As a child, one of my clearest memories is putting on my blue swimsuit (in the picture above) and “taking a dip” in the ivy pool in the front yard (like this picture here in imagination only).
When a friend told me many years later that ivy groves often host vermin, it came as a surprise. As a child, I never thought to be scared as I dived in and “splashed” my way across the pool.
So close to the earth (and possibly some very puzzled vermin), I remember the smell of the ivy – a robust earthy smell with a slight tang, reminiscent of Sumatra coffee grounds. When I think back on my childhood, ivy conjures a time of playfulness, creativity (making a pool where none existed) and simple joy.
At the same time, ivy has a dark side. It can overtake life, choke it out, and become, in a moment, the backdrop of a scene of decay and decrepitude. As any gardener can attest, it can be a ruthless enemy to the variety of other plants around it. And as I can attest, a bout with its poisonous cousin is a torture. As a Psychologist to soldiers returning from combat deployments, my work at the VA often involves treating indescribable traumas. An analogy I often call upon in the healing process is that true recovery requires getting to the deeper roots of trauma, including any number of childhood traumas.
Hidden Ivy: The Story Behind the Name
When helping others to heal, it is critical not only to create and foster an environment of radical honesty, but also to address all aspects of a trauma, ripping it out by its deepest and most hidden roots. Otherwise, what is still hidden can re-emerge and choke out one’s essential vitality. So, hidden ivy captures a philosophy and an approach to healing fully.
In addition to some very personal connotations, hidden ivy is also a nod to the Lifestyle Poll, a study of more than 1200 women, mostly Ivy League graduates, that I conducted in 2008. Those who participated shared their deepest truths, the stories and often hidden feelings people don’t share in polite society – hence, hidden Ivy.
Finally, Ivy also brings to mind my years at Harvard, the oldest of the Ivy League colleges. For me, these years were a wonderful time of personal growth, intellectual and social stimulation. As much as I learned from the brilliant instructors, I gained at least as much insight from my interactions with others in the Harvard community. Through these friendships, I integrated many of the core values that I continue to live out, including a love of learning, an orientation to personal growth over the lifespan, and a sense that what can be envisioned can be achieved.
“Hidden Ivy” Psychological Consultation was so named due to the multiple and rich associations the concept evokes for me.
Before fancy, exquisitely varied dry gardens came into vogue, California’s original dry garden was the 1980’s front yard expanse of English ivy.
Joy is also evoked in seeing a dwelling artfully covered in trailing ivy – lighting up the samebrain synapses as a mental image of Tolkien’s Hobbiton. The vivid green young shoots mixed with the leathery old growth suggests an intermingling of what is old and what is new – verdant, always growing, ever-stronger over time. A wall of ivy tickled by the wind is a sensual delight.
“As long as you live, keep
learning how to live.”