Some years back my 70 years old mother came from the family homestead in the wilds of northern British Columbia to visit me at the Great Oaks School. She had gotten into pathetic physical condition. Fifteen years previously she had remarried. Tom, her new husband, had been a gold prospector and general mountain man, a wonderfully independent and cantankerous cuss, a great hunter and wood chopper and all around good-natured backwoods homestead handyman. Tom had tired of solitary log cabin life and to solve his problem had taken on the care and feeding of a needy widow, my mom. He began doing the cooking and menu planning. Tom, a little older than my mother, had no sense about eating but could still shoot game. Ever since their marriage she had been living on moose meat stews with potatoes and gravy, white flour bread with jam, black tea with canned milk, a ritual glass of brandy at bedtime, and almost no fresh fruit or vegetables.

In her youth, my mother had been a concert pianist; now she had such large arthritic knobs on all of her knuckles that her hands had become claws. Though there was still that very same fine upright in the cabin that I had learned to play as a child, she had long since given up the piano. Her knees also had large arthritic knobs; this proud woman with a straight back and long, flowing strides was bent over, limping along with a cane. She was also 30 pounds overweight and her blood pressure was a very dangerous 210 over 140, just asking for a stroke.

Instead of a welcoming feast, the usual greeting offered to a loved one who has not been seen for a few years, I immediately started her on a juice fast. I gave her freshly prepared carrot juice (one quart daily) mixed with wheat grass juice (three ounces daily) plus daily colonics. She had no previous experience with these techniques but she gamely accepted everything I threw her way because she knew I was doing it because I loved her and wanted to see her in better condition. She also received a daily full body massage with particular attention to the hand and knees, stimulating the circulation to the area and speeding the removal of wastes. Every night her hands and knees were wrapped in warm castor oil compresses held in place with old sheeting.

I did not use any vitamins or food supplements in her case. I did give her flavorful herbal teas made of peppermint and chamomile because she needed the comfort of a hot cupa; but these teas were in no way medicinal except for her morale.

In three weeks on this program, Grannybelle, as I and my daughters called her, had no unsightly knobs remaining on either her knuckles or knees and she could walk and move her fingers without pain within a normal range of movement. The big payoff for me besides seeing her look so wonderful (20 years younger and 20 pounds lighter) was to hear her sit down and treat us to a Beethoven recital. And her blood pressure was 130 over 90.