I think I should tell you right off the bat that I’ve had an incident-prone life. Events find me, sometimes ravage me, eventually, if I’m lucky, they alter me in some mysterious way that nudges me up the next mountain. These incidents are always a surprise, my life never anything like my plans. Man plans God laughs, a friend once told me. God must love me for the number of chuckles I’ve inadvertently provided.
I’m fascinated by the recent proliferation of books that tell you how easy life should be. All it takes is The Secret 7 Steps to Success, or 12 Steps to Something or Other. We can cure all illness with the proper mindset, we can get rich with affirmations. Joy is our birthright and all we have to do is acknowledge that fact to achieve it.
I’ve studied and worked in many areas of alternative medicine over the past 25 years. Between my daughters’ terrible illnesses and that of others I’ve striven to heal, I expect I’ve seen nearly as much sickness and suffering as most physicians. In the process, I’ve come to know that illness wears a thousand masks and often provides us with a unique and rarefied opportunity for learning – one we’d choose to forego, of course, if given the chance – but, nonetheless, a catalyst for breathtaking expansion.
When Cancer strikes, your doctor tells you what to do next. Maybe its chemo or radiation or surgery. Whatever he advises you’ll need to make a fast decision on something that’s a matter of life and death, that you don’t know very much about. Odds are you’re scared, shocked and unable to think very clearly. You need information you can trust. Clear, concise information about the nature of your particular illness… about what options are available… about whom to call for a second opinion.
The Native Americans call the Black Hills in South Dakota, the “Heart of Everything that is.” They believe the Earth Mother’s body has organ systems just as we do, and that the Black Hills are the heart of the Earth. The Dineh Tribe believes its sacred Big Mountain is the earth’s liver, and now that its coal is being depleted by mining processes that pollute and poison the surrounding land and water, the liver can no longer function to cleanse the Earth Mother’s body of toxic wastes. The Aborigines call the Coral Reefs the Mother’s blood purifier, but
My parents read to me and to each other — poetry for the most part — and I never went to bed a night without memorizing a poem, or a group of verses. If it were something lengthy like The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, I’d memorize a stanza a night, my hands-down favorite, this:
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: Nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line
Nor all thy Tears wash out a word of it.”
Dakota is perched on the precarious edge of womanhood now, and she’s a deep one, never precipitous in her approach to life, always observing and assessing. Because of the difference in our ages I sometimes wonder when we speak of important question marks in life whether she’s tucking away what we say to each other on the great tape-recorder of soul, for some faraway day, when I’m just a memory, and she’s standing at the kitchen window, wishing she could share a cup of tea with me again… just as I often find myself wishing I could sit down with my own parents, now long gone, to share some thoughts on what the years have wrought. I wonder if whatever I say now will seem quaint and old fashioned by then, or if whatever comes directly from the heart, never ages at all.
Women have always rocked the cradle, supported their partners, striven to make the planet a habitable place. These days, they also head families, earn their own keep, watchdog the environment, fight the lies society abounds with, “earn the bacon and fry it up in a pan,” raise their children, often alone, and struggle to prevail over fate, not just endure it. At the same time, they strive to be healthy, beautiful and sexy.