Many years ago – a time that now feels so far away it seems like galaxies away – I traded with a yard man to treat my lawn in exchange for me tutoring his nephew.

This gentleman’s nephew was about 13 years old at the time. He wasn’t a good student, but his family felt that he might end up as an excellent football prospect, so they wanted to make sure he could pass his courses in order to remain in the running for an eventual try at college.

Tutoring this young man changed my life forever.


I had tutored him for about a year when a friend suggested that I learn Brain Gym, also known as Educational Kinesiology.


I took my first Brain Gym course and this young man, who had a police record from various bad behaviors and who took about 20 minutes to read two pages in a textbook, started making As and Bs and became the teacher’s pet.


“I don’t know what this stuff is exactly,” I remember thinking, “but I am going to learn everything about it.”


Because I learned Brain Gym, I met my mentor in healing, Sue Maes, who practiced at the time in London, Ontario, Canada. Sue and I were both Brain Gym practitioners and we met at the Brain Gym convention.


I went on to learn even more about healing the brain and healing work period, all because that little guy had so many challenges that he needed my help addressing.


That little guy changed my life in more ways than one.


Not only did I learn Brain Gym and kinesiology because of him, I also learned something important about myself and the environment.


That little guy’s uncle – the one who took care of my lawn in exchange for the tutoring – was really trying to do a good job by me in exchange for how hard I was working with his nephew.


So the uncle, who owned a lawn service business, put the best chemical treatments he could find on my lawn.


He had the very best of intentions, I know for a fact.


He wanted my grass to look really nice.


At the time, I lived in Acworth, Georgia, and my garden was even more elaborate than it is now.


I had a whole hillside of daisies. I started my daisy hill by digging up daisies by the side of the roads when they would start blooming in May.


I rescued antique roses out of country ditches. I also had plenty of other roses that I bought at various nurseries, about 600 daffodils, a stretch of sunflowers, and perennials of all kinds.


My garden looked kind of wild and I loved it.


I spent a lot of time tending my garden until that little guy’s uncle started spraying chemicals on my grass.


Then, all of a sudden, something very terrible happened.


I would go outside in my very own garden and start shaking violently.


I knew immediately that I was reacting to the chemicals that had been sprayed on my lawn.


Instead of my garden being a place of sanctuary, where I used to spend literally hours every day, it became a place I could literally no longer go.


I had to get someone else to tend my roses and weed my flower beds. It was horrible.


Shortly afterwards, I sold that house and moved to Atlanta, where I live now.


I had learned a very important lesson.


Garden chemicals can have a huge, adverse affect on my nervous system.


And I realized that if those chemicals were affecting me, then they were probably also affecting my pets and anyone who came to visit or stay in my home.


When I moved to my current home, I resolved to do everything differently.


I got a garden plan – so that I would not go crazy and plant every available square inch – and I hired a gardener, Gabe Horrisberger of Gabe’s Gardens, 404-906-6299,


Slowly but surely, my current home, where I have now lived for over 12 years, has been magically transformed into a botanical treasury even more precious to me than my previous garden in Acworth.


Every season, Gabe and I discuss what we want to do. He gives me my marching orders and I try to follow them. And together we plan for the season’s improvements.


This fall, we have made probably the single biggest leap in my garden’s history – we have xeriscaped the front yard!


My front lawn for years was a patch of weeds pretending to call itself grass. No matter how much I watered it or babied it, that part of my garden looked awful.


I asked Gabe how much it would cost to replace all the grass, and he said it would be about $1,000. This seemed to me like throwing good money after bad. Not only would I then have to pay to water the heck out of any new grass, I would also have had to spray tons of chemicals on it.


And I had seen for myself just how bad chemicals can be.


Instead, we came up with a new plan. We dug up the old grass, put down four new flower beds, mixed in 3 cubic yards (the equivalent of about 24 wheelbarrows) of organic mushroom compost, laid out four curving pathways and then planted drought resistant perennials with a combination of violas for beauty and Swiss chard and parsley for my regular juicing.


The result is spectacular.


I have been inviting my clients and friends to view my new garden. I can almost see them rolling their eyes when I ask, but they oblige me, trying to be polite.


Everybody tries to be polite until they actually step into my garden and say, “Wow!”


It really is a “Wow!”


Gabe has foxglove, mondo grass, ajuga, irises, perennial geraniums, creeping Genny, sedums, parsley, Swiss chard, pincushion flowers and many others arranged in a spectacular pattern.


I am ever so thankful, as no longer do I have to water the heck out of my front yard or spray anything with chemicals. It’s just a matter of weeding.


Previous projects that Gabe and I have worked on together have, as we remind each other frequently, “gone bonkers,” which means that the flowers are so happy they just spill over everywhere.


Many horticulturalists, amateur like myself and professional, never stop to consider how they chemicals they are using are affecting their health, much less the overall environment.


Gabe says that grass is the worst thing you can do in your garden for the environment.


Years ago, when I wrote my first book, Healing Depression: A Holistic Guide (New York: Marlowe and Co., 1997), I included a chapter about how synthetic chemicals adversely affect our nervous system. Because so many new chemicals are being compounded literally every day, experts may well have not been able to catch up with how the latest are hurting you.


If you spray your yard, you may not even realize what it is that has hit you. You may just get sick and not be able to connect the dots.


If you do just a little research on the internet, you will find that common lawn chemicals like herbicides and pesticides have been proven to have disastrous consequences on the human body.


One of the practical functions of our fat cells is to store chemicals to keep toxins away from our internal organs. So when we increase our chemical exposure, our bodies sometimes decide to store a little more fat so we can go on protecting ourselves.


If, on the other hand, you do what Gabe and I did, dig up your own lawn, create organic flower beds and plant drought resistant hardy perennials, you could save yourself the chemical exposure and also make it more likely that your own garden will continue to thrive while others fail to make their garden work.