Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jane Packard Bryant

IRREPRESSIBLE.  I think that's the word I'd choose to describe Jane.  Irrepressible and always on the go.

She was born in 1932 on Moose Mountain in New Hampshire, near Hanover.  Times were very hard and Jane and her sister, along with their parents "worked their heads off" on their dairy farm  They also made maple syrup which Jane doesn't like to this day because it reminds her of being so poor.

An accident changed her life.  At age 11 Jane was kicked by a horse and developed osteomyelitis (an acute or chronic bone infection) of the femur.  In those days there was no real treatment and Jane spent nearly two years in the hospital where doctors hoped to save her leg from amputation.  In a last ditch effort, they decided on a brand new drug and Jane became the first person in New Hampshire to be treated with penicillin.

Jane remembers her time in the hospital as a window on the world.  Her family's isolation on the farm, the tiny one room school and Depression era poverty had kept her awareness very limited.  She began to see other people and had more access to books and ideas.  She would watch at the window from a stretcher and see healthy children playing outside.  She determined that if she ever regained health and strength, she would spend her life helping others, especially children.

After nursing school and five children Jane began a 30 year career with the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties.

She became Vermont's first pediatric nurse practitioner and from 1970-80, through a grant facilitated by the VNA and Vermont Health Dept., helped organize  and run a community health center for low income children with funding from a  Model Cities grant and then HEW (Health Education and Welfare).  Childhood poverty was endemic in Winooski in the 1970s and The Winooski Child Health Center benefitted from collaboration with area pediatricians,  the Vermont Health Dept. the UVM Medical School Department of Pediatrics.  Jane says the project fell victim to Reaganomics and the population they served "went back to the emergency room" for care.

Throughout her life Jane had been open to the spiritual aspect of health and healing.  She knew the value of clinical competence, but noticed outcomes could differ widely.  One of her last endeavors at the VNA was working with hospice patients.  She became convinced that "the spiritual energy of love and intention could make the difference" and began to study Therapeutic Touch.  She became a certified practitioner of Healing Touch and opened a practice after retiring from the VNA in 1997.  Jane now sees patients in her healing room at All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, at their homes, in the hospital or wherever she is needed.  She published articles in two national nursing journals and wrote two chapters in the book "History of Nursing in Vermont."  Jane also writes poetry and a work in progress is called "Moose Mountain Chronicle", an autobiographical account of her childhood.

Along with her busy nursing career, Jane's boundless energy led her to explore many other avenues to helping, healing and living in tune with the earth.  After her father made the suggestion she learned the ancient art of dowsing in the 1980s and enjoys the rewarding and vitally important work of bringing water to humanity.  Jane is a professional dowser and takes on 3 - 5 jobs every summer.

Another ancient and transformative practice Jane embraces is belly dancing which she finds "very grounding, but ethereal".  Over the years she has given talks and demonstrations at many womens' group  and events, performed at weddings, plays and at book signings.

Jane was a single parent for much of the time while her five daughters were young.  They decided to live their values and connect with the earth as far as possible.  In 1964 they began farming and raised sheep, pigs and chicken, boarded as many as seven horses at a time and sold eggs at church.

After the girls were grown, Jane married Cyrus Bryant a professional singer, conductor, violist and pianist (and retired physics professor) and reawakened an older part of her life ~ the joy of music.  Her father was "a jolly Frenchman" and music was a big part of their life on the farm.  Now she and Cy sing in the Burlington Choral Society, the Green Mountain Mahler Festival and The Unitarian Universalist Society choir.  They are rehearsing two to four nights a week, to say nothing of performances.  Jane's favorites are "the three Bs and Mahler", along with any "good Mass in Latin".

Jane likes to say she has nine lives and referred to their separate, but connected aspects a number of times.  I think I counted them:  child of the Depression, young wife and mother, nurse, farmer, dowser, belly dancer, healer, musical soul and grandmother.  No doubt there are even more.  Jane is very serious about the problems people face on the road to health and happiness, but her optimism and natural good humor smooth the way in doing what she can to help.

When I caught up with her last week Jane was spending time with one of her granddaughters, had just finished making lunch and a batch of oatmeal cookies.  Cy was at the piano as she was tidying up the garden.  I don't think I know anyone who laughs and smiles more than Jane.

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog, Gillian! How wonderful to see a profile of Jane Packard. Had no idea of all she has done and been.