Talking with John
What made you take up a new pastime, John?
Despite keeping to a vigorous exercise regimen, I found that with the progression of Parkinson’s Disease my physical activity has become more limited. Although my external world of physical activity has shrunk, my internal world has, so far, remained in “fair” condition and I would like it to stay that way.
So you wanted to do something that would stimulate your brain, John, rather than something physical?
That’s right. Research has shown that taking on new mental challenges can help us maintain this inner world. One of the recommended mental challenges is to learn a new language - I have taken up the language of music, or music theory.
John, why choose music theory which, to many, would seem to be quite unusual?
I have always enjoyed listening to music. Unfortunately I never played an instrument or had any knowledge of music theory. Consequently, if I wanted to learn more about a particular piece of music I would be confronted by frustrating, exotic mysteries such as “seventh chords” - I was unsure as to what a chord was, let alone a seventh chord!
And so, John, how did you go about learning music theory?
Over the last few years I have taken up this study using a fairly low key approach (sorry for the pun). I acquired some books and DVDs on music theory and just got started. I use an old keyboard to explore the various concepts of music theory. I find that YouTube is a great help. On it there are numerous music teachers keen to share their knowledge. Also I have a musician friend who comes by and we are able to discuss various aspects of music theory.
As you said, John, you have been learning about music theory for a few years now so you must be enjoying it?
My study has opened up a wonderful world for me - I now not only understand most of the terms used when music is discussed but my appreciation of music is enhanced. An extra bonus is that I now enjoy listening to all genres of music.
That is really very interesting, John. What would you say to others with Parkinson’s Disease about your new pastime?
I would strongly encourage them to take up a new interest in whatever they feel drawn to. Apart from the possible benefits to brain function, a new interest can be a lot of fun and give you a sense of accomplishment. Physically, Parkinson’s Disease limits my keyboard playing to about the level of “Frere Jacques” but I can now hammer out a dominant seventh chord. And who knows? My new skill might help me keep dementia at bay.
Talking with Joe
What made you take up vegetable gardening, Joe?
I just thought that I would try my hand at growing some vegetables as an outdoor activity – a project I could manage with my Parkinson’s Disease.
And, Joe, how long have you been at the project now?
Well, once we got rid of a small jacaranda tree I was left with an empty, small, sunny, protected back yard so I started off by buying a raised garden bed but I soon found I wanted more space. I had someone dig up some garden beds for me and now I find that over time the whole of the back yard is being utilised as a vegetable garden.
Is it hard to decide what to plant?
Not really. Herbs went in straightaway. I wanted some staple trees and bushes like lemon, mandarin, lime, mulberry, chillies so they went in first. The high fencing around the yard was bare so I planted some passionfruit.
How do you know what to do with your different plants, Joe?
There is nothing better than sharing information with others. I check out the internet as well and have some favourite sites. From the internet I have learned to grow vegetables in buckets and boxes which is very useful and successful. I found that there are ways to maximise the area you plant and to make gardening easier.
So, Joe, do you have favourites that you like to grow?
I enjoy growing vegetables we can cook in our own kitchen – the usual things like spinach, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and others. I also like to experiment with less common fruit and vegetables.
That sounds interesting, Joe. What different things have you grown?
We have a tamarillo tree that is just starting to bear. I have grown artichokes, rosellas, cassava and kohlrabi to name just a few. I have some gramma seedlings in at present and I am looking forward to watching them hopefully flourish in the months ahead.
Gramma? What is that?
It is like a butternut pumpkin but has a creamier flesh. Traditionally it is made into a very tasty pie – sweet and spicy in a pastry case – a lovely dessert, especially served warm with ice-cream. Our grandchildren even enjoy it.
What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of having your own edible garden, Joe?
Being able to use my own produce to make my own pickles, chutneys and jams; label the bottle ‘From Joe’s Kitchen’; to have them on our table and to give away to family and friends. I get a great sense of satisfaction from that.
Joe, what would you like to say to People with Parkinson’s about your pastime?
Gardening has given me a sense of fulfillment. It gets me outside with a purpose. It keeps me active physically, obviously, but also mentally by researching and planning the garden. There are always plenty of people who are happy to chat with you about their gardening adventures and during this time of COVID there has always been plenty to do in my garden.