Jungle Medicine

Jungle Medicine

On a trip to the Amazon basin in Ecuador in January of 2000 Drake visited the tribe of a winner of a prize in the International Creche Festival contest (see above).  Jorge Vargas, the cacique of the tribe and father of the creator of the prize winning creche, asked Drake to help the tribe earn money so they could stay in their community.  Members of the tribe were trying to emigrate to Spain and the US to earn money.  Soon the jungle inhabitants would all be city dwellers and the rich cultural tradition of a jungle people would be lost.

Since Vargas was the local curandero (medicine man) he introduced Drake to the wonders of the medicinal herbs that are to be found in the jungle around their village.  With Vargas’ cooperation Drake designed a seminar on jungle medicine oriented toward pharmacists, medical doctors and persons interested in herbal medicine.  Drake took the first group of seven seminar participants, all from the Bellingham area, to the jungle for four days of lectures and adventures with members of the tribe (the Indichuri clan of the Quichuan Indians in the State of Pastaza, Ecuador).

Seminar participants paid $400 for the four-day seminar, all of which went to the tribe.  Ordinarily travel agencies in Quito charge tourists from $50 to $100 per day to give them a jungle experience but pay the local native groups only a dollar to two for hosting the visitor.  Since the Indichuri now tell the tourist agencies how much they want for the program they will get most of the money, not the travel agents.  The Indichuri selected a foundation in Quito that works with the poor and native people to handle the tourism aspects of the project, i.e., meet the seminar participant at the airport, arrange hotels for them when not in the jungle, etc.

Drake met with the head of the Ministry of Health in Quito as well as with representatives of the United Nations and leaders of various non-governmental organizations working in Ecuador.  The Minister of Health was excited about this program as it paid the natives to retain and share their culture and would earn them more than they ever could by moving to the city.  He was especially interested, as it was a way for the nation to preserve the incredible intellectual resource of native knowledge of local medicinal herbs to be found in the jungle. 

Sue Boynton Poetry Contest

In 1976 while serving on the Bellingham City Council I decided to plan a ceremony honoring those who served in elected office. I felt  – and sill do – service to community in elective office reflects the goals of the revolution, i.e., self government.

Invitations were sent to every one still alive who had held elected office in Bellingham. At the ceremony, which was held in the rotunda room of the old city hall, a brass ensemble played music of the revolutionary war interspersed with readings of excerpts from major documents of the fight for independence read by members of the local theater guild.

One of the highlights of the evening was when I led Sue C. Boynton, age 95, to the microphone to read the message sent for the occasion by President Gerald Ford. Before reading the message from the president she read one of her poems on service to community. She was a published poet who loved to share her poetry with her friends and neighbors.

When I read in the local paper that Ethel Boynton Crook, daughter of Sue C. Boynton, had just celebrated her 95th birthday I went to see her and proposed the creation of a Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest and Poetry Walk in memory of her mother. She agreed with the concept and made a significant donation to get the project going. With help from some award-winning poets in this community I formed the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Committee and got the project under way.

With the intent of promoting an appreciation of poetry in our community entries are being solicited from all the schools in the county as well as from persons of any age or level of experience in writing poetry.

The poetry contest is now in its 15th year. This year the jury will select 10 works to be engraved in plastic and mounted on plinths in front of the Bellingham Public Library.  In addition 15 works of Merit will be printed on cards for mounting on the WTA buses for one year.

Big Rock Garden Nursery, Gardens of Art

Creating ‘Big Rock Garden Nursery’ and ‘Gardens of Art – Gallery of Fine Art for the Garden.’

On April 11, 1981 George and Mary Ann Drake opened their new business “Big Rock Garden Nursery” on a 2-1/2 acre parcel of wooded land next to their home on the top of the hill in the Silver Beach neighborhood of Bellingham, Washington.  The purpose was to provide an employment opportunity for brain damaged, developmentally disabled and mentally ill young persons in a supportive environment.  The Drakes decided to specialize in plants for the Asian garden and soon had over 400 varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas and over 100 named varieties of Japanese maples in the inventory along with other varieties of plants for sale.  As time went on many of these varieties were planted in the environment so buyers could see what a mature plant would look like.

George and Mary Ann liked art for the garden but found not a single fine art gallery in a lovely garden setting on the west coast of North America.   George decided to open an art gallery among the plants they were selling which he called “Gardens of Art – Fine Art for the Garden.”  Soon he had sculpture on consignment from artists all over the U.S.  As often as he could Drake packed the company truck with sculpture and drove to the Seattle Garden Show, the Horticultural Exhibit at the PNE building in Vancouver, BC, to the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle, Washington, and to many other locations in Washington State and British Columbia promoting the sale of fine art for the garden.  At one of these exhibits in Vancouver, B.C, he met David Marshall, Georg Schmerholz, Geert Maas, Zelko Kjundzic, Lee Gass and other BC sculptors.  The next year they were all showing their sculptures in Drake’s “Gardens of Art” in Bellingham.

One day the President/CEO of Caitac Corporation, a major clothing manufacturer in Japan, visited Drake at the nursery/art gallery.  He spotted one of David Marshall’s sculptures and asked about the artist.  Drake told him about David.  “How much?” he asked.  “$12,000” Drake replied.  He walked on.  “Is that one also by Marshall?” he asked as he pointed to “Transition”.  Drake responded “Yes.”  “How much?”  “$18,000.”  “I’ll take that one” he said and continued walking casually through the garden/gallery as though he had just purchased a dozen eggs.  It was the largest sale of a work by David up to that time.  David was flabbergasted!

After 12 years of operation as a private nursery/art gallery the City of Bellingham made an offer to the Drakes to purchase their land on the hilltop to create a city park which the Drakes accepted.  That last year of business the Drakes sold over a quarter of a million dollars of fine art for the garden proving that there was a role for such a gallery.