06 October 2010

What's News?

Yesterday, a group of us from NCNM went to KBOO to tape a show for Sunday morning (830am--you can listen at their webstream at that hour).

We had 4 near-strangers searching for meaning, for 'news,' and this is some of what came up:

Little Portland, Oregon, is the only city on the continent with national-level colleges of every major modality represented: Naturopathic, Chinese Medicine (2), Chiropractic, MD, and Nursing.
This allowed these colleges to collaborate in research comparing outcomes of their respective modalities --nationally funded (through NIH). I participated on a panel that developed acupuncture protocols. These studies take years to make, and the results are still sitting on shelves, waiting to be analyzed and completed. Although the research takes forever, it seems, just getting it off the ground was a boost.

The interviewer, Tom Park, has a great and abiding love for this town. He was excited by the progress in alternative medicine since the 70s, when he first came to Portland and got to know NCNM. It is amazing how far natural therapies have come since when I first started learning them--out of people's homes--in the early 80s. To have real institutions with comparatively vast knowledge and resources at a mind-boggling increase now from then... who could know then it would be this way now?

When we took flower essences and ate brown rice religiously, getting bodywork (--we didn't grow up with that in Ohio) it was with total certainty. We just never guessed it would lead to bricks and mortar, NIH research or real programs. We instinctively knew what we and our friends and patients needed. And we weren't getting it in our families of origin or their doctors --or other institutions, for that matter. Viet Nam changed all of that. I watched my older siblings forge new ways of being, totally cut off from the elders who were drafting them for a war nobody seemed to want. I will never forget what happened at Kent State. Being with Tom, my Elder, reminded me of the power of generational differences. Each one has its most memorable, defining moment.

Portland is ready for a little good news. Homelessness--always growing since the 80s--is more evident: I saw a child sitting on the sidewalk outside the shelter on the Burnside bridge two weeks ago for the first time (the number of homeless families grows and is the least visible aspect of this issue). The Willamette Week--never a Beacon of Hope--this week noted that our county leads the country in illicit drug use.

But one bright light here is medicine: OHSU is our biggest employer. Besides the colleges for the modalities named above (NCNM, Western States Chiropractic, OCOM), there are at least 3 massage schools (Oregon School, East-West, among others), community colleges turning out more LMTs, University of the Pacific with its health programs, and the international Process Work Institute in NW Portland.
Walk around sick in this town, and you are bound to bump into a budding cranial-sacral therapist, homeopathic specialist, or shamanic practitioner (turning out positive outcomes research at Kaiser, no less).

How did this happen? Maybe it was from:
  • The Willamette Valley being termed "the valley of death," according to some urban legends about First People's term for this rich homeland (which I doubt)
  • Enough stubborn flower children getting stuck here in the 70s
  • A lack of pro sports teams to root for
  • The paternalistic healthcare models of timber company towns in the Northwest, leading to relatively more efficient and collective health enterprises in Oregon & Washington
  • Gorgeous beaches and mountains to draw in real healing --and people interested in that

When I lived in Taos, New Mexico, everyone believed in the energy of the land, and that it was most expressed through the dominant mountain. "The mountain decides," was a common refrain. It wasn't just a new age thing. The 'Anglo' population was only one-third.... Whether they were Pueblo Indians, Spanish farmers (first arrived 500 years ago), or retirees from LA, they all spoke the same way on this topic. They saw how recent arrivals were seemingly either welcomed by the land, or shooed away. The land was seen as alive, an independent agent.

Taos Mtn., New Mexico

People's cars starting breaking down in Taos as soon as they invented them in the 1920s, leading to permanent residency for many with no intention of settling in a pin-dot town at 7,000 feet elevation. This led to the establishment of a colony of artists. The painter Georgia O'Keefe, in nearby Abiqiu, was part of that movement:

Red Canna, 1923

As I look at this sometimes-broken, sometimes-healing, always-soulful city named Portland, I wonder how we all got here: Was it Mt. Hood or Tri-met? Some school or the beaches? Where is the energy vortex we owe our draw to? As an acupuncturist, I would like to know the point.

It seems to be growing.

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