worth it.

Leaving PQ was tough, it was like leaving a world of comfort, new strategies, a healthy living style and having to realize that the real world is tough.  I don’t want to go back to where I was, so I have to choose to move forward. I graduated from PQ into a transition program. I fought it for some time, but after about 2 months, I pulled it together. I began to remember all that I learned in Hawaii, and how capable I am. I regained motivation, and the capability to function.

I am now in college, doing excellent, enjoying it and getting the services I need to succeed. I am also working part time in the restaurant industry.  I have been making friends and I’m not pushing anyone away, and even with my family things have improved.  As for my anxiety, I used to get panic attacks to the point where I could not breathe; it felt like I was having a heart attack, with my body spasming.  I could not control it, or understand it, and I was very scared.  Since I graduated PQ in the end of May, I have only had a total of 3 anxiety attacks that I could not control. I now know great deep breathing techniques and body exercises to limit my anxiety to get any farther. I had one therapist tell me “we fear the fear of anxiety” and that has stuck with me forever. I can now tell my triggers, and when I am getting anxiety.

I feel like a whole new person.  My ability to love myself with no one else and to accept the help that I need and want to do well is something I never felt before.  I’m now at a place where I have taken control of my life, and I could not be happier.  I’m convinced Pacific Quest saved my life, and helped me understand how amazing it is to be on this earth and how lucky I am to have gone to a place like that, and be able to grow from it.  It is and will always be a memorable experience I will never forget and will forever be grateful for.

October 18, 2016

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From Surviving to Thriving: The story of a PQ alumna

By: PQ Alumni Student

Before Pacific Quest, I was alive, but I wasn’t really living. I was surviving, but I was far from thriving. My life had become completely consumed by depression and anxiety. It was back in 2014; I had dropped out of college, and not for the first time. I had been suffering for over a decade by that point and had lost all hope. I had been doing therapy for years, had tried countless different medications, hell, I had even spent six weeks at a treatment facility in an attempt to “get better”. I was just about ready to give up, to end it all. I knew I didn’t want to die, though. So I decided to take a chance on Pacific Quest.

I could not be more grateful for my PQ experience.  There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about those three months of my life. The experience is still so vivid in my mind, and I think that’s what is so special about the program.  Being in Hawaii is truly magical. Yes, the experience was beyond tough; it was filled with tears, frustrations, moments of hopelessness. But in the end, it was worth it. PQ helped me save my own life.

Taking a Chance on Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Alumni student with Horticultural Therapy Director Travis Slagle

Notice how I say that I saved my own life?  That’s because I’ve learned to take accountability for my actions and the decisions that I make.  It’s one of the many lessons I learned at PQ.  I learned things about myself that I have never known.  Not only did PQ help me finally gain clarity about diagnoses and medications, but more importantly, I also learned about who I am as a person, and how to love that person!  I learned to appreciate myself for who I am.  I learned tools and coping mechanisms that are still with me, to this day. I learned to see the beauty in life again, and in myself. My experience was a powerful one.

After attending PQ, I moved to a transition program in Oregon. I felt rejuvenated, vivacious, and ready to slowly but surely rebuild my life. I felt so motivated by my experiences in Hawaii, and I was determined to stay on my path of health and self-love. Today, I am still in Oregon. I graduated from the transition program and am living on my own, happily and healthfully. I have a better relationship with my family members than I have ever had before. I have a better relationship with MYSELF than I have ever had before. I’m currently enrolled in college and will be graduating in a few months. Today, I am content with my life. I am proud of myself. I enjoy living! And it’s all because of that fateful day back in July of 2014, when I decided to go to Pacific Quest.

September 27, 2016

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PQ Students Attend “Embrace” Screening: Documentary on Body Image + Positivity

By: Dr. John Souza, Jr
Primary Therapist

At 7:30 pm on a Monday evening, the movie theater in Hilo, Hawai’i was nearly filled to capacity as over 100 souls gathered to screen the documentary film Embrace: One Women’s Journey to Inspire EveryBODY. Of those souls, nearly 40 were from Pacific Quest and included young adult students, staff, and therapists.

Three months prior my wife (Deepa Ram-Souza, MA) had asked if I would be willing to help her bring a screening of the movie to our local theater. She believed the documentary focusing on what film director Taryn Brumfitt calls the “global epidemic” of poor body image would be well-received on our little Big Island.

At first we struggled to garner interest, selling only a few tickets. Then Pacific Quest’s Clinical Director Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Ph.D., caught wind of the effort, kicking it up to Co-Executive Director Mark Agosto, MBA. Next thing I knew PQ had purchased 40 tickets! This shouldn’t have surprised me, given that the year prior PQ’s leadership had helped champion an effort to take several young adult female students to a showing of The Vagina Monologues at the University of Hilo’s Performing Arts Center.

PQ Students Attend "Embrace": Documentary on Body Image + Positivity

Indeed, the documentary itself was truly eye opening and inspiring. In lucid and compassionate filmmaking, Brumfitt tastefully shared what were sometimes very ugly realities about how women have been influenced to be hyper-focused on “youthfulness” and an “ideal” image of physical appearance. Through compelling interviews with courageous (and beautiful) women (and men), the film offered an assessment of the origins of poor body image and examples of how people have worked through their own personal struggles with body image; taking the viewer to the edge of some uncomfortable (and often extreme) examples of body image issues, but without exploiting the storytellers or losing focus of the larger issue of women’s body image.

After speaking with my wife, our 12-year old daughter (who with her friends, was also in attendance), and several PQ employees who attended the screening, the take away seemed to be that there are no “flawed” bodies because there is no ideal toward which to aspire. That is to say, the “idealized” images we may have about a woman’s (or a man’s) body are simply not real. And even for those idealized images that might actually exist (i.e., are not altered using Photoshop), the hyper-focus on “youthfulness” privileges only a small part of the larger human experience, obscuring the joy and beauty of the diversity of life, including aging and death. This Body Image Movement invites everyone to “redefine and rewrite the ideals of beauty.”

The message many seemed to take from the film is that in life the “beauty” of the body resides in its manifest diversity. This made me think of the garden, made of many plants which themselves are comprised of non-plant elements (e.g., water, soil, sunlight, etc.). When considered this way, no plant is “more” or “less” beautiful anymore than sunlight is more or less beautiful than water or air. All things are interrelated and therefore all things are uniquely beautiful. And this, I believe, is what I am taking from the film: The real beauty in life is not the thing (e.g., the body, the plant, the element, etc.) but the relationship between things. On a personal level, for me the real beauty of life is knowing that I am married to a woman that would care enough to take on such a project; that together we are raising a daughter who has the kind of friends, and who live in a community that cares enough to show up for such events. On a professional level the real beauty is knowing I work for a company that has the kind of leadership that in the spirit of better serving our students and our employees, is open to seizing such an opportunity and has resources to actualize it.

The next day, while visiting students at Reed’s Bay (PQ’s young adult program), one male student asked, “Hey Dr. John, I loved that movie, but what about one for men?!” I passed the message along to my wife, who said she would look into it. Beautiful.