The smell of coffee, cats and herbs fill Dena Klaminsky’s home. Two furry blobs, Toby and TC, take over the table. “They might have to be interviewed, too,” she says.
“You can always tell when Toby is thinking,” Klaminsky says while looking down at the 20-pound, orange and white furball. TC, the one that looks like a raccoon, flops on to his back. Tall, green laurels envelop the backyard, growing higher than the windowsill. Rain patters on the roof, and thunder rolls in the dark morning. Small buds, or starts, rustle inside under the fluorescent AeroGrow.
Klaminsky, an Amazon neighbor in Eugene for 28 years, grows her own herbs in and around her home. She has a full garden of different vegetables and plants. “My yard isn’t a frou-frou or pretty yard, it’s a relaxed, casual garden,” Klaminsky says.
Klaminsky grows herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, aloe, oregano and a few types of basil. She has been a nurse for years and is a doctor of naturology. Naturology is a study of non-medical alternative interventions such as Acupressure, herbology and therapeutic touch. “When I moved here, I decided that I wanted my pharmacy right on the property. So I planted the herbs that I needed on my property,” Klaminsky says.
“Those raccoons just come right on to my porch to those tomatoes and the cats run inside. I shine my flashlight and say ‘Go Away! Go Away! But then again, the creatures need to eat, too,” she says, chuckling.
All the plants and herbs that she grows are not from her personal seeds or starts. Instead, she is involved in a “pay it forward” system. “If I get too much of a plant growing in my garden, I dig it up, put it in a pot, and give it to my friends so that they can have the plant and pay it forward, too.”
While Klaminsky and her friends and neighbors are making an effort to have a green thumb, she says others are failing to conserve energy. “It may save you money now, but it’s not going to save the earth in the long run.”
“When I was 9 years old, we were talking about the future, and we joked about paying for the water we drank, and paying for the air that we breathed,” she says. “It’s getting to the point in some places in the world have to pay for the water that they drink. That’s scary.”
When discussing the Amazon neighborhood, her eyes light up. “You take a walk around this neighborhood and you will see people growing gardens. That’s one of the things I love about this neighborhood. They are like me. We share.”
Along with gardening, Klaminsky helps out with 12-step programs for addicts. “The herbs that we’ve been given have all of the ingredients they need in them to be a therapeutic herb. We don’t need to break it down and take one little thing from it like they do for drugs like cocaine.”
Klaminsky feels the need to help others. She shows this with helping her friends and neighbors start a garden, addicts in 12 step-programs and also has taken in her current family: cats Toby and TC.
“The universe just puts people in my path every once in a while,” she says. “I’m a true 60’s child. I’m an anti-war person. I believe in peace. I don’t believe that violence solves anything. The more natural you do things, the healthier our world is. That’s the way I feel.”
Toby sits on top of the guest’s pen and paper, sad that his company is leaving. Fishing around for the pen under his massive amounts of fur, Klaminsky laughs. “Oh, you don’t want your new friend to go, do you?”