Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Here at the Re-Row (reinventing Uncannery Row in peafowlless Little Town), we’ve taken BACK quite literally. In a move that can only be described as “clown ballet,” I rode my bike into Ray’s back tire. With post-stroke balance-challenged finesse, I flew off the bike and landed in a heap on the pavement, Ray in a tizzy standing over me. Okay, so brush it off, bandage the hand and knee, be grateful I didn’t hit my helmetless head (lesson learned), and move on.
|SO worth it!|
That was Saturday. On Sunday, we spent a little over an hour stooping, diving, and contorting in the garden, picking tomatoes. Near the end, as I reached for a beautiful Roma, my back spasmed. I stood slowly, walked a bit, and seemed to feel okay. So naturally, we went kayaking. When we got back home, after a bumpy hour-long drive in our little pickup Snowflake, I couldn’t straighten up. Thus began the saga.
|Cruising on the Susan B.|
|Yogi (L) and Pedro|
In the meantime, I did what I always do in a crisis—research. I got online and looked for answers (I could sit at my computer, an ice pack wedged between my lower back and the chair, without crying).
In a panic, one gravitates toward the worst-case scenario, which, in my case, meant convincing myself that Yogi had DM (Degenerative Myelopathy). It’s progressive and fatal. The prognosis is 1-3 years of incontinence, pain, and possibly doggie wheelchairs. So now I was home in my kitchen, pre-grieving, in pain, and sobbing. I got Yogi settled, cold-packed my puffy face, then went to my next chiro appointment.
Finally, off to the vet. The eventual diagnosis was that Yogi had IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease), and probably had either a bulging or ruptured disc. By this time Yogi could stand and walk (with lots of wobbling), and he had enough response in his back feet to make the doc feel some optimism. Steroids + muscle relaxers + no activity.
The chiropractor finally told me that I may have a bulging disc, and that I should see a medical doc. In the meantime, ice + ibuprofen. I could hobble around the kitchen, using the counter as a crutch, thus avoiding the lightning bolts by not stepping down on my right foot.
I got in to see the doc, and 14 X-Rays later (I should start glowing in the dark soon), learned that I have great bones with almost no arthritis (the X-Ray tech said, “You take really pretty pictures!”). I was just really banged up good, which is a medical diagnosis, I guess. The upshot was prescription-strength Aleve + ice + PT for the hip/sciatica.
As I sit here this morning, addicted I’m sure to 500 mg Aleve, with PT scheduled and Yogi happily napping at my feet, I wonder about the synchronicity of two creatures with sudden BACK disruptions—was Yogi’s back injury sympathetic? Was mine? some weird prescient warning of Yogi’s to come? Did we crack the space/time continuum? Or, was it all just a painful manifestation of the disaster that is 2020? I’ll never know, but I can laugh about it now. And I’m being VERY careful, because 2021 can’t come soon enough, and I never, ever want to go BACK.
Friday, July 24, 2020
Abbey of the Hills
I’ve been thinking about solitude lately. And not the forced solitude of Covid-19 quarantine, although it has helped many people to discover or re-discover the benefits of choosing solitude—a slowing down, introspection and self-realization, blooming creativity, and some research suggests more compassion, as we’re forced to distance even from our own small circle of friends and contemplate humanity as a whole.
Solitude is not the same as loneliness. Solitude is a choice, and as long as you can still engage with other humans when you want to, solitude is very healthy. Some researchers even suggest that solitude—away from the buzz and noise of everyday life—is essential for internal exploration and identity development.
It’s true we don’t always like what we find when we turn our gaze inward, and this is probably why so many people are afraid of solitude. But I can’t change it unless I face it. And really, is growth as a human being possible without the self-reflection possible in solitude?
I just turned 64, and for the past several years I’vebeen giving myself a gift each year around my summer birthday—solitude. For many of those years, I’ve gone to various monasteries. I either go with a friend, where we each spend quite a bit of time alone but share meals, occasional walks, and sometimes services with that monastery’s Sisters, or I stay in a hermitage, where I spend several days without seeing another human. Last summer I traveled Ireland alone doing research for a book—more pilgrimage than hermitage.
I did a hermitage again this year, at Abbey of the Hills in northeast South Dakota. It’s a former Benedictine monastery, Blue Cloud Abbey, set in rolling prairie with two tiny hermitage cabins. I’ve been going there since back when the Brothers were still there (they dispersed when vocations dwindled and they couldn’t keep up the Abbey anymore). I’m a writer trying to finish a poetry manuscript I’ve been working on in one way or another for 5-6 years, so the “room of one’s own” was a blessing, and I mostly finished. But also, I’m a Type A hyper-responsible overachiever who just needs an occasional reboot.
The first day of my annual “away” is always a frazzle of travel, hauling, unpacking, and getting oriented. After that, solitude makes a few miraculous things happen:
(1) There’s a sense of release. Muscles let go. My shoulders drop. I sigh a lot.
(2) I give myself permission to do nothing. I let go of my usual daily duties and take full responsibility only for me. The day I arrived at the Abbey this year, I dropped my baggage inside the cabin door, then I spent at least an HOUR watching storm clouds build over a pond.
(3) Or, I give myself permission to work without interruption.
(4) I re-center, re-align, re-examine, and remember my priorities.
(5) I connect again with Earth. I watch, listen, walk and really feel every step. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “With every step, the earth blooms,” and yep, I do that. This year I saw a marmot, deer, a beaver, and a kingfisher (my totem bird). I heard cows, a dog, scrub jays, something scratching under the cabin, and something, uh, softly “bugling” (that’s the best I can do for this sound I’ve never heard before) outside my open window at night.
(5) I take care of myself and pay attention to my body. I eat when I’m hungry. I go to bed when I’m tired. I wake up when I wake up.
(5) I heal. If I feel like crying for two hours about all the people who’ve died from Covid and their unrealized potential, or John Lewis’ passing and why in the name of all that is holy we still need a Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, I do. If I need to acknowledge and vent my deep deep deep really really very deep dislike of Trump, I do. If I need to eat carbs, I do. If I need to play my ukulele and sing up a storm, even though my stroke-y left vocal cord is barely moving right now, I do. If I need to pray to the Universe or Mother Earth or Saint Mary Magdalene or All That Is Sacred, I do.
I’m so incredibly grateful—and aware of my privilege—to be able to do this. I have a family who understands and supports my need for solitude, and they help me make it happen. I can afford to rent a monastery room or hermitage for a few days. I teach, so I can find time to go, either by choosing not to teach during the summer, or by teaching summer classes online. I would do whatever I could to help someone else “away” too, if they wanted. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to start. I wonder how my parenting, my younger career path, and even my place in community would have been different if I had started this in my 30’s? I’ll contemplate that next “away”…
Monday, June 22, 2020
|"Feed me, Seymour." --Bleeding Heart Bushes|
|Ray...are you in there?|
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
|I ate this teenager.|
The men in my family are mostly tall and thinnish. The (1) women in my family are all roundish and overweight. But I managed to stay pretty trim until (2) childbearing began and the true tyrants of human life--HORMONES--kicked it into high gear. With each of three pregnancies, I packed on more weight I couldn’t lose. Then came perimenopause, which I call The Dark Years. I experienced, like many women, irregular periods that were often extremely heavy. I was prescribed (3) bioidentical HORMONES to control the excessive bleeding. I packed on more weight, and they made the flooding so much worse that one weekend I turned even whiter than I already am, and I was too faint to get up. I called the doc, who said to double the dosage and call her on Monday. I said I’d be dead by Monday and hung up on her. I stopped the HORMONES immediately. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with (4) depression.
|(12) How I got fat?|
|Two miles of blissful torture.|
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
|My summer class.|
|Luck o' the good old Irish walk.|
|Above the Missouri River|
|Shhhh! Babies sleeping!|
|Babies for babies.|
|The one we could actually eat.|
|I see your true colors, Poppy.|
Monday, April 27, 2020
|Cocooning in the kitchen.|
|Gifts: Letter from granddaughter, grading-pen holder from Annie.|
|Socially-distant bike ride.|
|Eggs for sourdough starter.|
|My first sourdough doorstop...er...bread.|
So hang in there, everyone. Take good care of each other. Social distance and wear a mask to keep your elders and other vulnerable people safe—you could be carrying the virus and not know. We may have to do this a while, but humans have survived this long because we ADAPT. Remember that no matter what you see on TV, there are sane, smart people working on a vaccine. We’re learning that ventilators may not be the best option. We learned that antibodies may not equal immunity. We’ll figure this out. Until then, I need parsley and cilantro, and I’ve got eggs…
|Bucket 'O Chicken (hen finds the food and dives in)|
|Hazel named this chick Victoria, |
because the chick "victoriously stood on my arm without falling."