Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Massage and Medicine

Today, at noon, I go for another therapeutic massage. When I tell people I use massage as a healing tool, they tend to comment on how lucky I am, how much they would like to receive a massage once a month. But when massage is used the way Sherri, at Healing Hands massage therapy clinic, uses it on me, to help me heal, to put my muscles back to where they should be...it hurts. A lot.

So, as I awoke this morning, I was filled with apprehension. I almost cancelled, but I am stuck...right after the therapy, I have to visit my doctor. Two whammies in a row...my doctor will want to know the details of the massage, and how I am progressing with it. And it is my responsibility to my physical body to continue to search for a solution to the chronic pain I am in.

I seem to be stuck at a point in my recovery where progress seems slow...almost non-existent. Due to financial and time constraints, I go for massage therapy only once a month. When I was going twice a week, progress went quickly, noticeably changing the pain I felt to something that I was able to bear. But during the last month or so, the aches have settled in once again, with a vengence, it seems.

It's been almost two years since the pain began. Starting with sciatic nerve pain from two bulging discs; the pain escalated to my hips and groin. Then, after testing, we discovered that my bone mass is deteriorating, giving the medical experts the opinion that osteoporosis and arthritis were the culprits. But there was another specialist I should see, or another test I should take, before a decision was made...and on and on.

This pain is not new to me...the length of time it has lasted, without let up of intensity, is. And because of the great amount of time it takes here to get a specialist's opinion, I still don't know what I'm treating or what my body needs that it is not getting. But, in my humble opinion and it has no medical background, The Pain originated with a bad car accident I had when I was 18. I was in hospital for a long time after that, with many broken and cracked bones. It was a long road to rehabilitation.

I have to rely on my intuition, my guides, rather than a set of medical guidelines. My intuition led me to Sherri Kerr. It was one of the most pro-active moves I could have made...any other therapist would not have taken me as a patient, as I couldn't lie flat on the table at first. She used her expertise and her healing hands to massage and work me into place. It took many sessions to get to where I am now...I walked twelve blocks the other day.

When I first saw Sherri, I couldn't walk...I hobbled, with a cane.

Today, Sherri works on my upper body, pushing and manipulating my body back into alignment. I don't know what she does...I keep my eyes closed...but I help her as much as I can, through the pain. I ask for help from my guides, send myself Reiki, breathe, use colour therapy, use visualizations of the area where Sherri is working...anything I can think of.

Sherri works hard, she's extremely strong. When she tells me to relax my shoulder with some urgency, I comply and relax into her hand...she tells me I almost broke her thumb by tensing at that particular moment. It is really hard to relax throughout pain that is already happening and also to relax into the idea that this pain is only going to get worse, in a few short seconds. When she tells me about her thumb, I'm awed by the power of the human muscle structure that wants to stay where it is, to my detriment or not.

It takes an hour. Sherri's hands give off enormous heat, she knows how much I hurt. My legs feel weak. I feel as if I have been hit by a truck. But the abnormal hurt I felt when I came in here is not there. Now I feel as if I had taken a very long, arduous hike, or as if I had worked in the haying fields of my youth all day. The twisted muscles, the ligaments that have wrapped and tangled together...that pain is gone. I expect it back; the benefits of this session will last about 2 weeks. But Sherri tells me I am getting much better...she is able to work on specifics now, whereas before she couldn't get near them. And she tells me my spine is straight.

Nobody told me being pro-active was going to be easy.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Sunday Walk

It was the hottest day of the year so far yesterday. There was a slight breeze in the morning, when the triathlon athletes, who were competing in the annual Qualicum triathlon, cycled by. But Wind deserted us in the afternoon.

Gray suggested we take our dogs, Lucky and Nate, with us for a walk to return a movie we had rented. He had already mowed our considerable lawn, had cut new siding for our house, had done the recycling, cut down rogue blackberry branches...and still, he wanted to go for a walk. The man has boundless energy.

Graham used to climb mountains, in his younger years. It shows...he still likes to live a little on the edge. A couple of years ago, Qualicum Beach suffered through a blizzard, not very common here on the mild West coast. It was extremely cold, the wind was howling...you could not even see the road for the blowing snow. Again, Graham wanted to go for a walk. We did, and I am here to tell you it is by the grace of the Creator that we managed to find our way back to our home. Gray enjoyed it, though...he loves to face the elements, hot, rainy, cold or blowing...it matters not. If its extreme weather, he's in. He's experienced in inclement weather.

The temperature on Sunday was 40 C. Hot. As we started out, Graham mentioned it might be wise if we sought as much shade as we could. I looked down the road, and asked if he saw any shade? The road looked as if it was buckling in the strong sunlight, with nary a shade patch to be seen. Ah well, I thought, a cold shower when I got back should take care of the copious amounts of sweat that was pooling and running everywhere.

The dogs never care how hot or cold it is...a walk is pure pleasure to these two hounds. Graham took plastic bags; Nate always leaves a pile somewhere as we go...it is an absolute necessity for him. But Lucky, although he waters each bush, has never been able to have a bowel movement on a leash...it confounds the kennel people who try with desperation to get him to go to the bathroom on his exercise walks. I just thought perhaps he required privacy.

Lucky has some wires crossed somewhere in his brain. He is dyslexic, sometimes doing the opposite of what he is trying to do. This odd behavior in him has led to some hilarious moments. When he first learned to lift his leg, he would lift the opposite leg from the bush or pole he was trying to water, sometimes he would even try to lift both legs, ending up on his nose! Or he would hop around for awhile, with his leg lifted, trying to figure out how to hit the object that had just been watered by Nate, with such ease, it seemed to Lucky.

But he is four now. He has learned to lift his leg with gusto...although he still yanks his leg up higher than any other dog would, almost unbalancing himself each time. He looks so smug and happy that he's finally figured this common dog behavior out. But up to this Sunday, he still had never left a steaming pile for Graham to pick up.

But Lucky had a surprise in store for us. After Nate did his business, coming away looking relaxed and peaceful, something clicked in Lucky's brain. But, once again, he couldn't quite figure out the correct way to do it, when he was on a leash.

So when he lifted his leg against a bush, and nothing dribbled out, Graham suggested to him perhaps he had nothing left to water the bush with. But Lucky stood there, leg lifted, with nothing happening. It was odd. And then...plop, plop, plop...Lucky had a bowel movement. With his leg still lifted against the bush.

I cannot begin to tell you how funny it was.

But we had to stifle our laughter, at first. Lucky looked so proud, so pleased with himself...he had finally figured out how to do what all other dogs do normally. I could not dash his satisfaction with himself by letting out the burbling laughter that was welling up inside of me. He would have been hurt.

The look on Gray's face, though, was priceless...and I couldn't help the huge guffaws that billowed out of me, when I looked at him. I think it was one of the first times I have ever seen Graham at a loss for words. The look of bewilderment and astonishment on his face had me bent double with laughter.

All he said was..."What...was that!?!" as he bent down to pick up Lucky's offering, which, because of the angle Lucky was in when he did this thing, was not just one pile, but rather a few piles, dropped here and there.

Gray's usual composure deserted him. He has gathering a dog's bm's down to a fine art. He wraps the plastic bag around his hand, holds and inverts it, then picks it all up, quickly and cleanly, for deposit into the next waste receptacle. But it was so hot. Lucky had just given us such fodder for much merriment. And I was snorting with laughter that I was trying so hard to contain a mite, not only because Lucky's feelings might be hurt; but we were also in the middle of town! My laughter can carry a long way; drawing attention to myself in the sweaty, snorting state I was in was something I wanted to avoid.

Consequently, let's just say that picking up this gift of Lucky's did not go with Graham's usual panache. It was a tad messy. Thankfully, we were only a block or so away from the waste receptacle, and Lucky's offering went the way of all the other dogs' bms' before his.

We did not know what the temperature was before we started walking. I just knew it was hot, but when we came back the thermometer read 41 C. And it was humid. So we were drenched in sweat when we returned home from this Sunday's walk. But I wouldn't have missed it...huge, gut-busting laughter is a wonderful tonic, and once more, Lucky was the cause of it.

Lucky is walking more proudly now...he feels just like the other dogs who deposit their gifts to their owners or handlers when leashed. It doesn't matter to Lucky how he does it, the end result was the same.

Now there's a great lesson for me!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dance of the Butterflies

I wasn't feeling well the other day; there was much happening around me contributing to my body telling me to slow down. Bree and a friend had spent a couple of days here...as good as gold, they were. We had old friends, Hugh and Joanne, whom we hadn't visited with for a long time, drop by on their new motorcycle...a 1980 Sportwing, in beautiful condition. We had Father's Day celebrations...all these different events were extremely joyful, happy occasions.

But I felt unbalanced...my guides were telling me I had ignored my spiritual and physical bodies for the past few days. Hence, I felt tired and drained. I was directed into the garden; under some reluctance...there were many things to do.

The scents of the garden competed in summer's arena. Rose assaulted my nose with her spicy, unforgettable scent, Lavender perfumed the air, Mint, Parsley and Thyme lent their herbal undercurrents to the whole. A neighbour's lawn mower buzzed in the background, sending the smell of new mown grass wafting over the back yard...

The dogs were silent...sleeping off the exciting weekend in a secluded, scented corner of the garden. The whole garden dozed, as if awaiting some call to arms...resting but alert. Sun peeked through the clouds, bathing us all in its intense light for a time, until a huge cloud would once again obscure his face. But Sun's warmth remained, making me feel lethargic and heavy, like a broody Hen.

As I sat on my favourite Rock, one of the many that line my garden beds, two Monarch Butterflies appeared. They did not come from the same part of the garden; rather, they met in front of me, it seemed. Fluttering around the other, they began a dance, which, had it been set to music, would have accelerated in time.

And then they began to twirl, right there in front of me.

In my drowsy state, I watched the Butterflies...until I realized how absolutely beautiful this dance was they were creating in such absolute sychronicity with each other. I became more and more awed...they were close enough to touch, as they continued to twirl, faster and faster...I wanted my camera, but was afraid to move, lest I disturb their creative mating dance.

In my research, I find out that Butterflies, when they mate, check out the other for suitability. The female may already be pregnant or may not be ready to mate. There are lots of pictures of Butterflies already mating on the web, but not many of the dance...and the ones I found did not do the dance justice.

They twirled for a long time, up and down. Sometimes they touched, in their beautiful, looping, circular dance with each other.

Awestruck, my eyes as big as saucers, I watched one Butterfly situate himself right in front of me; I could easily have touched him. The other fluttered off to the side, while this Butterfly twirled faster and faster, up and down and around, so close, as if he was saying Hello.

After a time, off they both went, bobbing and fluttering. I never did see them land and actually mate; perhaps they were unsuitable for each other, after all.

Sayahda tells me the Butterfly's message is one of transformation and soul evolution. Butterfly is reminding me to stay "consciously connected to Spirit at all times" in order to facilitate the changes happening in my life. But, at the same time, not to take life so seriously...to experience the joy and serenity that are mine, if I will only allow them in.

A reminder of the happiness in my life, especially when I'm tired and not as positive as I might be...this was the gift of the Dance of the Butterflies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Musings From My Stoop

I picked up some rhubarb on the weekend at the Qualicum Beach Farmer's Market...remember the old variety that used to grow out of compost piles in the barnyard? The kind that was stringy and tough and oh, so tasty? These stalks looked as if they might taste like that.

That was the old rhubarb, the one that grows huge and seemingly forever. That kind was the one my ex mother-in-law used to stew, for hours, it seemed, and still there would be lumps of rhubarb that didn't break down with the long cooking period. Those lumps brought a burst of tart, earthy flavour to the taste buds, reminding you of just how sour this plant is, without the sugar.

But rhubarb has been refined. When I try to stew it, it turns into a pink, mushy concoction...even pies, good as they are, bear no resemblance to the rhubarb pies of old. Rhubarb is advertised in the seed catalogues now as tender...and one even commented on the sweetness of the stalks! Sacrilege!

I remember taking a cup of some sugar, or honey, if we had it, outside and picking one of those ruby-green, heavy rhubarb stalks, dipping it into the sweetener, and sucking the juice, screwing up my face at the absolute sour, unforgettable taste. It tasted of the earth. It was such a rite of Spring.

Much the same, I suppose, for all those kids out there who love the chemically-induced sour candy that floods the market. I read somewhere (for the life of me, I can't remember where!) that children's taste buds are attracted to sour-sweet foods. As a child, I guess rhubarb filled that area of taste experience for me.

And the candy mongers found a market...

As the thoughts flowed through my mind this morning, sitting on my stoop, I thought about the strength of that old variety. There are tales told of rhubarb living in a yard somewhere for fifty years and more, of varieties that are taller than a man. Can you imagine how long you'd have to stew a stalk of that plant?!?

Other than stewing or making pies, though, I've used it in muffins and quick breads, in sauces and jams, and as a condiment for pork roast. I found the site Rosy Rhubarb Festival great for adding a few more ideas for the use of this...vegetable? fruit? It's been called both.

What would Mushroom Rhubarb Soup taste like? The Rhubarb Compendium has such a recipe, and I'm really tempted to try it. It also has recipes for Rhubarb Apple Meringue and Rhubarb and Foie Gras. Mmmm. Everything I ever needed to know about Rhubarb is on this amazing site.

So, that old Rhubarb, I was thinking, gave much to the human race, over the centuries, starting with ancient China, where it grows wild. It's got great medicinal uses...it exercises a digestive action (I can well imagine!) and is classed as a hepatic stimulant. Rhubarb has staying power, it's strong, and makes no bones about how it looks or tastes or for that matter, what it requires...manure is its food of choice. We've hybridized and changed it over the years, making it more popular, less stringy, less astringent...but it really didn't require any change.

At least, if that old plant that used to grow with such gusto right behind the barn was any indication.

And the Rhubarb I bought at the Market? It had long, straight stalks, thick and red. It was a cross between the tough Rhubarb of my youth and the "new" varieties available today. It didn't need a long cooking period; I took it off the heat as soon as I noticed the fruit chunks disappearing. The amount of sugar used was minimal...it certainly didn't need as much sweetening as I remember. The taste was not as strong as I recall, but Graham is enjoying it.

Memory is golden.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Warwick Vase

Here are some pictures of Margaret's needlework on the Warwick Vase:

The light was against me on the day I took these pictures. But I think you can see well enough the amount of dedication and love poured into every stitch here.

The completed Needleworked picture is quite large, although I didn't get the correct figures...about 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 feet.

These pictures certainly don't do the work justice.

Getting Ready for Opening Night

Some pictures of Bree having her "face" put on before her dance recital:

Oh!! The joys of stage makeup...

I must be finished...aren't I?????!!!!!?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Many Faces of Grandfather Tree

Walking through the garden with my camera the other day, my guides directed me to Grandfather Tree. The huge Sequoia (The Medicine Wheel) stands tall and proud in our yard; it overlooks the backyard, the house and the entire neighbourhood.

There are only a few large, tall trees left in my area of Qualicum Beach. Grandfather Tree is known far and wide...people might say, upon my telling them where I live, oh, you live with that great, old Tree in the yard. And they ask...is that tree still there?...with some trepidation.

That trepidation is warranted. People want to bulldoze entire lots of trees...they are under the impression it makes it easier to build, lets in more sun and light to the dwelling. Not as much trouble, time and expense, people say, to build on a clean slate...a bulldozed lot.

Well. They may be right. And trees do give their lives for our comfort...over and over again. But the advantages to living with Trees surrounding and sheltering the family...old trees, old, wise Grandfather Trees that awe and inspire are, in my humble opinion, far more numerous than the disadvantages.

I don't remember a time when there were no big trees enclosing my home and yard. In my youth (Granny G) I lived in the interior of BC, right in the middle of an apple and cherry orchard. Those big, old trees gave us wonderful fresh fruit...there is nothing as wonderful as apples and cherries picked and consumed right that minute.

Moving back to the Island, there were always fir and other conifer trees wherever I lived. Years ago, I learned to talk to the trees and discovered the comfort they would give. It was a safe haven for me, amongst those giants. I shared every big event in my life with theirs.

And now, for the first time in many years, I live on a city lot. It is a big piece of property, as lots go, and the only conifer in the yard is Grandfather Tree. The lot next door (A Space Left Behind) used to have many cedar and fir trees on it...but it was bulldozed. Grandfather Tree is the only tree in close proximity; and what an extraordinary beauty he has!

When I felt the urge to go take pictures of him, I had no idea what would turn up in the lens of my camera. I wanted to take closeups of the bark, show the deep, dark runnels of wood that ran down the length of the Tree. I wanted to illustrate the character of Grandfather Tree...the wisdom inherent within.

But suddenly, the faces of the Tree leapt out at me. I was in awe, snapping pictures as quickly as my little camera allowed. And not just faces, but animal figures, too...an eagle head and a crow figure...and masks and fish. Many stories are told on the bark of Grandfather Tree...it will take a long time to decipher them all. We find more each time we look.

My favourite face is the one pictured here. I think it was the long eyelashes that grabbed hold of me and didn't let go...I'm a sucker for long lashes.

I have many photos of different faces on the tree; they will be published when Blogger's difficulties are resolved.

As I wander through the yard, I find my awareness is heightened...I see the character...the being... in many of the plants very easily now.

And as an added bonus to the very great gift Grandfather Tree gave me when he allowed his inner being to become apparent to me, is that each time I stand in front of this face, I feel energy coursing throughout my body...much like the energy wave that travels through when Reiki is applied. There is an immediate lessening of any tenseness or anxiety within myself.

Now I understand why I have always been drawn to these big, old trees. If Grandfather Tree showers me with energy, all those forests I wandered through all my life...all those trees...perhaps they were also giving off positive energy to one sensitive to it. I only know I feel much more relaxed in the company of trees than just about anywhere.

Friday, June 09, 2006

An Apology

I apologize to my readers who enjoy the photos I publish...the last two posts have fallen far short of the mark.

Google has had technical difficulties for the past week and a half; as a result, I have not had access to the Herbal Connection at times, and have not been able to post pictures at all.

The pictures will be updated as soon as problems with Google's uploading has been resolved.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Celtic Needleworker

Margaret is a woman of many interests and diverse experiences. But one of the very first things I discovered about her was her love of needlework. Beautiful, framed works of art are hung in her home, making her surroundings a showcase for her passion. Margaret is Graham's mother.

Margaret, being one of the most kind-hearted generous of souls, gives her work to others; she has donated works of art to churches in the Fraser Valley. One was entitled "The Madonna and Child" by Raphael and the other is "Christ in the Garden". She never sells her embroidery projects...all are gifts for her family, or donated as prizes or gifts to the many different organizations she has been involved with over the years.

The following, written by Margaret, gives background information to the beginnings of her love for her hobby:

My romance with beautiful threads and of course love of embroidery, began when I was very young (around 8 years old).

"My father was associated with the family of J & P Coats, a well known thread manufacturer in Paisley, Scotland, where I was born. There were two mills in the town, one being Coats of Ferguslie and the other Anchor mill...both situated in different parts of the town. The coloured embroidery threads were purchased in Anchor mill and were the ones with which I began my stitching hobby, as I said when I was very young. My hobby has stayed with me for most of my life and I would not be able to tell you how many finished projects I have done.

The company of Anchor is very well known in Canada today, and they have an abundance of many beautiful and distinctive threads, used in all manners of embroidery. All of this stems from very humble beginnings, but also from entrepreneurs who helped put Paisley on the map as “the textile town”. J & P Coats were able to make the famous “Paisley Shawl” for a fair bit less than the shawls which were coming from Kashmir at that time and were much more expensive. The shawl was a very high fashion item at the turn of the 19th century!"

But Margaret is, as I mentioned before, a person who finds interest in many things. When she retired from her profession as a nurse, she became an ardent volunteer, meeting the challenge to try varied hobbies...and has taken the opportunity to learn as much as she could about them. She has become an expert at most of them.

Margaret, before moving to the Island 10 years ago, became a Toastmaster. She attained her Competent Toastmaster status, and was honoured at a dinner to receive a commendation for "Speaker of the Year" in 1990. I have no doubt any audience would be enthralled by any of Margaret's speeches...she has a terrific, wicked sense of humour! And a strong Scottish accent, to boot!

She would have me rolling in the aisles, if I was in the audience.

And...again in her words...

"I followed my father and two famous brothers who loved the sport of lawn-bowling; I was delighted to win the BC gold medal and get my special BC jacket. The BC Sports Federation paid my way to Regina, Sask., where I competed in the Canadian Games and won the bronze medal. It was a great experience with great hospitality, competing against winners from other Provinces; altho’ we did have some snow to contend with in the middle of summer, (not used to that)!" Amazing.

Nowadays, Margaret volunteers her time at The Old School House in Qualicum Beach...

"I have been a volunteer for six years at least in TOSH, as it's known locally. I was volunteering there when the shop was upstairs and almost half the size it is now. It was a studio for artists before it became the gallery shop as known today. Kathleen Watson was shop manager then; a wonderful volunteer who generally assisted in any way she could. She gave of her time and her talents and organized many of the events that took place at Tosh! We had fun washing the outside windows and generally cleaning up before the shop moved downstairs."

It was Margaret's admiration, love and passion for the arts that led her to donate her some of her valuable hours and knowledge at Tosh. And when it was time to donate another of her works, it was Tosh that naturally led the pack in terms of venue. The "Warwick Vase" now graces the walls of The Old School House.

Margaret again:

"The “Warwick Vase” is a historical piece that I finished a number of years ago. It took up to two years to complete. Of course it is hard to judge just how long each work of art takes, as one is not working say, at a steady four hours each and every day. I always seemed to enjoy the challenge of larger pieces of work and I don’t have an explanation for this penchant. As I had done so many times before, I thought due to its size and subject it would be a nice donation for a suitable venue where works of art are shown and appreciated."

It's a beautiful picture, every stitch showing the expertise and love of its creator.

As mother and son, Graham and Margaret are very alike in their mannerisms...both have a love of literature and art, both have that wicked sense of humour. They admire honesty, are forthright in their dealings and have enormous amounts of energy.

And both were born in Paisley, Scotland. Margaret has handed her strong Scottish ideals down to her son, also an adventurer. Gray started mountain climbing at the age of fourteen...Margaret chose to allow him to climb every chance he got. When I look at some of the mountains Graham climbed, as a mother myself I don't know that I would have been able to allow one of my children to do the same.

And when Gray was seventeen, Margaret waved him off (not without apprehension, she assured me) when he decided to take a freighter to Australia and New Zealand. He was gone for a year, climbing in New Zealand and working in Australia. There was never any attempt to hold him back. As a result, Graham still has no trouble trying anything...just to see where it might lead him.

Margaret is a true wise woman. She has taken all the experiences she has had over a rich and varied life, and has put them to use. Her quotes and sayings are an education in themselves, and Margaret is never short of a wise homily for any event.

Margaret would not thank me for telling her age; suffice it to say that one of my deepest intentions, as I walk the Shaman's path, is to be able to continue with life's travails and joys with as much gusto as she still has.

And to learn (and remember!) all those quotes she's always coming up with!