Thursday, July 25, 2013

For this community healer, life is a friendly mystery

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave
July 25, 2013


Janice Marsh-Prelesnik grew up on a farm in Michigan and what she learned there led her to become a healer. Zinta Aistars has her story.

Imagine Janice Marsh-Prelesnik standing in the center of a circle. Her life, after all, is all about circles. Circles and life cycles, as the community grandmother and founder of Creative Health Arts in Galesburg nurtures newborns into the world as a midwife; children and young parents to a good start in building family foundations; adults into natural health habits with the use of herbs; and, finally, soothes the ill and aging through the life cycle into a peaceful passage beyond.  

"I always dreamt of being the community healer." Marsh-Prelesnik smiles, sitting by her window that overlooks acres of herbs growing along a winding creek. Birds are in constant flight beyond her window, feeding at a row of bird feeders: hummingbirds, warblers, grosbeaks.

"I am the grandma for everybody," she says with a laugh. Her eyes wander to a photograph on her living room wall. Marsh-Prelesnik's voice grows softer still when she speaks of her own grandmother.

"My grandmother was a healer," she says. "Her father made her quit school in the eighth grade, and so she started to work for a country doctor at the age of 13 or so. She saw births, she stayed with the new moms for two weeks after their children were born. For a 24-hour day, she was paid 25 cents. She had an herb-gathering basket, and she picked herbs to help the mothers."

Marsh-Prelesnik grew up on a farm in the Michigan town of Sunfield, and, like her grandmother, she witnessed births, she experienced the health benefits of herbs, and she watched the life cycles of the animals around her.

Unlike her grandmother, Marsh-Prelesnik stayed in school and earned a graduate degree. Yet her roots held her close, and her interests developed along the paths her grandmother had traveled before her.

What she learned, she says, was more from the farm and from her own studies than from college classrooms and textbooks. "I learned from ..."

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