The Golden Umbrella

The Golden Umbrella

As far as days go, they don’t get any better than today.  The foliage is at the peak of its kaleidoscopic grandeur, and the weather has been perfectly sublime.

When I stepped out the door this morning, I gasped in awe at the golden umbrella arching over my driveway, glowing warmly in the early sun.  And I asked myself, “How could this beautiful place possibly be my home?  How did I get so lucky?”

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The Golden Umbrella

But I must confess, I gripe constantly about the work involved with owning a home. Something always needs to be fixed, cleaned, or tended, which (as any homeowner knows) takes a considerable amount of time.  I pine for the days of my 20s, when renting a room or studio apartment afforded me plenty of free time to do things on the weekend.

But as I was driving to my job this morning, I came to thinking  of the good ol’ days, and I kind of realized that maybe they weren’t all they cracked up to be.  Sure, maybe I didn’t have to mow the lawn or fix the gutters, but I wasn’t really any happier.  In fact, I think I was much less happy than  I am now.

I think about my life now vs. then, and I realize that I have created an amazing place for myself in the world.  I have a job that I like, a warm and cozy home in a beautiful location, and friends and loved ones to spend time with.  Are things perfect?  No.  But they are pretty damn good.

There is nothing like the brief brilliance of autumn to remind you to be present in the moment.  It’s easy to get caught up in longing for days gone by, or to look forward to things yet to come.  But this moment – this fleeting moment – is the one that matters most.  Like the ephemeral flourish of fall, we just have to be present to appreciate it.

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My little house on the hill

 

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Monkshood out in one of the flower beds

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My favorite place for a nap

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A lovely “volunteer” blueberry bush

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Sister Golden Hair

 

 

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Saying Goodbye Too Soon

Saying Goodbye Too Soon

I am absolutely grief stricken.  Today I found out that my beloved fox friend, Daryl, was senselessly shot and killed.

Daryl was found as an orphaned baby with his eyes barely open, and he had been lovingly cared for at Medicine Mammals wildlife rehabilitation facility until his release a few weeks ago.

Daryl was 5 months old, and he was still learning the ropes of being on his own, and he could sometimes still be seen hanging around Medicine Mammals.  He loved to “help” the volunteers, and he would run in giddy circles around me as I made the rounds to feed the animals.  Of course, I’d wind up stopping to play with him, sometimes even getting down on all fours to romp around.  Those moments were magical, as I could see the spark of pure joy in his eyes,  and feel the exuberance of life in his soul.

I had especially been looking forward to seeing him when I arrived today.  When I got the news, I was just devastated.

I fed and watered the animals in a daze.  There was no gleeful friend to accompany me, no silly fox grin, no soft light making his fur glow.  And there never will be again.

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Daryl giving a playful love bite to Loril.  (His love bites did not hurt.)

While I took care of the animals, a new patient arrived – a baby raccoon with a badly infected face.  His eyes, unrecognizable as eyes, were gummed over black thumbprints, and his nose was glazed over and festering, making breathing almost impossible.  He had a puncture wound on the top of his nose, and smelled of dying flesh.

Loril, the director, gave him some painkiller and I helped to retrieve some other medicines.  But ultimately, Loril decided that she needed the help of a vet.

I drove as she held the poor suffering baby, and with each mile and each minute, it became clearer that the raccoon needed our help to transition to the other side.  And so, once at the vet’s, we spent the last few moments of this young raccoon’s life holding him, loving him, and honoring him.

So, death came to my doorstep twice today – once as a senseless killing, and once filled with suffering.  What do I do with this?  How do I come to terms with it?  For death is certainly a part of life, and suffering is universal.

When I think of Daryl, I feel beside myself with grief, flush with anger, and hollow with disbelief all at the same time.  But when I reach beyond that, I know that more than anything, I want to honor the sweet, curious, playful spirit that he was.

May we remember that we are not the only ones here on this earth.  Each and every living being is beautiful and sacred, and deserves to be honored with love and respect.

Rest in peace, dear Daryl.  Be at peace, little raccoon.  I hold you in my heart.

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Wish List

I have been chronically ill for the past 2 and a half years.  It started as lyme disease, and when I didn’t get better, it became chronic lyme, until I discovered (2 years later) that I actually have a lyme co-infection called bartonella.

It’s hard for me to talk about it at this point.  I get exhausted from having to explain it over and over.  No, I don’t have lyme, I have bartonella.  Who the hell has even heard of that, never mind what the symptoms are?

I have improved quite a bit, but I still struggle a lot.  I feel self-conscious about the agony that I experience.    So, I usually just push it aside and try to act fine.  A lot of the time, I feel alone.  It’s not necessarily a bad feeling, just more matter-of-fact.  But, still, I wouldn’t mind feeling a little less alone, but how can I do that if I’m so hesitant to open up about it?

I decided to make a “wish list” as a way to express myself a bit more.   It’s not a list of demands; it’s just a way for me to express my needs to the universe in the hopes that it may help me in my healing journey.  Maybe there are even people who want to help me and are willing to read it.

Laura’s Wish List

  1.   It’s okay to ask me how I’m feeling, but please understand that the answer might be brief.    I’ve noticed that some people show concern by asking questions, but I get extremely exhausted by having to talk about it over and over.  However, sometimes I would really like the opportunity to get things off my chest.  If I say, “I’m not feeling well”, please feel free to ask me, “Do you want to talk about it?” if you feel you can hold a compassionate space for me.  I may say “no”, but sometimes  I’d really like a chance to just be heard without anyone offering advice, trying to “fix it” in anyway, or telling me stories about their cousin or co-worker who had lyme (which is not the same thing as bartonella, although it is common to have both at the same time).  I just want someone to hear me.
  2. Please don’t give me suggestions or unsolicited advice unless you are a doctor who specializes in bartonella, or are suffering from/have suffered from bartonella.  If you have an article about bartonella you would like to share with me, that would be welcome, but please refrain from asking, “Have you tried…?”  Even if you think you know THE ABSOLUTE BEST CURE EVER, please just don’t tell me.  I assure you, I am well versed in my illness.  And to be honest, it just upsets me.
  3. If you invite me to do something, please try to keep in mind that I have physical limitations.  I really hate having to turn down invitations (especially since I don’t get many) because I’m physically unable to do something.  I may act fine, but I’m really not my old self, and I can’t do a lot of the things I love, such as going out dancing or going for long hikes (and I probably won’t be able to stay up late).  Give me a couple of options like going out for a walk or meeting for lunch.  That way I can choose based on how I am feeling rather than just having to say “no” flat out.
  4. Read something about bartonella.  Google it.  Spend at least 2 minutes learning about it, even if you’ve heard me talk about it before.  Maybe that’s a lot to ask, but I get really, really tired having to explain it.  Here are a couple of resources:  1)   Bartonella  Overview,   2)  Bartonella, A Stealth Infecton,   3) Unravelling the Mystery of Bartonellosis
  5. Please call my illness by it’s name: bartonella. Bartonella is different from lyme disease, although you can get both from a tick bite.  You can also get bartonella from other insect bites (such as fleas and mosquitoes), cat bites or scratches, and sometimes dog bites.  About 25% of people are asymptomatic carriers, but the infection only becomes acute if the immune system is depressed.
  6. Do something kind for yourself every day.  If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that self-care is so important.  Please do something to take care of YOU.
  7. Be kind to others.  We all have our own struggles, whether it’s illness (our own or a loved one’s), money woes, a stressful job, or any number of other things.  If someone is grumpy, try to remember that they might just be struggling with something that you can’t see.  It’s probably not personal.

Please don’t feel bad if you have done something on this list that I am requesting you not to do, or vice versa.  I appreciate all the acts of kindness and concern that I have received over these past 2 and a half years. This is simply a way for me to be clearer about what would be helpful to me in this particular moment.  I have no expectations.  It’s just something that I needed to release so that I can continue healing.   If you have read this, thank you for taking the time to hear it.

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Longing to be Wild

Longing to be Wild

Well, autumn has tip-toed in, slowly creeping up on us until we were left with no choice but to wave goodbye to the bright buoyancy of summer.  The days are marked by the familiar cool crispness that makes you long for simpler bygone days, and the chilly nights draw you in toward the cozy warmth of home.

Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about the fall. It’s a time of unparalleled beauty here in New England as the trees hum with the vibrancy of the season, steadily rising into a crescendo of golden and scarlet splendor.  And yet, the days grow shorter, darker and a sweet and haunting melancholy settles in with the amber autumn sun.

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Autumn on the Millers River in Erving, MA

I have been trying my best to reap the rewards of my summertime efforts out in the garden.  The tomatoes are being canned, vegetables blanched and frozen, potatoes dug and stored, beans dried and shucked, herbs dried, and so forth.  It’s a time to plan ahead and make sure the nest is prepared for the coming winter.

No doubt, the non-human animals are preparing as well.  I can tell you that we have released the skunks and the fox at Medicine Mammals (the wildlife rehab facility that I volunteer at), so that they will have ample opportunity to forage and find dens before Father Winter rolls back in.

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Peek-a-boo!  Now this little guy has a den of his own out where he belongs.

I have seen the fox dancing through the tall grass, casually scratching his chin while sitting in a hollow, and scampering playfully as the golden sun shines warm on his thick, soft fur.  I see the joy he feels at being free and wild, and nothing has ever seemed so beautiful and so right.

One of the things that’s really hard for me during The Dark Months is how much less time I get to spend outside.  Like the fox, I long to be wild.  Like the bears, I long to hibernate.  I wonder, what animal wisdom can I take with me as I face the winter ahead?  And what wisdom can I gather during these brilliant weeks of fall?

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Here is the fox shortly before his return to the wild