Dean Ornish, the doctor that most of us plant nerds look at as bringing the concept of halting the destructive advance of heart disease, and in some cases, reserving it all together, developed a multi-pronged course of treatment that I think is essential to the long term health of everyone of us.
There are obvious ways to improve our health. Exercising more and eating better are universally agreed upon as lifestyle factors that if adhered to will make not only our hearts happier, but our minds, bellies, arms, eyes, and, well, you get the idea, better.
There are two other aspects of Doctor Ornish’s program that don’t get as much attention and during my recovery this past year I have realized just how important they are. The two facets that the good doctor has been preaching for over a quarter century are Managing Stress and How Much Love and Support You Have. For the sake of your weekly five minutes, I will focus on the later today.
Having a system of support and love surrounding you is vital in the management of chronic disease. And if having support is a factor in making your way back from a life threatening illness, as it is in my case, just imagine what it can do for those of you that are not staring down the barrel of chronic disease. Doctors can't write you a script for these lifestyle changes so it is on everyone of us to live better and work smarter.
I have been going hard at the books of late, taking a nutrition certification course and some culinary classes so for a break in the action last month, my wife and I snuck away from the Berkshires and headed east toward the ocean and our old stomping ground of Cape Cod. During our short visit we were treated to a Master’s Course in Community Support.
The Outer Cape is a special, often misunderstood and at times infuriating place to be, but during this particular weekend everything good about it was on display. Friday evening I accompanied Sunie to a special five-year anniversary party of a yoga studio owned by one of our friends. A place where Sunie had both worked and taught and a place I always wanted to go to but as was my way back then, far too intimidated to attend.
This time was different. I am different. Everything is different. As a thank you to the community that has supported the studio, its amazing owner Petra Ledkovsky taught a free class which was followed by a party complete with mostly vegan snacks and some pretty sweet raffle prizes.
The class was amazing. I had heard from my wife what an amazing teacher Petra was and after taking just my first class with her it was easy to see why. Not only did she create a comfortable space but she encouraged me to try new things, to push myself and open my heart to an experience that I will never forget.
After the class we were able to catch up with some old friends, share stories and trade smiles before heading off. The entire night was special and proved once again that small, simple gestures of kindness can move complicated things like your brain and heart to a space reserved for lasting memories.
The next night we went even further out on the Cape to Wellfleet’s venerable Preservation Hall for Chef Michael Ceraldi’s seven-course Valentine’s Day dinner.
Finding a pulse in February on the Outer Cape is not easy, but in the heart of Wellfleet we found one thanks to a few dozen hearty souls and a handful of hospitality wizards. Once again the experience shattered the already high expectations that the Ceraldi crew lives by, and if you are ever on the Cape in season you need to eat the food that they so carefully prepare.
After giving us an amazing introduction regarding the menu, Michael threw out some phrases and descriptions in perfect Italian (and I only thought he knew the Italian curse words).
Not only did this man craft a special seven-course menu of local ingredients prepped and prepared to perfection for his 50 guests, but he was able to come up with an entirely different and equally amazing menu for his one vegan weirdo at table one. I would drive the four hours back to the Cape tonight for the Eastham turnip roasted in an open fire, just one of several mind blowing adventures of what has now become number two on my all-time most memorable dining experience list (Ceraldi also has the No. 1 and No. 4 spot).
That weekend has been circling around my frontal lobes lately for many reasons, but the prevailing thought that keeps occurring centers around the community that both Petra and Michael have helped create. There are plenty of restaurants and yoga centers around but rarely have I entered ones with the profound sense of gratitude for the people that walk through their doors.
My wife tells me that my affection for Petra and Michael stems from the fact that the three of us are New Yorkers at heart, and that may be true. But when I see Michael in his kitchen or Petra with her students I see much more than a geographic location, I see a unique energy that only occurs when someone truly cares about the experience of others.
For a long time I thought Sunie and I would end up back on the Cape. Back in the community where we met and fell in love, and the one that we have some amazing friends and lasting memories. The past three years I have lived in seven different homes and one gigantic food truck. I don’t believe the grass was greener, the food was better or the guitars screamed louder in these other places. Each place we went had its good and its bad. Change can be good, change can be fun, change can be exciting but let’s face it, moving sucks.
The merry go round is coming close to an end as Sunie and I are just a few weeks away from buying our first house together. A quaint, old farmhouse in the Berkshires and we are impossibly happy about the prospects of starting a family in the area we have come to rest our weary heads upon this past year.
It is the area where we got married; the area where I nearly died, and the area where, with her unwavering support, I am making an extraordinary comeback.
Instead of looking for a place to fit in, I found a place that fits me. Our towns on the left side of Massachusetts have a lot going for them, but they can also use some polish and instead of searching for the missing pieces we feel that we can help find some of those pieces and make this even more of a place we are happy to call home (for now).
Let us know when you need a bit of that mountain air because we will have a guest room ready and a cup of tea waiting for you.