Moonlight Diamond Benedictions, Beauty, and Magick

Pull up a chair, my tribe, and I’ll tell you a story, of the Before Times, which I rarely speak of – of my life before illness, which was an unusual one by anyone’s standards. It is a bitterly cold night here on the Mountain, 8 degrees and snowy, and gazing at that snow, so incredibly fine due to the very cold air, I see it sparkle in the deck lights, and am reminded of another snowy night, so long ago, almost half a lifetime now…

I remember…
…being a single mom living with my 7 year-old daughter in a very poorly-built log cabin, with no running water, in Ohio. I hadn’t planned to be there on my own… a marriage had recently ended badly, leaving me broken-hearted and financially-ruined. I found myself enrolled in college, learning to be a naturalist or forest ranger by day, and returning home in the evenings to a great deal of responsibility… “living rough” had seemed a fine idea when I was married to someone who people compared to the “Marlboro man,” but it was a daunting prospect for a woman alone…

After a long day of college classes that involved much hiking, near sunset on a bitterly cold Winter evening, I wearily climb the steep hill to the cabin, my daughter at my side. It is cold inside, too – the cabin is heated only by a woodstove, and, being incredibly drafty, requires a constant, roaring, fire, but the fire has been banked all day, down to a slow burn. I pile on wood and get it warming up, then move outside to chores as the daylight fades.

I break the ice in my rain barrels, and tend to my two horses, and feed far too many wolves. With what little energy I have left, I scrape together dinner for my daughter, and try to be there for her. I don’t do a very good job. My situation is overwhelming, is desperate, and I don’t know how I will get through it. I am deeply depressed, but trying not to show it.

But after she is tucked in bed, I pull my boots, coat and warmest gloves back on, and go back out into the biting cold to split wood. I have just used up all the already split wood to warm the house for the evening. Cutting and splitting the wood by myself is a never-ending chore, and I cannot get caught up.

The Moon is full and bright overhead, reflecting off the snow, and I can see my way clearly. I have no outside lights, so I glance up, thankful of the Moon’s brilliance. The snow crunches and squeeks under my boots, as it only does when it is so cold. I struggle to put a snow-covered log up on my chopping block. The splitting maul is lifted and brought down on the log with a well-practiced, if exhausted, stroke, and that moment is when the Magick happens, when everything changes…

The snow and ice on the top of the log suddenly explodes up around me in a powder-fine cloud, and every single flake, every single speck, sparkles in the moonlight with glittering rainbows, as it flies up around me and ever, ever, so slowly falls.

It is as if I have been showered with finely ground diamonds, or fairy dust, each speck shimmering with all the shades of the rainbow – deep blue, purple, scarlet red, fire orange – and the bright white of the Moon as they fall.

It is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and all because we were out of wood on a cold winter night.

I stand there in astonishment, as the cloud of glimmering diamond snowdust settles on and around me, and then gaze up at the bright Moon above me.

If I had needed a sign that even in one’s darkest hour there is Beauty, there is Hope, then I had surely been gifted with one, and I had, indeed, needed just such a sign.

It seems it is a fine and beautiful night for chopping wood after all, and I split enough for several days, laughing like a child as the rainbow-sparkling snowdust falls all around me and the glorious Moon shines down from above.

The memory of the unexpected and breathtaking Beauty of that night is a treasured one, and one I think of often. It holds and sustains me through the dark hours, and helps me find the Beauty, Inspiration, and Hope, to keep going… just as it did then.

The Moon is Magick and Mystery,
yes, and so are many other things.
If we but look,
there are signs and guideposts
all around us, pointing the way…
We have only to open our Hearts and truly See.

Forgotten Dreams & Finding Myself Again

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton, “No Man Is an Island”

Recently, I’ve come to realize (again) just how much being chronically ill has stolen from me, and not just in the obvious physical sense.

Little bits & pieces of me, of who I am, have been slowly slipping away into the morass of living with ME/CFS/Lyme, etc., buried under the avalanche of chronic illness, a little bit (or occasionally a lot) at a time, as I slowly spiral downward.

And then I found myself again, all the little missing bits, in the most unlikely of places.

The loss of physical function, of ability, is the easy part to see.

I can no longer ride horses, garden beyond a few pots on the deck & my beloved bonsai, or even make a trip to the grocery store without seriously overtaxing my body. Those long hikes in the Woods are long gone.

Less obvious to those on the outside looking in are the loss of the ability to watch TV or movies because of sound & light sensitivity & the damned migraines. I had have my favorite sci-fi & fantasy shows & movies, and I miss them, though they wait patiently for me on the DVR.

Perhaps most of all, I miss the ability to inhale a good novel, to luxuriate in a fantasy world of warrior women, magic, and quests to be fulfilled, or to travel backward into history & relive the ancient past. I used to read upwards of 150 pages a night of a good book, but I lost the ability to retain what I read, and so keep track of plotlines and characters, about 10 years ago.

But the Amazon warrior woman within, the myths & magic I love so much, reside within me still, I have found.

Rather than be pushed away into the fog and forgotten, they beg to be brought out into the open, acknowledged, and, even, nourished.

They are part of who I am.

Exploring more, I re-discovered the thrill of seeing a beautiful vista from a far-away land, a gorgeous garden, an amazing animal, an unusual and well done piece of art, and so much more.

And so I have found myself again, I have awoken from my soul’s slumber, thanks to that unlikely source I mentioned: Pinterest.

For those who don’t know, Pinterest is a highly addictive online “pinboard” site, where you can create pinboards – collections – of images of things you like, and keep them neatly arranged in as many boards as you like. You can “follow” people who share your interests, and browse their boards, and repin what you like to your own boards. Most of the pins lead to websites, often of interest, too.

To be honest, I joined Pinterest because I saw friends joining, and didn’t really expect much to use it.

But then I discovered the world of imagery that resides on the web, the treasure hunt that is Pinterest, finding people who like the same things I do, and began luxuriating in the glorious artwork & photography the way I used to do with my reading, tv and movie watching, and travel.

During a bad migraine day, of which there are many, I barely feel like moving, and thinking is terribly difficult. About the only thing I can do at such times is to immerse myself in the fantastic art & images of the divine, creative DIY ideas, magical homes, forests & sacred spaces, found on Pinterest, all while barely budging from my pillow, on my smartphone.

As I collect and categorize, I am both losing myself from the pain of the migraine & drudgery of another day of “chronic-ness”, and also finding myself, the parts so long buried & lost, hidden away. But still there.

Buried, but still alive & well inside my heart & soul.

It’s been six months of pinning now, and I’ve found it to be an interesting & invigorating process, both spiritually & emotionally.

Hidden anger & grief has risen to the surface to be dealt with, as I see things that remind me of The Before Times, of things I used to do, places I wanted to see, but now can’t.

I thought I was over that aspect of this illness we call ME/CFS, over the loss of so much that was a part of my identity.

But seeing some of these images, these visions of the Past and hopes for the Future, served as a reminder to me that grief is a process, a spiral, not a circle – we don’t go through the steps of the circle and be over it.

Instead, we go ’round and ’round the spiral of grief and anger, mourning the loss of Life-As-We-Knew-It, and with each turning of the spiral, the grief in our hearts heals a little more, slowly, ever so slowly, fading away…

As I’ve wandered the spiral of grieving for my life, I’ve found Pinterest to be invaluable in renewing my hope and fueling inspiration.

Creativity has budded, and begun to flower.

Images and how-to’s fill my Creativity board of things I know I can make and do, albeit very slowly. I can revisit and refine what inspires me, as new pins are found and pinned, and not-quite-right pins are removed. They remind me that:

I can still create. I can still make beautiful things.

Another board reminds me of my deep connection to Nature, and is populated with images of wild women and wild places, prompting the sleeping wildling within to awaken.

With every visit, the fires of inspiration burn brighter.

Once upon a time, I had my very own, very large, herb garden, with just about every herb, medicinal and culinary, you could have. But for now, we have the Woods, some pots on the deck, and dried herbs that can be purchased.

Pinterest has re-kindled my interest in using natural ways for healing. The internet is full of tons of information on using herbs & foods for healing, and my board is a great way to organize all that info – and encourage me to try it!

When things are very bad, physically, I can drop myself into the sacred imagery, fantasy art, especially lovely places, or beautiful wildwoods that populate my boards, and hide myself from the pain & distress. I can distract myself from the boredom of living a life filled with chronic pain & exhaustion by going treasure hunting – for new & wonderful things to pin.

It is a refuge, a respite, and a renewal, that I never expected, but am very thankful for.

To see my entire collection, please visit me on Pinterest ~ and if you’d like an invitation to join, just let me know (it’s free).

The End Of Chocolate, And Why I’ve Been Quiet

Note: This is long, but kind of has to be as it covers a lot of ground – it’s about the past, the present, how the body works, and why I’ve been so quiet.

This Halloween, there will be no chocolate for me; no Halloween goodies. An “old friend” (and I use that term very loosely) has come back to haunt me (pun intended):

When I was 14 or 15, I was into fasting, at first for the spiritual aspect of it, and then later, because I wanted to be thin like all the other girls, especially the girls in Drama, the dancers. My parents didn’t know – they were preoccupied, going through a separation and divorce. It was altogether too easy to say I’d eaten at a friend’s house, earlier, or wasn’t hungry. Some of my fasts were “only” 3 or 4 days long, but a couple were 7 days, though I usually had to drink juice, tea, or broth to fly under the parental radar.

The first hint that this was not doing good things to my growing body was during a visit to the National Mall, and there, in the shadow of the Washington Monument, on a day of blazing heat, I passed out. It was the weirdest experience. I started feeling shaky & unwell, walked a few feet to my father, and as I started to tell him, my vision faded to black from the  outside in to a pinpoint circle, and then I dropped like a rock. I came around almost immediately, lying in the grass, looking up at my parents’ concerned faces. They thought it was the heat, or dehydration. I didn’t tell them I hadn’t eaten in 3 days.

Over the next couple of years, I had trouble with spells of shakiness, dizziness, nausea, feeling disoriented & on the verge of passing out. I had trouble staying awake in some of my classes at school.

A  glucose tolerance test (drink a bottle of coke syrup, have 8 blood draws, and nearly pass out in the doctor’s office) showed I had hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. It’s kind of like diabetes in reverse.

My body was on a roller coaster ride: when I ate sugar (even natural sugars, like those found in juice or fruit) or carb-heavy foods,  my blood sugar level first rose steeply, then, over-reacting, it was over-producing insulin, and causing my blood sugar level to drop too far, too fast.

Without enough blood sugar, or glucose,  the body can’t function – the glucose is needed for carrying oxygen in the blood, and for energy.

Fainting is the body’s defense mechanism. You hit the deck, and your head is (theoretically) level with the rest of your body, so that the available oxygen-laden blood can be sent to the brain & organs, which the  body must protect at all costs.

The treatment is really very simple & entirely diet based: elimination of all sugar and simple carbohydrates from the diet, including natural sugars.  No juice,  fruit, or even potatoes, which are easily converted to glucose by the body. Keep the intake of protein high, and eat only complex carbs, that are digested slowly, and so converted to sugar very slowly. That avoids the sudden plunges in blood sugar levels caused by the body’s release of too much insulin.

Within a couple of years, eating a reasonable diet, and getting  to a more reasonable weight, my body was able to normalize, and I wasn’t bothered by it anymore. The doctor told me to watch for the possibility of diabetes later in life, as it often occurs in those who have hypoglycemia.

I realized the hypoglycemia was back, 30 years later, a week or so ago.

I’ve been really struggling with my weight, with it being too low (something that still shocks me), for months now. It’s gotten as low as 116#, and has been hovering within a few pounds of there for months. If I’d only lost fat, it would be one thing, but I’ve lost a lot of muscle.  My arms & legs have never been this thin in my entire adult life. My ribs and shoulder blades are starkly visible.

After a lifetime of struggling to keep my weight from being too high, this has been a difficult adjustment, both physically and mentally.

The doctor has been urging me to eat high calorie foods, like nuts and avocados, and I’m under orders to add olive oil to everything I eat (for the record, olive oil in oatmeal is really not that bad).

I’m really struggling to keep my weight from going even lower. Just feeling like eating is difficult. I’ve had so many migraines, with accompanying nausea, that I have very little appetite. It’s possible that some of my meds are contributing to the lack of an appetite. It’s also possible that my level of thyroid hormone is too high, so on Thursday, as I discussed this problem with my PCP, we decided to lower it. I hope that helps.

September was spent battling a severe sinus infection, which became bronchitis severe enough I had to get a chest x-ray. I’ve never coughed up so much green mucus in my life, for weeks. It took:

  • Two antibiotics
  • Two different inhalers,
  • Three different meds for the candida that resulted from the antibiotics
  • Gallons of hot tea
  • Gallons of emergen-c
  • A bottle of Andrographis (an herbal antibiotic)
  • Half a bottle of Oil of Oregano capsules (both internally for the candida, as well as in hot hot tea I used to steam my lungs with, huddled under a towel)
  • Way too much honey, mixed into hot lemon juice with water, or just honey with lemon juice, to cut the phlegm

and weeks in bed to defeat it. And I’m still coughing a bit, still wheezing some.

There was a time there when I really wasn’t sure I was strong enough to kick it; people die from pneumonia all the time, and my body has no reserves anymore. I was worried I was going to die before Rhiannon made it to 18, and was legally an adult. It was a strange feeling. I’m certainly not afraid of dying, but I don’t want to do it until she’s of age. The weakness caused by this illness, and this weight loss, was greater than anything I’ve experienced since my year with the PICC line, when I nearly died from medication reactions.

I wrote a post called “Still, Surreal, and Chocolate” in August, about standing in the store with Rhiannon, picking out chocolate, thinking that it was okay to eat some, to help me hang on to my weight. It’s definitely a high calorie food.

When the middle of September arrived, with it’s Halloween candy everywhere, Rhiannon thought it would be good to pick up a few bags of the snack size bars, and started leaving them out on a plate for me. She’s very concerned by my weight loss, and is trying her best to fatten me up just a little, get me into the “safe and healthy” zone.

But once I started eating the chocolate treats, as well as dried papaya spears, after all the honey & lemon juice I’d gone through, I wanted more, & then more.

At this decidedly too-low weight, my metabolism is not functioning the way it should (not that it ever functions properly). I soon realized that I was craving more sweet things about an hour after the previous sweet thing, and then those all too familiar feelings from my teenage years started up – the shaking hands, the sudden weakness (as if I’m not already weak enough),  the lightheadedness.

I talked to my doctor about this on Thursday, and told her my suspicion that the hypoglycemia was back. She was unsurprised, and agreed. Thankfully, she won’t require I go through another glucose tolerance test. Hopefully, we’ve caught it early enough that I can get over it more quickly.

So there will be no Halloween candy for me this year. It’s back to the sugar-free, low-carb, low-glycemic, diet. Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Preservative- & additive-free.

Despite all those “-frees,” I’m still trying to find enough to eat to get my weight up just a bit. It’s time for things like coconut milk (high in medium-chain fatty acids, an essential nutrient), lots of nuts, brown rice pasta, oatmeal, avocados, vitamin & DHA enhanced soymilk, unsweetened granola, and lots of protein – boiled eggs being a staple at the moment. Popcorn has been sounding good a lot lately.

When all else fails, and I have not eaten enough calories for the day, we use my nightly Ambien to get me eating , as it gives me terrific munchies. If I get up after having taken it, Rhiannon shovels the food into me. I’ll eat anything in sight, and often have no memory of it.

So everyone who can, eat a sweet piece of Halloween candy for me, and send me chocolately goodness vibes.

Happy Halloween to all, and a Blessed Samhain.