21 April 2014

13 April 2014

It's been a good week. In all respects. I cycled to work every day through the forest and the chestnuts are beginning to flower. But we need rain badly.

08 April 2014

Spring is so amazing. I know, the cliché etc. but every year it is such a beautiful shock to the system. All these dynamic forceful changes, every morning another colour, another smell. And the noisy birds, singing and shrieking and mating and digging through the vegetable beds.

Four years ago there were times when spring was all I could hold onto. It feels almost foolish now that I have turned into this veteran of chronic illness. But there was this raw time of loss and grief and this inability to come to terms with something that was never meant to be in my life, at least not in the life I had up to then and imagined to stretch all the way into the future.

Three memories stick out.

1. One of the experts who initially diagnosed me had alerted another of his patients because - so he thought - there were so many similarities in our diagnosis and course of illness and comparing our stories could help me in the long run. He had asked for my permission to pass on my email address and several weeks later she replied. Full of apologies for the delay because she had fractured her collarbone while on a skiing trip. A what? Here I was trying to hold onto the frazzled bits of my former life, every morning waking up to the booming thoughts of the potential of this diagnosis (everything from drug side effects, kidney failure, going blind and/or deaf to, well obviously, death - I do know how to recognise drama) and she has come back from a skiing trip! Clearly, this was a mistake and we were not talking about the same thing here. But yes, we were because she had in fact gone deaf, dramatically within one dreadful night of high fever. And apart from the fact that my hearing was fine again, her list of symptoms was mine down to the finer details. And then she wrote: While I cannot tell you how and when, I can promise you that you will feel better again, that this heavy flare up will calm down once the drugs have started to work. And all I could think: promise? How dare she promise me anything? Look at me, look how ill I am.

2. Some time earlier, a friend had given me a voucher for ten shiatsu sessions, again with the promise that this would make me feel so much better. It did not but mostly because getting there was too hard. On my way to the second appointment I drove down a one-way street in the wrong direction and was almost flattened by an oncoming bus. It didn't help that I am a careful driver (sorry, yes I am!) and that I had been living in this one-way system city for almost 20 years. The shiatsu woman was experienced and kind enough to suggest we postpone. Instead she made tea and told me that, for a fact, our bodies, our cells, our tiniest atoms are there for only one reason: health. And that they/our bodies are continuously working on repair and recovery, always striving for health. Not my body, I wanted to tell her that day but I was too exhausted and not quite sure how to get home.

3. Soon after that I was waiting for my father to pick me up from yet another hospital after a week of tests confirming that I was unable to tolerate the drug I had been taking in high doses for the last three months and that this was possibly responsible for most of the heavy symptoms I was experiencing. So they swiftly changed medications, ran another couple of tests and sent me home with best wishes. There was a small cafe with outside seating and I sat down and started reading the headlines of the newspapers on display the way I always do this. A volcano had erupted in Iceland and brought air traffic to a standstill.  Somewhere too high for me to see the ash clouds were drifting and shifting but all I could see was the sky, clear and blue and calm and so vast I wanted to fly up and disappear into it.

And now, four years later, there it is, like a cut under the skin that will not, will never heal. No matter how hard my atoms strive for health. And yet. There is no denying, I feel complete.

05 April 2014

The monotony of being unwell. Always something out of reach. The sudden bursts of anger, the fever curve of pretend energy followed by exhaustion. Maybe it's all just my imagination, oh leave me alone. And always, another go at it. This is what it takes to be alive.
The moment you accept what troubles you've been given,
the door will open. (Rumi via fb)
 On my way to work, strange creatures look at me in the forest. So strange I snap my pictures and cycle off quickly.

01 April 2014

31 March 2014

Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind

When I was a student in the 1970s the term acid rain cropped up and made its way into our rebellious conscience where we stored it together with all the other stuff which was proof to us that our parent's generation was the root of all evil. Nadanadanada. 

I still have a cutting, an old cartoon from the taz, wrinkled recycled paper, speckled with holes from the various thumbtacks used to pin it on noticeboards above my changing variety of desks throughout the years. It depicts a dreary landscape, barren fields with broken tree stumps, cars and fumes, heavy skies. In the center, a grandfatherly man bends down to a crying child who looks at him with trust and sadness and he says: Believe me, if we had known that driving cars kills trees, we would have stopped immediately!

My father would let out one of his furious snorts whenever he noticed it. In his opinion, this was too emphatic and obviously over simplifying complex issues that will be solved in due course by this advanced society - in which I was for reasons beyond his comprehension and patience unable to participate and pull my proper weight.

But that was then and look, acid rain treaties have been signed and well, yawn.

Last night I was listening to Bruce Springsteen, the double album we bought in 1980. At a time when we were always broke but so full of ourselves, the communes, the organic gardens, food co-ops, alternative education for our home born kids. Life was one long line of exciting rallies, fundraising concerts, peace camps, pickets all the way to utopia and oh, the fun we had.

Anyway, this was the song:


And somewhere into the second verse, all R could say was, quite the carbon footprint, driving all night to buy some shoes. And then he said as a by the way remark, life has caught up with us.

And so it has. We have failed. In our arrogance as a species. Today we have been told. But again we fail because seriously, do we actually read that stuff? Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind. The what? Humankind. That's us, remember?

Today I am scared. And furious. But mainly scared. I would dearly love to share in the enthusiasm of Rob Hopkins et al. but right now I agree with Paul Kingsnorth:

27 March 2014

the market in March

all the way from Spain
the first local harvest

last year's onions

all the way from Italy

the hard green ones

delicious wild garlic

the first asparagus of the year

tulips everywhere

25 March 2014

depth over distance

There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow.

Dalai Lama

A short wintry interlude in this eternal spring.  Could I get a battery indicator, somewhere discretely on the inside of my lower left arm, so that I don't run myself against the walls the next time I think I should be superwoman? Gently flashing in soft pink of green when it's time for a recharge. I am apparently too stupid stubborn to recognise The Signs.

16 March 2014

So yes, this winter has been exceptionally mild and yes, I loved that. Weather wise it has been easy. But other than that. Not so good. Be patient, I tell myself. Things will get better, this stubborn dry cough will ease eventually, your intestines will one day remember how to digest food in general, and all the other loose ends will fall into place, incl. that irritating lack of energy. And so on. I know, even my own eyes get this glazed look when my health is mentioned. 
So predictably repetitive.

But then again, what if this is the shape of things to come? Oh well. Let's not make a mess of it at least. Let's try.

Meanwhile, my inner hibernophile is getting ready for the day tomorrow, just mentally, mind you. Nothing green, no shamrocks or whatnots. I asked my personal Irish prince how to say happy st. patrick's day as gaeilge in Irish, and he said: couldn't give a fuck.
So there. At least I am ready.

This is the story behind the song.

12 March 2014

4 am

You can never tell what it will be like. Could be the clearest moment, silent, calm, hopeful. Could be a dark hole to curl up in, lost and shaking like a hunted animal. That endless stretch of time just before dawn and the first birds. When everything is so much larger, echos inside my head, the drum of my heartbeat all the way to my fingertips.
Sometimes, too many thoughts, swirling and hammering inside my mind, are forcing me to still them with my breath. Other times, I am floating, thinking if this is it, so what.
And always. Daylight, slowly, miraculously.

Last night, my mind was writing a thank you letter to Colm Tóibin. I told him that I read almost everything he has written so far, from back in the days when he had a full head of hair to the first chapter of his latest book. I especially thanked him for writing this:
She ... made her tea as though it were an ordinary Monday and she could take her ease. She put less milk than usual into the scalding tea and made herself drink it, proving to herself that she could do anything now, face anything.
And  before I knew it, I told him about the silent darkness and how one day when I was feeling really low, my child called from the other side of the planet and put on her giraffe costume.

And how this made everything alright  again. Because.


10 March 2014

A spring Sunday bordering on summer. The butterflies that were completely absent throughout last year have for some reason chosen early March to make an appearance. And why not, it is after all unseasonally mild after this non-winter. 

There is a rambling sweet pea flowering and I want to say, you are an annual, I planted you out last May, what are you still doing here?

We are still at the kale harvesting stage. Mentally.

But what the heck, we can play this game too, let's pretend it's April and put out the seedlings.

In brightest sunshine, we said good bye to the Douglas fir.

And hello to the new red chestnut.

And in memory of my more rebellous past I manufactured 50 little seed bombs ready to be distributed around the duller parts of town on a rainy and dark night.

While the amaryllis is trying her best to call us back indoors.

Earlier in the day, there were long calls between countries and continents. One of the family has died after a long illness. Someone else's mother, a cousin, an aunt, a friend. There was sadness and relief and the need to talk with the ones we love. And since then, my heart has been whispering to me. I miss my child.