to protect and to scarve

My parents have both moved to a retirement community, leaving my sister and me to wade through the belongings from their house of 44 years. Amongst the 59 nail clippers, 27 boxes of Band-aids, and too-many-to-count coffee mugs, my mom left behind a large collection of scarves - most of which my dad brought her from long-ago business trips to Europe, Asia and South America. I remember the elegant gold silk scarf she wore to fancy events. Or the beach-inspired cotton scarf she took with her on trips to Hawaii. So many nice memories connected with such small swaths of cloth! My sister and I picked out a few for ourselves, but what should we do with the others?  A good deal of the “stuff” in the house will be given to charity - but the scarves? Each one tells a story. They feel too personal to pass on to an anonymous neck.

Which got me thinking: not only is a scarf a fashion statement, it is a beautiful addition to self-care. I’m always advising my patients to keep their necks covered, especially after a treatment, or when it is particularly windy outside.  Classical Chinese medical texts teach us that the area on the body most susceptible to catching cold is the neck. This is why you will see older, more traditional Chinese men and women protecting their necks, no matter the season, especially if there is any sort of wind. Think of the neck as a passageway between the head and the rest of the body. That passageway is best served when kept warm and protected from wind. I don’t know about you, but I’m not one for walking through a windy passageway. Even in the summer, my whole body feels disrupted.  

So, with my mom’s blessing, I have decided to give her scarves to my patients. They may choose from the gold silk, the oceanic cotton, or any of the others. For me, it’s a way of sharing something meaningful, and helping my patients to care for themselves at the same time.

When my patients leave my office, they may look more glamourous than when they arrived, but they can always say they’re wearing the scarf “for their health.”