Sunday, July 10, 2011: Post-surgery

         It's two days since arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. A minor surgery for a dumb and undisciplined yoga move. I was more panicky about limitations afterwards than about the surgery itself, anxious to get in one last bike ride (and then another, and then that one the day before surgery), getting up and down for ground-level photography (which is the hardest on the knee), doing all the things that would later be restricted (like digging drainage ditches and filling them with 1000 lbs of cobble stone).  Even if the knee felt fine during the activity, I learned over and over that the wrong moves were bound to bring out knee complaints six or eight hours later.

        Before surgery, as I desperately roamed about the cabin engaged in those last close-up photo ops, I noticed these grape vine twists. With additional blurring and manipulation, the image became a perfect rendition of how the inside of my knee felt on its bad days.

        I've seen the surgical photos and it is all smoothed out now. In two months, the surface will be hardened, good as new.

       For now (when I have surprisingly minor pain and stiffness) I must remember the old saying: "When all the symptoms have disappeared, the healing process is only one-third complete."

           Still, I have a new beginning!! I am in such high spirits. Of course, it also means a new challenge---to remember that this new beginning is still delicate and vulnerable.   Fifteen percent of people going through these surgeries tear the meniscus again by not letting it harden before jumping back into activities. Who, me? Overextend myself? 

        Let's hope I can keep my attention focused on taking care of myself for the summer and I don't drift back into taking the body for granted.


Posted on Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 09:02AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment


Posted on Saturday, July 2, 2011 at 06:36AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

Friday, June 24, 2011: Procrastination

         The calendar may have declared summer's arrival, but today is cold and wet---too cold and wet to get out in the garden. I float about indoors, wandering around the house.  There is house cleaning which must be done before the Monday book club meeting. Plenty to keep me busy indoors.  Yet, here I am . . . procrastinating, unable to face the mundane.

         My soul is itchy. I'm not sure if something deep inside is pushing, desperate to dance, to expand outward with abandonment, or if part of an aging "me" is simply falling apart momentarily, unable to find purpose in everyday routines.

          I escape into photography, knowing it is a temporary respite; knowing that soon enough I will buckle down to dusting and scrubbing. Damn. I've become predictable.

Posted on Friday, June 24, 2011 at 08:05AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments1 Comment

Wednesday, June 22, 2011: What you expect is what you see

         I was desperate to photograph mushrooms on our last trip to the cabin. In early July, I will be undergoing minor knee surgery; the recovery period includes two months of not bending and putting weight on the knee (while the meniscus hardens). Of course, that means a summer of not getting down to ground level for macro photography of lichens, mushrooms, and many wildflowers. I was anxious to find as many new specimens as possible in June.

         I found earthstars (puffball family) and blue-eyed grass (a member of the lily family) which were cool, but left me unsatisfied.

         If the timing was not so great for mushrooms and unidentified wildflowers, it was perfect for butterflies, moths, and damselflies. Ahhh---something new to photograph! In the early morning woods, damselflies (normally very shy and elusive) were looking for mates and could care less about my camera lens in their face. Butterflies, skippers, moths, and dragonflies remained their usual wary selves. There is a learning curve to taking photos of flying subjects and I will be working on it for some time.

          I talked my husband into walking a section of the North Country Trail off limits to bikes, hoping to find new mushrooms, butterflies, or wildflowers. Anything new to photograph. He walked ahead, scanning the treeline for birds. I scanned the grasses and edge of the trail for subjects of interest.

          It occurred to me that this is what I’ve trained for, back in cytopathology. Then, we were looking at hundreds of thousands of cells, scanning for those few cells that might represent the first signs of abnormality. Now, my eye was sorting through grasses and leaves to find some out-of-the-ordinary element. I patted myself on the back when I stumbled on this fellow, an Agreeable Tiger Moth.

          Even now, I think of the moth not as a female (playing the ice princess) but as an out-of-fashion count, wearing heavy winter robes in spite of the warmer season. Was it boldness or fear that kept him glued to his grass perch, out in the daylight and an open field, vulnerable to birds who must be busy finding food for their young? I began looking more intently for nearby butterflies, moths, or mushrooms.

         My husband had wandered far ahead while I lingered to take photographs, then met me coming back on the trail. Turning and retracing my steps, I was amazed to discover a wild columbine. Right there. Just off the trail.  R. had casually noticed it on his journey down the trail.

        A beautiful wild columbine. How could I have missed it when traveling the other way down the path? Hadn’t I been scouring the edges of the path? Weren’t these eyes trained to find details just like this? It was a rough reminder of another lesson learned from cytopathology.

        What you see is somewhat dependent on what you are looking for, what you expect to see. The brain sorts out a myriad of details as it zeros in on what you anticipate might be there. You can hold a myriad of expectations in your mind, but forget any option and the attention may not register what is right in front of your nose.

        What else is out there in the world that we are not seeing because it resides outside our realm of possibilities?

Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 05:53PM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments3 Comments

Wednesday, June 1, 2011: Becoming a Nobody

        I'm in such a non-writing phase. Have lost my enthusiasm when it comes to sending out agent query letters for my first book. Can't get back to working on the second book.  Haven’t worked on the blog for ages, unless it is to occasionally post a photo (and a quote from someone else). Suddenly all my ideas, my stories, my opinions, seem empty and trivial. The type of articles I enthusiastically wrote years ago for the Skeptical Mystic no longer flow. Who am I to add to the literature about psychic and spiritual realities?  I’m in my “nobody” stage.

         So I play with my new camera outdoors. I spend hours organizing and editing photos. I fall in love with the miniscule details of flowers, bugs, and mushrooms outdoors.

        I rework old recipes indoors (a necessity since I’ve developed a new intolerance to gluten and corn). In fact, this particular life adjustment has become a major challenge: wheat has its own consistency that is hard to substitute with non-gluten products; corn or corn byproducts are in every packaged or prepared food including non-gluten products and low–fat dairy products.  And how exactly do you eat out without being a pain-in-the-neck to your host or the restaurant chef?

        But your retirement years should be more productive than this, chides my little self.  What purpose will your life serve?  Shouldn’t you at least write down something meaningful for posterity?  I procrastinate by working in the garden instead.

         Ah, the garden.  When I married R. five years ago and moved into his house, I was horrified that his back yard was a jungle—literally.  My new husband was proud of his “Darwinian garden,”  but---rather than the creation of a Darwinian garden, I saw only a garden “a la Spencer.”  Survival of the fittest.  Left to fend for itself for twenty years the yard was overwhelmed by invasives.

        I spent the first two years removing poison ivy, wild grape vine, oriental bittersweet (the north’s version of Kudzu), wild rose (looks pretty but quickly takes over the rest of the yard), sumac, and the dreaded buckthorn (whose seeds will probably still be sprouting in 2075). Then I began turning the back into a wildflower haven.  A wild patch of nature in the middle of the city.

         A long-term project, I know the garden will always be more organized than if nature took over. It’s still far removed from the formal order of an English garden.  There are pathways of myrtle so I can wander about and remove undesirables, and one winding trail of stepping stones through the center. I avoid putting stones elsewhere, gradually learning the best pathways to avoid plants, aware by doing so it will never be a garden that guests can casually wander through.   

         I question if the garden is becoming an obsession. I spend too much time staring out at the back yard, dropping an indoor project to wander through the garden looking about for invasives that need removal or a new blossom that might be photographed.

        Part of me feels guilty over my use of time. The idea of gardening seems too small a thing, enough to hold my affection but of little consequence to anyone else.

         That is my old self poking and prodding: a family history of being productive, a lifetime of creating to-do lists, an innate need to make a difference.  After all the inner experiences I’ve been given, isn’t it important to share something with the world? Would it be wrong to pull back inside myself, to become a small island, unknown to anyone outside my immediate circle?

         Things are changing inside me. That prospect no longer frightens me into action, no longer affects me as it might have ten years ago.

          Perhaps this is the phase of life where I just need to quit worrying about my contribution to a larger community, about serving a purpose in some grander scheme.  Perhaps I will work harder at becoming a social nobody, content to just be in the universe.

        So if this blog wanders in different directions, please understand. Somewhere---deep inside---I’m still the Skeptical Mystic. I’m just not into giving advice to anyone else right now.

Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 06:29AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments2 Comments