I'm a slacker! This one also should have been posted already, but it's only a week late..
It’s gardening season in Kansas City, and if I hadn’t been spending my extra time at the ICU hanging out with my Dad this past month, my garden would (likely!) be ready for planting. All the leaves and debris that collected over the winter would be bagged and removed. The compost, which we always let become a large pile over the winter, would have been thoughtfully turned to reveal a layer of rich compost that we would have used to prepare the space for our heirloom tomato plants, zucchini, squash and assorted peppers. The strawberry patch would have been prepped for maximizing our yield. Herbs would be potted with care and intention and our basil plants would enjoy being tended and nurtured by the sun all day, then brought indoors at night until it's warmer. The promise of what is to come generally builds our excitement as winter turns to spring and the ‘work’ turns into a celebrated act of love.
Every year, we look forward to this routine because it sets the backdrop for our outdoor enjoyment, as well as producing the ingredients for many of our favorite dishes. We endeavor to ‘get our hands in the dirt’ as soon as the weather cooperates, and we try to add a little something to the landscape each season. Every year is different, even though we basically plant the same things. Weather, climate change, soil differences, and the animals who share the fruits of our labor, all play their part in determining the length and success of each garden’s growing season. No matter which crops rise to the top or ‘win’ the season, they will ALL be welcomed into the kitchen with gusto! Salsas, sauces, jellies and teas pour out of our kitchen from the first harvest until the last bag of frozen treasures is pulled from the freezer–usually right around the end of winter. Case in point, I’m about to use the end of the hot peppers to flavor the broth for the leek-kale-potato soup that I’m making tonight. The fact that I’ll get to share it with my extended family is a nice bonus for all of us, each in different ways.
As it stands right now, our ‘garden intentions’ from previous seasons are going to have to serve as our ‘garden preparation’ this year. Even though we haven’t been able to give it the time we’d like, we are still hoping for a prosperous bounty, and I’m curious to see where the next few months of this journey take us, even in this state of disarray. The plants are going in over the next two weeks, whether the soil is ‘ready’ or not. The egg shells that my husband, Fred, has been saving, drying and crushing all winter will serve as part of our ‘new’ element, and the simplicity of watching the flowers grow to their full maturity will help remind us that even without our full support and attention, our garden can still thrive in many ways. The effort and attention we are putting into the specific care of all three of my parents (only two of them are sick, but the other is a caregiver extraordinaire) are laying a solid foundation for future family conversations, as well as understanding how valuable having a plan is, especially when you are unable to execute it. It’s much easier to regroup and rebuild when you know what resources you’ll need. Remember where your values lie keeps you centered, even when things get wonky.
In Our Raw Material, we try to keep a loose focus on the 12 Pillars that support our thoughts, combined with the idea of H2Om - water breath and alignment, to help us maintain balance in our mind/body connection. For a while now, I have spent intentional time each week thinking about what happens when people need water and can’t get good access to it. It bothers me that some people spend their entire day just sourcing the water that they and their communities need for immediate consumption, and then have to do it all over again the next day, and the next… It is such a strange piece of our collective ego: that we value so many things over everyone having water. It begs the deep question: Who made the ‘original decision’ that the water source available to all of us was suddenly ‘owned’, and others must ‘pay’ to obtain what they need to stay alive? I mean, wasn’t that provided by the universe as part of its design?
It is Day Two of Ignorance Week and I’m sitting next to my dad’s ‘hospital’ bed pondering these and other questions about human beings and how we relate to our world. As I contemplate how the threads of my own Ignorance have brought me to this very moment, I am aware of how much I have recently had to learn, and how much I still don’t know–especially when it comes to predicting outcomes. Luckily, my dad, Duffy, has gotten to make the move from the ICU into an LTAC (Long Term Acute Care) Facility and he continues to make slow, but steady progress toward being able to breathe on his own. One month ago, I did not have the educational crash course in supported ventilation that I do today. I had no need for it in my life–until the moment that I did. Cardiac, Pulmonary and Renal Doctors weigh in frequently with their specific emphasis and various nurses and techs continue to share their own experiences with how they’ve experienced and observed healing. I’ve learned a lot, but that doesn’t mean I know a lot. It means that the information I need for each day seems to show up right when I need it.
As we wrapped up Wholeness Week, and I looked forward to spring, I couldn’t have anticipated how I would soon be spending my days. My mother had beaten cancer, my dad’s health seemed relatively unchanged, and my stepmom was enjoying fun and carefree days doing things they loved. In a matter of weeks, we would all become frequent flyers at the hospital as Duffy and Cid both began separate fights with life-threatening illnesses . First, my dad couldn’t breathe because his lungs had filled with pneumonia. He was put on a ventilator, which he’s now working hard to wean from. My mother had been feeling pain in her ribs, and it started to worsen. After jumping some insurance hurdles, it was confirmed that her cancer had returned, and she made short work of lining up a new protocol for treatment.
Our days are now different, and our focus has shifted to a more immediate set of priorities. Being able to ‘roll with the changes’ has really helped me adapt to the ever-shifting tide that steers my days right now. Trusting that the lessons and circumstances before each of us have deep meaning has helped me maintain my own equilibrium and be solid support for my family, even though I have no idea what might happen next. The fear of losing someone we love is often compounded when that person is sick and there is no guarantee that the treatment being provided will work. Somehow, we have been getting through this–one day at a time–without experiencing the grief and despair that often accompanies these types of encounters.
We have been very lucky. A bed opened up for my dad at the one place in the city that we felt comfortable moving him into. My mother found herself qualifying as a candidate for a stem cell therapy that, while very intensive, seems promising and has her ‘excited’ about undergoing a whole new course of treatment. Things that we thought might have devastated us have brought us together in ways that we didn’t realize we needed. The gifts that have come from these difficult times are simple enough that they could be easily missed in the mix of feelings that swirl around uncertainty.
As we find spare time to plant our garden in our less-than-perfect soil, I really do trust that our luck will continue through to our harvest. I know that nothing is perfect, and I know that we will work with whatever grows before us. I will remember the challenges that I have watched my family rise to meet so gracefully this year, and I will appreciate watching nature unfold with the same wonder and amazement that have carried me through the last several weeks. I can’t know what will happen next, but I imagine the best for all the endeavors that lie before us. I don’t subscribe to the old adage, Ignorance is Bliss, but I do find it blissful to let go of the idea that what I don’t know will cause me harm. As it turns out, making peace with ignorance- our own and everyone else’s - makes it a lot easier to get through anything life has to offer.