Essays/Stories/News

On Enjoying Life While We Can
A Walki n Soft June Rain: One Enjoying Life While We Can. Image of rain hitting a sidewalk.

After working inside all day long, I finally made it out for a walk. I'm wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and boots, and it's raining.

Droplets kiss my skin, and spatter on my glasses. It feels beautiful. It feels good.

It reminds me that I am alive. There is more to life than business and books, more even than the weight and worries of the world: There are wild roses, and bleating baby goats—yes even in this city neighborhood—and trees reaching for the rain. There is damp soil and a squirrel eating a grape on a tree stump.

I breathe in. I breathe out. I'm doing for myself what I did for a client earlier today. My client needed a chance to simply sit and breathe a while, so after talking, that's what we did. I guided them through a brief meditation, and hoped it was of help.

But my body needed movement, and my mind needed to slow down. To re-center. So, I walk in the rain and I run my hands over the needles of a rosemary bush, cupping my palms in front of my face, inhaling the fragrance to clear my mind. Walking helps both my body and my mind.

Walking eases my heart from the pain of the world.

A crow calls to its mate. Flowers grow past fence posts. On a front stoop, a man in work boots and a ball-cap has an after-work cigarette. He waves and smiles in greeting. I do the same, and continue walking down the city sidewalk.

I am happy to be alive. Happy to feel the kiss of water. Happy for a cloudy June afternoon in Portland, Oregon.

I’m happy now, to be sharing this moment with you.

What moments keep you going? What do you enjoy? What feels sacred to you?

In the midst of the hustle, and the worry, and the pain, how often do you pause to breathe and feel moisture on your skin? How often do you lift your face to the sky, and insist to the world: “Today I am alive and I will keep living for as long as it takes.”

I breathe that in, too. And I say it again:

“Today, I am alive. And I will keep on living for as long as it takes.”

Keep breathing, friends. And enjoy what moments of deliciousness you can.


 

This essay was made possible by my amazing Patreon supporters. Thank you.

You asked for fifty cents,

I gave you five dollars.

It was what I had

And that's a gift to me, isn't it?

Your asking,

And my giving.

And my realizing how wealthy

I am today

To have met you,

In your black dress,

With your red-tipped hair.

Your leather boots,

And your face damp

With late spring rain.


Gratitude comes

In small doses.

Ordinary encounters

Like walks in the rain,

And roses,

Tangled up in sky.

And there is love possible

In each moment

Of every day if

We pause and notice.

If we talk to one another.

If we remember

Who we are.


Not alone.

Not isolated but

Mycorrhizal networks

snaking underground.

And canopies of branches,

Leafed with green.

Our blood is filled

With the death of

One thousand stars.

We shine here,

On this muddy

Concrete-covered earth.

We shine.



 

This poem was funded by my generous Patreon supporters.

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And Why I Wear a Mask



Part One:

I have a chronic illness. Thankfully, it's under control, or mostly, at any rate. It went undiagnosed for decades, as I got sicker and sicker, until my immune system was so severely compromised all I could do was lie on the couch.

What does this have to do with corn chips or wearing masks? A lot.

You see, my autoimmune disorder is treatable by medication. In theory, it might even be treatable by the correct herbs, and acupuncture, and other things. I tried those for years before my diagnosis, and they—along with exercise and meditation—kept me functional until they finally stopped working.

After my diagnosis, I was prescribed medication. But after the first initial boost to my system, I found I wasn't really getting much better. The doctors checked my bloodwork and said “you're fine” and sent me home. The way they always seem to do. So I did my own research, went on an elimination diet, started taking daily CBD tincture, and lo and behold, my symptoms began to clear.

I was doing better.

Turns out, people with my autoimmune disorder have internal inflammation that causes fatigue and brain fog and many other ailments. So mostly I stick with my strict diet, which is a pain in the ass. But hey, I'm privileged, and fortunate enough to have access to good food despite my limitations. No nightshades—which is the biggest sorrow. No cow's dairy. No gluten. No a lot of things.

One thing I've been able to add back in—or so I thought—was corn. I add frozen corn to winter soups for example, and do just fine. But lately, I developed a strange penchant for corn chips. Not even high quality tortilla chips from the local Mexican market. No. Plain old corn chips—the three ingredient kind—and organic, of course. They are delicious. I was snacking on them quite moderately: a handful a day, a few days a week.

But I started feeling sick again. I got terrible brain fog and could barely work. Uh huh. Turns out I can't really processed corn after all.


Part Two:

Here in Portland, Oregon—and many places in the United States—people have stopped wearing masks because they're sick of it. They don't want to anymore. They want their “freedom.” They want life to feel ordinary again.

I get that. Pandemic is scary. Ordinary is good.

I rode the bus to the post office. The driver and I wore masks. No one else. At the post office, the clerk wore a mask, as did two people besides myself. No one else. Everyone else had decided to get back to normal.

But for people with chronic illness, life is never what anyone would call normal. Our ordinary is your sick day. And a lot of people who've had COVID now have a terrible syndrome called Long COVID. And many of the symptoms they're experiencing seem like some of mine. Crushing fatigue, brain fog, headaches, all the rest. I'm not saying the symptoms map exactly, because they don't. There are many Long COVID symptoms that don't map my autoimmune disorder at all.

But enough do to cause me concern for my friends, especially my friends who don't just have autoimmune disorders, but who are immunocompromised from cancer, Rheumatoid arthritis, and other illnesses.

On Twitter, people are asking, “What do you say to the person on the airplane next to you who asks why you're wearing a mask?”

People made several flippant replies including: I'm a vampire and I'm hiding my fangs… I'm an alien reptile and without my mask I'll be exposed… I’m a zombie, and I'm trying to keep myself from biting your head off… Without my mask, my face falls off…

Or the very simple classic: Piss off and mind your own business.

But all joking aside, it’s minding our own business that’s the problem. It's minding our own business that has gotten us into this mess. It's acting as if we don't share a world together, that we don't breathe the same air and rely upon the same soil and water that’s the problem.

We too often act as if it is every person out for themselves, and consequently, the planet is gasping, and millions are dead from a disease we have the ability to fight, but only together.

So, you see, I wear a mask for others. I got vaccinated for the greater good. I wear a mask today, not only because I have an autoimmune disorder, but because other people have it worse than me.

Corn chips may give me brain fog, but other people are gasping for breath right now, trying to simply live.

And too many others haven’t made it. They are dead now.

I wear a mask for them, too.


 

This essay was made possible by my wonderful Patreon supporters. Thank you.