The cold has strengthened and I struggle to stay warm. I had Bulbar Polio as a child; now as I age the late effects of that illness seem to mount. One of the most challenging of these is fatigue; intense cold heightens the fatigue and accompanying lethargy.
I am reminded of a conversation with a teacher, now passed, who, several years ago suggested I might take to hibernating in the winter. He encouraged me to strenuously avoid conflict with my personal cycles of activity and quietude, encouraging me to use the deep winter to recharge. The other night one of my spirit companions came by in a dream, a fellow hibernator. She planted a big, sloppy kiss on my cheek and dashed away. I felt blessed and reminded that hibernation might be OK.
Of course, I am not truly hibernating. While I am focused inside, I continue to journey into the world to work and play. I seem to have joined those other Warm Bloodeds who move in and out of something akin to semi-hibernation, alternating periods of activity with times of deep rest. This can be challenging in our age of unceasing work and interaction. One must build new skills, or rather, rediscover old ones.
Learning to live with the Late Effects of Polio is, in some ways, a journey of return to the original illness. One must acknowledge and adapt to new losses; for the third time I am learning to live in a changed body-mind. Once again I find myself potentially isolated by the deep winter cold, striving to find ways of keeping in touch with my human community even as I feel closer to the denizens of the non-human world.
The journey is not without anxiety and now and then I am reminded of an old Inuit saying,”I do not want to leave this beautiful place.” Like the sage I long to stay connected to the staggering beautiful world we know, even as I am aware that ultimately we all must pass from it.
This is a knowing that often comes early to children who have serious illness, or other trauma, even though we adults may wish it were otherwise. One of my best friends in college was a young woman who had childhood cancer and, against the odds, survived. She was a world-class flutist who lived her life with the well-educated expectancy the cancer, long in remission, would return. For her, each moment was precious beyond counting, and she lived with an intensity that underscored this.
Many surgery scars covered my friend’s body, a constant reminder of her visitor’s status in this breathtaking place. Indeed, she often spoke to the certainty that we are but guests here. Now I know that while we are transients, we also belong to the places we love and that embrace us. This is a great paradox, worthy of pondering.
Are there beautiful places you wish not to leave?