if you listen to the news, and i do, if you read the news, and i do, it is hard not feel this old globe is a raw wound right now, gashed with despair, pocked with pure evil.
i am haunted, especially, by a story i read of the atrocities that rained down on rohingya women and mothers and children. babies ripped from their mothers’ arms. babies tossed into infernos. worse and worse and worse. i can barely stand to spread the poison. (it’s here, from yesterday’s new york times, written by jeffrey gettleman, a kid from the town next door, who grew up to win the pulitzer prize for international reporting.)
i am haunted too by the ghostly images coming from northern california. charred silhouettes. hillsides exposed, stubbled with blackened bits of tree trunk and fence post, as if the unshaven cheek of a long-ago miner. sunsets occluded by smoky skies, skies dirty with soot — sometimes even a hundred miles away from unstoppable fires.
and all of this on top of las vegas’ carnage, and puerto rico and houston and the virgin islands and harvey and irma and jose and maria. no wonder we weep and our knees buckle under.
no wonder this week when my sweet boy awoke in the night burning with fever, my healing instincts, which must have been idling just off in the wings — coiled and ready to pounce — surged into action. pressing cool wet washcloths to his forehead, stirring oatmeal, pouring ginger ale over cracked ice, those were the balms i reached for. to heal him, to heal me, to try — somehow, by some far-flung mystical property — to infuse a drop of healing into this sorry sad world.
it’s what we do, it’s all we can do, when we’re feeling the gaping gasp of despair. when the troubles all around pile so high we can barely turn toward the light. some days, we’re certain the lights have been snuffed. flat-out extinguished.
maybe that’s why some of us are drawn into lives as healers, as nurses and doctors and teachers and mothers (to name but a few). maybe we’re all part of some infinite river of hope, the last wall of defense against a world that might otherwise crumble. a world that could go mad, break out in epidemics of hate.
i’m beginning to think i am typing some dystopian trope here. but you know i won’t leave you in the valley of darkness. what i’m looking for is the answer to what can we do? here, under this one dot of roof, surrounded by leafy environs, how in the world can measly old me make a difference? how hard can i pray? how kind must i be? what in the world might i do to begin to teeter the balance back toward the good?
they’re questions, sadly, for which i don’t have an answer. all i have is the deep down sense that the worse it gets, the harder i need to apply the forces of good, of light, of pure unfiltered blessing.
it’s what propelled me to consider the instinct that drove me to crank the flame under the tea kettle, to listen for the whistle, and gather up the mixing bowl, the utility towel, and the essential peppermint oil.
it was the healing-est move of the week: to concoct a steam tent, and fill it — literally — with healing vapors. to instruct my boy to breathe deep and then deeper. to purify, cleanse, and clear out the gunk.
over the course of the last few days, he’s taken a liking to this peppermint whirl, the one that gets him breathing again.
maybe we all need a steam tent. maybe we need to breathe deep. to inhale. to fill our lungs and our souls with tincture of hope. of healing.
i’m cranking the flame under the kettle.
how are you plying your healing? what are you doing to teeter the balance toward goodness, toward wholeness, toward hope?
and here’s our steam tent recipe, taught by our beloved german exchange student, who had a bad cold this summer: get a big mixing bowl. boil water. pour into bowl. add a few drops of peppermint essential oil (as many as you can tolerate, anywhere from two to three to seven or more). drape a big towel over your head. breathe deep. have box of tissue at the ready. feel better. so much better. xoxo
I don’t think my mom had peppermint oil, but I remember #3 sister often in just that position over the steaming bowl with a towel over her head. An old country healing remedy … which reminds me of seeing last summer Olympic games and the funny bruises the swimmers had because they had been going to “cupping” sessions — also something my Sicilian grandma used to advocate. So glad these remedies have made it into the “modern” world. So sorry to hear T is so sick and pray he’s better and you and B stay well. Have been trying — and failing — to hold onto hope. But will keep trying. You always help, with your remedies and your love. xoxo
my mom didn’t use it either. Vick’s VapoRub was the ointment (goo!) of choice, and thus is my boys’ go-to goo as well. we leapt into peppermint oil because of our beloved friend Jani from Germany who was here and used it to excellent effect this summer. and, yes, yes, older one was “subjected to” cupping a couple summers back for a back injury, and the purple bruises he came home with freaked me out. although you might mean a gentler form of cupping. his involved serious suction cups, i think. i ran from the room when he took off his shirt, that’s all i remember.
some days the best balm i can leave you is the one that comes in the tinctures of poetry. this landed in my mailbox, not long after i posted. and i must share, as it hovers near the periphery of what we’re talking about above. and always. the quotidian ways we are called to spiritual exercise: the church of the hands.
and before i post the poem, a dear beloved friend sent me a note after reading this morning’s chair, reminding that meditation is always always centered on breathing, so the steam tent above is following meditative prescription: breathe, deep breathe. listen to your breath and the silences in between.
and here is blessed Naomi Shihab Nye, and her words, “Daily.”
These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips
These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares
These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl
This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out
This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky
This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it
The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world
~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~
Reblogged this on The Buttercup Lamb and commented:
I loved reading this post by bam, of the blog pull up a chair. I found her blog after reading her book “Motherprayer: Lessons in Loving”. Her thoughts on the the troubling current events in the US and the world as a whole resonate with me deeply. It’s hard to make head or tail of the difficult things in this world. The world can seem dark, but it doesn’t have to be. There is goodness, and it begins with us. Take a look at her post 🙂