Wake up and smell the Straw­berry Flag

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

What’s that smell com­ing from the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs hospi­tal in west Los An­ge­les? Straw­ber­ries?

Yes, that’s right—straw­ber­ries. Artists and vet­er­ans there are hard at work cre­at­ing a gar­den on the hospi­tal cam­pus’ quad­ran­gle that will look like a red-white-and-blue Amer­i­can flag as big as a foot­ball field, com­posed of straw­ber­ries that will be har­vested to make jam.

The “de­li­ciously ther­a­peu­tic” project, ti­tled Straw­berry Flag, is de­scribed thusly in a news release from the VA Greater Los An­ge­les Health­care Sys­tem: “Like a tra­di­tional Amer­i­can flag, this flag has 13 stripes made of re­claimed straw­ber­ries with friendly and invit­ing walk­ing paths and on the top cor­ner, a blue field (shaded by ex­ist­ing trees) made of an ed­i­ble herb called bor­age and white star­shaped flow­ers.”

The seven red stripes of a tra­di­tional Amer­i­can flag were so hued to sym­bol­ize the har­di­ness and valor that the early colonies needed in their strug­gle against Bri­tish rule.

In west Los An­ge­les, the red in the Straw­berry Flag is fed with wa­ter from the nearby Los An­ge­les River, which is tapped us­ing a pump­ing sys­tem driven by sta­tion­ary bi­cy­cles ped­aled by vet­er­ans.

Won­der­ing about the clin­i­cal con­nec­tion to the hospi­tal? The VA, along with its part­ner in the project, the Metabolic Stu­dio in Los An­ge­les, says the phys­i­cal ther­apy of rid­ing the bi­cy­cles is only one key as­pect. Vet­er­ans are also do­ing construction and main­te­nance projects re­lated to the project, and will be nur­tur­ing the plants and mak­ing them into jams, along with re­lated print­mak­ing projects.

The jam can be bought on­line at vet­er­ansp­re­serves.org, and the pro­ceeds go to pay the vet­er­ans work­ing on the project. And who knows—maybe some fu­ture John Len­non will live nearby, and spend bu­colic morn­ings play­ing among the fruit with his friends, and draw artis­tic in­spi­ra­tion from the project some­day when he’s looking for a nos­tal­gic sym­bol of pu­rity, sim­plic­ity and beauty. “Straw­ber­ries are rather frag­ile fruit; how­ever this flag will re­main strong in the years to come,” the VA news release says. “Let’s not for­get what the Bea­tles once sang … “Straw­berry fields for­ever. Straw­berry fields for­ever. Straw­berry fields for­ever.”

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