i chart uncharted terrain here. the topography of bedsheets smoothed and covers heaped, pillows mounted here and there. holding up a head, a spine of book or self, it doesn’t matter.
of late, i have spent good chunks of days supine, creased at the middle, a human demonstration of the 100-degree angle, not quite upright as i lean against my cove of pillows, intent on waiting out the siege.
i have brought to bed a whole catalog of friends. the two annies, dillard and lamott, are to my left. barbara kingsolver is straight ahead. she is perched atop the pillow perched atop my knees. she is who i intend to immerse my healing in today.
the annies got me through the weekend. ms. lamott, as she is wont to do, made me laugh out loud. laughing, i am fairly certain, makes the shingles go away. or at least they’re looking not quite so leper-like.
besides splitting sides with peals of laughter, annie l. was prompting me to pull out my pen. i read with a pen. have done so, probably, since high school. when the pen was required by a bellowing english master, mr. crouch, who insisted we make sausage in the margins, push big ideas, our own, the author’s, through the grinder, add spice, squeeze into the casing of the half-inch blank along the edge of every page.
i still make margin sausage. i still scribble as i read. and underline for amplification. underline so that, like now, i can flip back through the whole 253 pages of “grace (eventually): thoughts on faith,” and pull out for you every line that had me cooing.
like this one: “grace arrived, like the big, loopy stitches with which a grandmotherly stranger might baste your hem temporarily.” (page 58)
or this: “God recessed the neck for a loving, caring reason. while the face is right out front, She set the neck back, out of direct light, in the shadows….it’s like the thighs of the head.” (page 75)
when at last i lumbered out of bed, tucked my pen back in its cap, so as not to leak all over my black-on-white-on-white-on-white book-in-bed terrain, i recuperated through that hole in the head known simply as the mouth.
i ate. i fed myself deeply and plentifully with the bounty of the earth and the chicken coop that my friend terra delivered to my door. still wearing the drops of rain that had fallen in the night, whole bags of greens, each one bursting with superpowers, i was certain, cascaded through the open door.
cartons of farm-fresh eggs, still warm from the underbellies of the hens, so help me, made for hefty launch pads for the greens.
i cracked each orb, the shells a study in subtle browns, plopped the yolk, the very definition of what a yolk should be, golden orange to sunset orange, upright, firm, not all slip-slidey, not an egg without a purpose. ah, no, the eggs i cracked meant business.
then i stirred and poured. i had me a perfect puffy yellow mattress for my vibrant sweating greens.
with each bite, i felt a wholeness that does not come from ordinary eating. this was eating to be well. this was eating with intent.
the recuperative powers of the spinach and the asian flat-leaved chives, the tarragon, the baby beets, were evident in every bite that tasted of the earth, the rain, the mighty sun that had coaxed them from the seed.
all weekend then, i spent inhaling one way or another: the farmer’s bounty, the literary feed. and great good doses of friendship.
besides terra with her house call of organic greens and eggs, there was julie who arrived with her dearest angel and a loaf of foil-wrapped banana bread, the chocolate chips, charmingly, plucked right from the top, as if a bird had been pecking down a row. blessed jane came bearing steak. red meat, they say, will make you strong. will make you shed the shingles.
i was fed, indeed. i was bathed as well. bathed in oatmeal, if you really need to know, but better yet, bathed in those i love.
as i said, this is rather new to me. this is strange. slowing down is not a thing i do so well. taking in goes against my grain.
but it seems i have no choice. my legs, my trunk, all are shouting to my head: slow down, you fool. take in.
to recuperate, the big book tells me, is to obtain again. it is a word with latin root, recuperare. i must obtain again the few necessities for going forward: strength and vigor, a leg that doesn’t limp.
as i crawl back under cover, i chew on this: it seems blessed holy work, to point your very self toward health, toward wholeness, the moth to light, the sunflower to the sun. to deeply understand, with your every pore, that your purpose is to mend, to stitch together. you are no good for no one if you limp and hobble. you do dishonor, don’t you, to the purpose of your very soul.
and so, i eat, i read, i bathe in friends. sounds like a doctor’s order, a divine one, i can live with.
oh, one last thing. back to my friend annie; lamott, again. page 252. she weighs in with this:
“the best way to change the world is to change your mind, which often requires feeding yourself. it makes for biochemical peace. it’s almost like a prayer: to be needy, to eat, to taste, to be filled, building up instead of tearing down. you find energy to do something you hadn’t expected to do. maybe even one of the holiest things: to go outside and stand under the stars…”
tonight, then, i take in the stars.
how do you recuperate? what are the things that fuel you, when you are feeling less than vigor? are you wiser than me? do you take time for recuperating in the course of the every day? or do you wait until you too break out in splotches?