healing

5.21.20 ~ garter snake
Fennerswood Preserve, Stonington, Connecticut

Some animals are archetypal symbols of healing. The snake is one such animal. It sheds the old skin and moves into the new. It is a symbol of leaving the old behind for the new. As a symbol of transformation, meditating and focusing on the snake during times of illness will help accelerate the healing process. Animals that appear to us at times of illness, provide clues as to the best way to focus our healing energies.
~ Ted Andrews
(The Intercession of Spirits)

For the second time in a little over a month a garter snake has slithered across the path in front of me and then stopped in the leaves right beside me. The first time the snake kept its head hidden but this second snake lifted its head up and looked at me.

Rod of Asclepius

At first I was excited about the photo opportunity but after I got home I started wondering about the significance snake encounters might hold. In Greek mythology, Asclepius is a deity associated with healing and medicine. The Rod of Asclepius features a snake.

So what meaning did meeting these snakes hold for me? Since November I’ve been struggling to cope with radiation proctitis/colitis, which is incurable, but with the help of a wonderful gastroenterologist I’ve been figuring out how to manage the symptoms. It involves medication and strictly avoiding certain foods. Too many foods!

When I got my official diagnosis in January I highly doubted I would ever be able to take a long walk again. And there are still days when I’ve eaten the wrong thing and cannot leave the house.

My goal is to take a walk in the woods one of these days. And to have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer.
~ my blog post, 8 January 2020

At first we made tentative little visits to local cemeteries to find the graves of more ancestors. I learned that three of my ancestors lost their lives in the winter of 1711-1712, probably victims of a ‘malignant distemper’ epidemic that swept through Connecticut. I had no idea our own lives would soon be turned upside down by a pandemic just two short months later. But then, on March 21, mostly because of self-quarantine and having nowhere else safe to go, it finally happened. We took a walk in the woods! And we have continued walking!

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we probably won’t have supper at the beach with my gull friend this summer, which was my second goal. But we’ve decided to make the best of the situation so we put our outdoor dining set out on the balcony and plan to get some flowers from the nursery so we can enjoy eating outside. Who knows? Maybe we will make a new bird friend.

Our lives have definitely been transformed and I’ve experienced more healing than expected. I also started taking bioflavonoids because they are supposed to help with radiation damage, tinnitus, and allergies. It does feel like the chance meetings of two snakes in the woods highlighted us leaving the old behind for the new.

On Monday I fell. I was weeding my garden (a little plot in front of our condo), bending over at the hip. One weed resisted and I pulled harder. It let go and so I fell on my side on top of the stones bordering the garden. Nothing broken but my right shoulder, arm and leg are aching quite a lot. And I have a huge bruise on my hip! But it still felt satisfying getting the garden tidied up for the summer.

candlewood pines

4.17.20 ~ Candlewood Ridge, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we tried the new-to-us park again and this time there was noone in sight at the trailhead – yay! This property was acquired in 2013. After crossing a little bridge over a brook we climbed up to Candlewood Ridge and enjoyed looking up and down the ravine on the other side. We followed the trails for over an hour. Tim’s legs and back did much better and I’m wondering if walking on the earth is better for him than walking on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.

4.17.20 ~ crossing a stream, skunk cabbage

Candlewood Ridge is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, native shrubby and grassy habitat, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, tussock sedge, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, and streams.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.17.20 ~ almost to the top of the ridge
4.17.20 ~ a very tall bare tree trunk
4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens, a huge boulder across the ravine

The songs of birds filled the air! A chickadee scolded us from a branch so close I could have reached out and touched it. But he flew off before I could lift the camera…

4.17.20 ~ the glacial erratics found here were fewer and more
widely spaced than the ones we saw in Ledyard’s Glacial Park

We followed the trail north along the top of the ridge and then it slowly went downhill until we reached a bridge across another stream. From studying the map it looks like the two unnamed streams join and then eventually merge with Haley Brook.

4.17.20 ~ second bridge on the trail
4.17.20 ~ a squirrel nest
4.17.20 ~ the little stream
4.17.20 ~ vernal pool?

All the green under the water (above) looked to me like drowning princess pines.

4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens across the sand plain
4.17.20 ~ the sand plain with glacial erratic in the distance

We turned around here without crossing the plain and climbing that ridge!

4.17.20 ~ might these be the candlewood pines
(pitch pines) the ridge is named for?
4.17.20 ~ pussy willows
4.17.20 ~ one tree favors moss, the other lichens

Crossing the stream on the return trip, a tiny bright spot of yellow-orange caught my eye. What is it??? I used the telephoto lens to get a picture and tried to identify it when I got home. Hope I got it right. A mushroom.

4.17.20 ~ calostoma cinnabarinum, telephoto lens
(stalked puffball-in-aspic or gelatinous stalked-puffball)

Just before crossing the second stream on the return walk, a garter snake slithered across the path right in front of me. Startled, I then spotted him trying to hide in the leaves. Don’t think I’ve seen a garter snake since I was a child, sunning themselves on the stone walls around the garden.

4.17.20 ~ hiding garter snake

It was a wonderful walk!

4.17.20 ~ beauty in a vernal pool

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.
~ John Burroughs
(The Gospel of Nature)

feeling warm and comforted

3.28.20 ~ Moore Woodlands, Groton, Connecticut

Perhaps kind thoughts reach people somehow, even through windows and doors and walls. Perhaps you feel a little warm and comforted, and don’t know why, when I am standing here in the cold and hoping you will get well and happy again.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(A Little Princess)

Last week was a little tricky. My gut pain flared up after a relatively good spell and I was pretty down in the dumps about it. I’m trying to learn to live with the fluctuations between good days and bad days and how unpredictable it all is.

anyone know what this is?

By Thursday I was well enough to attempt a walk at the beach, thinking a familiar place would be better than a new adventure. But it was disappointing to see too many people there, many of them not respecting the social distancing obligation. Friday we tried again and I was so disheartened to find cigarette butts on the rocks and a big pile of dog crap on the lawn. No smoking is allowed on the beach property! And dogs are supposed to be on-leash and their poop scooped. I suspect some people are coming to the beach to visit with their friends because their usual hang-out places are closed. I was also depressed not seeing any gulls, although the brant geese seem to be making the beach their new home.

Saturday we sadly decided to take a walk somewhere else and found Moore Woodlands, on the other side of town. We encountered a friendly family of five on their bikes near the entrance and we all respected the 6-foot social distancing protocol, much to my relief.

As we were leaving we came across a couple looking for a nearby cemetery and had a nice conversation with them across the stone wall from a safe distance. Another family came by and also gave everyone a very wide berth. It made me feel so much better about people after the distress I felt at the beach.

It was a lovely cloudy day and the mood in the woods was tranquil, with many birds singing. It was good to get a walk in before the rain came later in the day. It was as if nature was kindly whispering the comfort I needed so badly.

3.28.20 ~ collected some additions for my wooden pine cone bowl

apple picking season

“Idunn & Bragi” by Nils Blommér

Idunn was married to Bragi, god of poetry, and she was sweet and gentle and kind. She carried a box with her, made of ash wood, which contained golden apples. When the gods felt age beginning to touch them, to frost their hair or ache their joints, then they would go to Idunn. She would open her box and allow the god or goddess to eat a single apple. As they ate it, their youth and power would return to them. Without Idunn’s apples, the gods would scarcely be gods …
~ Neil Gaiman
(Norse Mythology)

Iduna (Iðunn, Idun, Idunn, Ithun, Idunna) is my favorite Norse goddess, mostly because of the apples, my favorite fruit. It’s been my experience that an apple a day does keep the doctor away. And now, during apple picking season, my thoughts turn to Iduna and the art depicting her I’ve posted to my blog in the past.

Nine years ago I posted this story about my father, who was still alive at the time:

When my father was a boy growing up on a New England farm during the Great Depression, his family picked as many apples as they could and stored some of them in a barrel in the root cellar. Of course he ate as many as he could while picking them, but his parents had a rule about the ones in the barrel he found exasperating. If anyone wanted an apple later in the fall or winter, he was required to take one that was the least fresh. By the time they got to the fresher ones they had also become much less fresh! So all winter he was having to make do with eating not-so-great apples. If only he had known he might have called on Iduna to keep the apples fresher longer!

Dad’s favorite variety was the McCoun. After six years, I still miss him. Will be stopping by the orchard again soon. ♡

in the woods and by the sea

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

When the powers of nature are the focus of your awareness and your thoughts, you come near to spirit, near to the source of all life. This is why most people love to walk in the woods or by the sea: they come close to the original source, and it is healing just to be in its presence. It cleanses you, brings peace of mind, touches your heart and brings you home to your soul.
~ Chris Lüttichau
(Calling Us Home)

The weather report was calling for heavy rain all day on the winter solstice, so my son Nate, his nephews Julius and Dominic, and I decided to go for a long walk in the woods the day before it. It felt so healing to be outside in the fresh air!

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park ~ Dominic and Julius

We are very fortunate to have this coastal reserve in our town. The scenery is always lovely, but I especially love the light of winter. It’s been so long since I’ve taken pictures with my Canon, so I grabbed it on my way out the door. To my dismay, I discovered later that the battery in it was dead and the spare was dead as well. So I made do with my cell phone. Of course, as soon as I got home I charged both batteries. 🙂

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

old enough to die

“Old Woman with Child & Goose” by Willard Metcalf

Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life. I eat well, meaning I choose foods that taste good and that will stave off hunger for as long as possible, like protein, fiber, and fats. I exercise — not because it will make me live longer but because it feels good when I do. As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me. Ideally, the determination of when one is old enough to die should be a personal decision, based on a judgment of the likely benefits, if any, of medical care and — just as important at a certain age — how we choose to spend the time that remains to us.

In giving up on preventative care, I’m just taking this line of thinking a step further: Not only do I reject the torment of a medicalized death, but I refuse to accept a medicalized life, and my determination only deepens with age. As the time that remains to me shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the cold scrutiny of machines. Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating.

~ Barbara Ehrenreich
(Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer)

A year after my cancer surgery it seems like a good time to mention a book that tumbled into my life at just the right moment. After my brush with a life-threatening illness, the ideas set forth in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Natural Causes, make a whole lot of sense to me.

I spent many years carting my mother-in-law, my aunt and my father around to those “windowless waiting rooms,” getting test after test, some of them downright painful. My aunt finally put her foot down and proclaimed, “Whatever I’ve got, I’m taking it with me.”

She lived to be 103 in spite of refusing all the standard tests recommended for her in the last years of her life. When she died, it was from an infection. After accepting treatment for a day or two, she finally refused treatment for that, too.

Nothing ever came of those countless tests.

In my own case, because my mother died of breast cancer, I have submitted to many “required” mammograms and wound up with three false positives, causing weeks of anxiety. Now I refused to have any more. At this point in my life I am old enough to die, and if I wake up one morning and feel a lump in my breast, so be it.

The endometrial cancer I wound up getting? Well, there is no screening for it. Irony.

Fortunately I’ve found a general practitioner who understands my feelings and treats my “urgent problems” without pushing me into a “medicalized life.” Barbara Ehrenreich’s book has all the facts and figures I needed to convince me that as a culture, we are indeed killing ourselves, or at least making ourselves miserable, in order to live longer. All these expensive, invasive tests have not increased our lifespans.

Therefore, I have chosen to enjoy spending whatever time I have left to me without borrowing trouble.

endometrial cancer ~ workforce reduction

12.16.17 ~ Katherine and Dima in Ireland ~ photo by Larisa

So, we’ve had a couple of nasty surprises in the past few weeks.

It turned out that my uterus was not only full of pre-cancerous cells, but also was harboring endometrial cancer that had spread more than 50% into the myometrium layer. So while I was still under anesthesia the surgeon took some lymph nodes to be examined to determine if the cancer had spread any farther. We had to wait two weeks for the lab results. Thankfully the lymph nodes were negative. Good news. Hopefully all the cancer has been safely removed but I will have to have two weeks of radiation in January out of an abundance of caution. Meanwhile I have three and a half more weeks to heal from the surgery. I’m not allowed to lift anything over 5 lbs. but have begun puttering around the house between long naps.

My sister-in-law came for the first two weeks and took very good care of me and cooked all of our meals. Tim’s brother came after the first week ~ it was fun having both of them around and helped the waiting-for-lab-results time to pass more quickly. Thank you, Dan & Fran!!!

They say when it rains, it pours. Well, Friday was Tim’s last day of work. “Workforce reduction” to use corporate-speak. What a “thoughtful” Christmas gift…

Time for another nap. I understand fatigue is par for the course, all energy going to healing. But I wanted to let my readers know how I am doing. Hope to be back visiting blogs soon. Steady as we go.

wishing for snow

2.22.15 ~ two years ago… Groton, Connecticut

It’s been three weeks (and two days) since Tim’s surgery and healing is coming along nicely, slowly and steadily, without any of the possible complications making an appearance. Visiting nurses continue to come three times a week to take measurements and change the wound dressing. Since we were told to expect a four to six week recovery time it looks like everything is going very well. Tim is comfortable in his recliner.

Sadly, while Tim was in the hospital his uncle died and then a couple of days after he got home his sister-in-law died. So many things at once…

We’ve only had one big snowstorm this January (the day after surgery so I couldn’t visit Tim that day) so I’m still waiting patiently for some snow. As long as it doesn’t come on a day when we are scheduled to visit the surgeon for follow-up appointments! The weather report indicates this spring-like weather pattern will give way to a more natural and snowy February. I do hope so!

surgery update

5.16.15 ~ Venice, Italy

Just a quick update: Tim came home from the hospital yesterday and this morning we are waiting for his first visiting nurse to arrive. He is comfortable on Tylenol and starting to resume a normal diet.

The laparoscopic surgery did not go quite as planned. After an hour the surgeon decided to open him up go in the traditional way. So Tim was in surgery for six long hours. Thankfully my sister was waiting with me.

The surgeon said Tim will likely never have a bout of diverticulitis again!

He will have a huge (10 inches) scar across his lower left abdomen. It joins the huge scar from by-pass surgery (2007) down the middle of his chest. Battle scars… And we’ve been introduced to the concept of healing from the inside out. While his incision is held together with staples on either end, in the middle (4 inches) it remains a gaping open wound.

When a wound is deep … packing the wound can help it heal. The packing material absorbs any drainage from the wound, which helps the tissues heal from the inside out. Without the packing, the wound might close at the top, without healing at the deeper areas of the wound.
~ The American Association for the Surgery of Trauma

On the advice of the occupational therapist I went out and bought a recliner to make Tim more comfortable as he recovers for the next month or so. He’s walking around and doing the stairs, but in between moving around he needs a cozy place to rest. Hopefully the worst of it is behind us now.