We gathered around a table where Mrs. Straub showed us what she’d brought in this time. She gave each of us a branch to hold and observe with our eyes and hands. While they didn’t taste as good as the pomegranate seeds she brought in, the softness of the pussy willow is embedded in my memory. Though I know they can grow in other parts of the United States, I don’t recall seeing them in Missouri where my family moved after Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
And so, as I run past them in my new home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a pang of joy wells up in my eyes. I was blessed by a first-grade teacher who understood the importance of hands-on science learning. When we weren’t able to get out of the classroom, she brought nature to us in the form of pomegranates and pussy willows.
This morning I paused on my run to peer at the pussy willows clustered in the wetlands. I made another scientific observation: rain beads up on pussy willows as it does on my rain jacket. Thank you, Mrs. Straub for helping me to appreciate our world.
Candid shots are my preference but the things that move on the trail do not always want their photos taken. So today, I tried to gently coax this beetle to pose for its portrait on all legs. Instead, it rolled on its back. Then it stood on its head. Repeatedly, it stood on its head. I suggested one last time, “You’re portrait will be engaging if you stand on your legs!” My friend stood on its head once again.
I interpreted this to mean it was striking a pose.
It was longer, it is shorter now. My colon, that is. Two years ago my right colon was removed. That experience of surgery, hospitalization, and months of recovery changed me. Significantly.
On the second anniversary of my semi-colon, my incision said “hello” with a sensation that got my attention. It’s not unusual for it to speak to me, especially when I’m working my abdominal muscles at the gym.
I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of love, of vulnerability & mortality, and my humanity. The hellos remind me that caring for myself is not an extra. It is an essential.
I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of the love of my wife of nearly 37-years who took time off work to cook me mashed potatoes and help me manage the infected wound area. (It required gross things). They remind me of my children who ignored me when I told them they didn’t need to come see me.
I confess I like the hellos. They remind me of my vulnerability. There was something humbling and spiritual about being dependent: by medical staff in the hospital and my beloved at home. I experienced living fully human. To suffer and depend on others is part of how we are created. We are one family.
I confess I like the hellos because surgery & recovery changed me. I no longer give lip service to self-care. I take care of myself even when it is not convenient. I know — I believe & embrace — that I am important to myself, to others, and to the one I call God. I start my day with the gym or I stop work early and lace up my running shoes. I hike in the Columbia River Gorge, the sage-marinated trails of eastern Oregon, or I hike the sacred Mt. Hood. I take rest days when my body and spirit needs them.
After two-years with a semi-colon, I am thankful for the “one permutation from cancer” growths that necessitated removal of my right colon. Though my life is still filled with personal challenges, personal mistakes, deep grief at times, I am blessed by the divine presence within creation and each of us that nudges and encourages every rock and human being to be the most loving that we are capable of becoming.
This is the twelfth of multiple posts about my experiences of surgery and recovery following a colonoscopy and removal of my right colon.