To Wish Impossible Things

I don’t have much time for writing this evening. This is the sort of reasoning that drives my dwindling number of blog posts. I don’t know where to begin, and I don’t have the time to start.

If I keep waiting to write until an afternoon yawns wide before me, eventually I’ll cease writing here. This blog will be yet another casuality of attrition.

So I will share this evening’s stream of thought, that I need daydreams about as much as my body needs oxygen. I’ve learned that waking dreams can be crucial in coping with many forms of adversity, especially chronic pain.

The key is to persuade my mind to reflect of pleasing things rather than awful ones. I’ve had persistent nerve pain in my right hip this week, which is a distressing development because my as-known nerve damage is on the left side. The pain strikes like a beacon from the black box of an airplane that’s crashed and refuses to let its wreckage be lost. The volume of its signal is a solid 7 out of 10 while I drive.

It is very tempting indeed to anticipate more of the same suffering in the days to come. However, I’ve found that a daydream of a perfect place is the best tool I have to cope with this nerve pain.

My perfect place isn’t merely some generic place like an idyllic beach. It is impossibly perfect, a forest retreat with city utilities and Wi-Fi that never fails. Here I relax in a cabin that is covered in vines and surrounded with flowers year round. Here I can stop time and have as much time to myself as I need. I might even let a pet or two join me in my repose:


I feel that this place has such a conducive vibe for learning that L’Orange and I could read through spans of the canon of literature with ease. He’d take along my copy of Washington Irving’s short stories that’s been collecting dust and good intentions on my coffee table in real life, and we’d thrill over those pastoral, sometimes spine-tingling tales.

My perfect place would be self-cleaning. It would engage all my of senses.Any food I wanted would appear at my wish. There’s something so comforting to me in imagining a perfectly satisfying meal, which would depend on what combination of salt, fat, or sugar I’m craving at the moment. Or sometimes I imagine something quite wholesome, like garden-fresh tomatoes on top of barley with a brightly flavored dressing.

What seems delightful today would be a small plate of the best fries I ever tasted, which was at a random restaurant in Solvang, California, back in ’94. I ate them at a sidewalk table, and the fries had a stellar crisp-to-fluff ratio with a hint of garlic flavor. The weather was superb for outdoor dining, as it almost never is semirural Ohio. In the perfect place, I’d eat those fries with a bit of fresh dill on top and school cafeteria ketchup for dipping. No ketchup has ever rivaled the high vinegar type of my school days.

And now my time for writing really has dwindled this evening.

Do you have a perfect place you visit in your mind?

By the way, I feel like I am remiss in writing about L’Orange without mentioning his real life sidekick Buddy:

Wetlands Photo Walk, August 18

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I haven’t walked through the wetlands since late July because it has been undergoing some necessary periodic maintenance to water lines and pedestrian paths. While I preferred this preserve in its wild state, there were portions that had become nearly impassable to visitors, which include biology students from the school that created this preserve from donated land.

When I moved to this neighborhood three years ago, I actually felt a tiny bit uneasy about living so close to something wild. This surprised me given my affinity for the local parks that offer acres of access to forest and prairies. The difference is in timing I suppose. I seldom wander through those parks when wildlife other than birds are apt to show themselves.

The first week I lived here, I had a short dream that I had a drone’s eye view of the wetlands, and I spotted a bear rear up on its hind legs and sniff the air. I quickly woke myself up and considered the odds that such a vision could actually become a reality in this part of Ohio. I drifted back to sleep content with its slim possibility.

This brings me to a tangent. Last summer I had the privilege of reading a century-old account that one of my ancestors wrote about the pioneer era of the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. It was a school report written by one of my third cousins, who related how her mother had seen bears picking berries whilst standing on their hind legs. One of my second great grandfathers was a game warden and pioneer to that region of Michigan. Back in that time, that area must have been far wilder than anything my dreaming mind could produce now.

I did spot a young coyote trotting down our street at dusk a couple years ago. That is wild enough for me.

Back to the present, I was delighted to see that the reed (Phragmites) are in bloom. Their brown/burgundy plumes signal that summer is at its peak.

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Lucid Dream: The River Styx Recast as a Midcentury Town

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Last night I had the first lucid dream I’ve had since my early surgery recovery in March. In that dream, which must have been fueled by the painkiller regimen I was taking in the days after my surgery, I was a cashier in a large baby supply store. My boss asked me to stay after closing for a special customer who was slated to arrive then. After the regular customers had left, a middle-aged woman arrived and purchased enough infant clothes, furnture, and mattresses to fill a box truck. Her purchases were intended as anonymous gifts for expectant mothers in need. She had a self-inking stamp engraved with the phrase, “A Gift from Don Longhorn.”

She had me steady every crib mattress as she stamped it with her oddball message. She had such a chaste aura that she seemed the type who’d invent tame terms for the grittier facts of life. In her mental lexicon, it was possible that all babies conceived without medical assistance were a gift from someone’s Don Longhorn.

Last night a storm raged outside, and I slept through it with a lucid dream about a place that was very in-between. I went there with my parents, my brother, and my sister. All of us had made some sort of pact to start over in a new place, and we were to “cross over” in a small town that looked like it was plucked from somewhere in the American Midwest of 1950. We reached this town by walking through an old elevator with a bellows style inner door in a forlorn building in our own town.

By the way, it was as if this entire dream was  based upon an alternate reality to begin with. My brother, my sister, and I all looked about 18 years old at the same time, which is impossible considering that my sister was almost 9 years old when my brother was born. It was like all of us had hit a pause button on aging waiting for my brother to become an adult. With Mom and Dad, just the five of us were a family. No grandchildren, spouses, or significant others had appeared in our lives yet.

I don’t know what struggle or impasse inspired a pact to cross over to whatever lay on the other side of this town. There was a hospital waiting room with a glass wall for observation that we had to cross through to reach this promised land. I was last in line. As my hand held the door open, I knew that I could not join them. I needed to get back to the reality we had known.

As we had been walking through this small town, Mom and Dad quietly warned us that we should not be seen by the fellow in charge. He looked to be a combination of a school principal and mayor, and he was dressed like an early 50’s funeral home director. This role was played by none other than the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. Dad said that we’d have a hard time leaving this town if this man knew we were there.

As we walked up to the hospital waiting room (all the buildings in this one street town had open walls facing its Main Street, by the way), Dad handed me the key to the old elevator we used to enter this city. He told us that if we didn’t succeed in our plan to travel to the new land through the hospital, we could go back home through the elevator. We could not let anyone see us go back into the elevator. Once inside, we’d have three minutes to cross through, or we’d have to go back into this oddball town and try to be unseen opening the elevator door again.

In handing me the key, Dad must have known that I had the least resolve in the pact for our relocation. Once we left the hospital waiting room, we could never go back, but we could cross freely between this Styx-like town and home indefinitely if needed.

I was last in line to enter the waiting room, and I felt a deep conviction that I could not go along. When I announced that I planned to stay and possibly join them at some point in the future, my sister told me that she was never going to speak to me again. Mom and Dad glanced at me in resignation, and I turned back to this mysterious town.

It seemed that I spent the better part of a day milling through town and gauging its power structure. I quickly realized that I needed to get home via the elevator with the key Dad gave me, lest I be stuck in this place for years.

Chester (who seemed to be the mayor) kept a constant pulse of the town’s activities. Who was visiting? Would they lure anyone away? Was everyone wrapped in enough tasks and conversations to avoid noticing how long they’d been there?

There was a rose bush salesman who was to arrive that day, and this seemed a significant foreign threat for some reason. Two women attired in long-skirted suit dresses were watching and waiting for his arrival, musing over whether the salesman would offer bushes of a better quality than the acres of flowers that already enveloped the town.

He arrived and chatted with Chester in this office, who told him that they did not want what he was selling. The salesman left a sample bush in the street, spotted me and quietly let me know that many people had tried to call my dad at work and wondered where he was.

As Chester distracted he people who were trying to get a closer look at the new rose bush (which was full of antique yellow blooms, by the way), I saw my chance to use my key to get back into the elevator home without anyone seeing me.

I opened the outer door and quickly closed the inner bellows door behind me. The inside was not an elevator but a small waiting room attached to a lobby of sorts. There was a black rotary phone on a side table that rang, and I felt compelled to pick it up. The call was for me, but I have no recollection whatsoever of the conversation, of the other speaker, the subject matter, etc. Between the telephone conversation and the furnishings that begged speculation about their age and style (the room was stunning), I exceeded the three minute rule. It was as if this room was designed to seduce its visitors into staying, which is odd because it seemed unremarkable when I passed through it with my family earlier in the dream.

I woke myself up in dread over the possibility of going back into this town to endure the incognito process all over again.


And now for a coda to this dream . . . It is odd indeed that my mind conjured up Chester Bennington for this dream. He reached fame right around the time I became a mother, and there’s nothing quite as effective as parenthood to insulate someone from the currents of pop culture. At least in my case, my perspective turned much closer to home once my daughter was born. Sometimes bands are defunct before I hear them for the first time. It seems that no more than a fortnight lapses between a movie’s premiere and its release for home viewing.

There is only one song I know well by Linkin Park, and that song is “Waiting for the End” from 2010. It’s one of the few songs that have captured my attention in the last ten years, and it is one of my favorite songs for car singing. (Who else is a secret car singer?) For whatever reason, I immediately dismissed the possibility that this song could be about death. I thought it was like the Death tarot card, just signifying the prospect for deep change.

Now that Chester Bennington has taken his life, I remember a crucial quote from Maya Angelou, “Believe people when they show you what they are.”

This reinforces me how serious mental illness can become. Here was this wealthy, famous, talented man who spoke plainly of his suffering. He sought treatment and confided his struggle to millions, yet he lost his battle.

Another Lucid Dream

Today I am reblogging a past post about a dream I cherish. My recent dreams have been more elusive than usual to my waking mind. I wish I could recall them all, at least the pleasant ones.

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Just some quick thoughts on last night’s lucid dream. In it my daughter and I were walking through a forest that’s close to our neighborhood. We live on an odd brink of wilderness that’s interrupted by more suburban developments that end in miles of farmland with just enough small forests between to break the wind. Back to the dream, we found a grassy clearing in the woods where lots of people were walking through. It was a forest traffic roundabout, but the circular path was low like a small valley.

My daughter spotted her best friend and went ahead of me with her. I lingered in the grassy roundabout, curious about how this valley was formed with no real hills around it. Then I was caught in a reverie considering if it was time to abandon the apartment where my daughter and I lived before I married her step dad…

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Divine Things

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I once had a dream I walked with Walt Whitman along an Israeli beach. He strolled with his hands clasped behind his back and quoted from “Song of the Open Road”: “I swear to you, there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.”

I have a hard time remembering what else he told me. I recall that he mentioned that there wasn’t just good and evil; folly was a near equal contender. He then bid me goodbye, and then I saw art through the eyes of some pundits from a canine civilization (who were predictably sitting around a felt-clad poker table).

I took the above photo at the dawn of this century. I visited the Pacific coast in Washington state and snapped this picture as the sun set.

Surgery Day Photos

I had a vague memory that my husband had taken some pictures of me at various moments during the day of my back surgery, but all of the anesthesia and sundry medications I took that day made me wonder if I’d really been photographed or if I’d just dreamed about it. I have a history of disorientation after surgery. Once it ran so deep that in my post-op haze I had no idea why I was in a hospital, let alone why I’d had an operation in said hospital, so I confabulated exotic scenarios like alien birth until my rational mind returned.

Over the past few weeks, I thought about asking him if I was right in thinking he’d taken some pictures that day, but I tabled the question, knowing that if such photos existed, they were undoubtedly unflattering. I may be old enough that I’ve lost lots of vanity over the years, but I am not yet so earthy that I want to see pictures of me looking bad. I decided to wait until I felt better.

This week I asked about the pictures. Yes, the pictures exist, but they were not as bad as I thought they’d be. Here is the before picture:

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I’d already had some pre-op meds by the time this photo was taken, and I recall that I felt fairly sober at that point. This picture tells me I was wrong on that count. Back when my sister and I were in our wild phases 20+ years ago, I used to poke fun at her because I could see the exact moment when she’d become drunk because her eyes suddenly looked big. My eyes have that same look in this picture!

Now for the after shot, wherein the surgery seems to have added 10 years and ten pounds to me:

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Notice how I already have my phone with me. Add some intoxicating substance to my bloodstream, and I will crave communication by phone. This is one reason I rarely drink alcohol: I can barely resist the siren call of the drunk dial and alienated a few too many people with this past habit. My hospital stay involved no alcohol whatsoever, but the post-surgical opiates opened the faucet of phone calls, both real and imagined.

There were a few times I thought I was talking on the phone to my mom, my husband, my sister, or my boss, and it seemed that the call dropped because whoever was on the other end stopped talking. Then I realized that the technical problem was a phantasm, for the conversation was entirely one-sided except in my mind. I had been talking into an imaginary phone and hallucinating the words of the other person!

I also had lucid dreams about making phone calls, and then I’d wake up and call the person I had dreamed about to talk about the dream.

While my hospital stay was sweetened with such fancy, the reason behind that stay cannot be window-dressed so easily. Below is an image of what my lumbar spine looked like via MRI before the surgery. Note the rupture at L4-L5.

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Coming Around Again

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Thirteen days have passed since my spine surgery, which included L4/L5 decompression and fusion. My back has gained two rods, four screws and two 2.5 x 5 cm grafts of donor bone. I must not forget to write a thank you letter to the family of my donor, and the hospital provided me with a bar-coded form which will enable me to express my gratitude to this anonymous giver.

My recovery is progressing more quickly than I anticipated. While I need many rest periods daily and have been instructed to pick up no more than ten pounds at a time, I have worked up to walking 20 minutes straight and am driving again. My physical therapy goal was to start walking two minutes straight and add two minutes each day until I reached 20 minutes. Next I am to work toward walking a 20 minute mile.

I think all of the walking I ordinarily do at work optimized my chances for recovery. I am still weeks away from meeting the regular physical demands of my typical work day, but I am hopeful I will be primed to work again by the time my medical leave is slated to end.

When I saw my daughter after surgery, she first asked me a rather clinical question which had the odd effect of immediately lifting my spirits. She inquired, “have you had any hallucinations?”

I can only think that this was her sly way of letting me know that she has been reading my writing during the many times she paused to pat me on the shoulder as I’ve been writing seated on the living room couch. There have been several times when I’ve referenced hallucinations in my blog entries.

The day I arrived home from the hospital and settled to rest on that same couch, my husband was milling between our garage and the house to catch up on some small projects he’d let lie fallow during my hospital stay. Several times while my husband was out in the garage, I could hear my grandpa’s distinctive shuffle down the hallway. His walk had an unmistakable sound because he’d had six vertebrae fused in the aftermath of an accident he’d had working for the railroad. My grandpa passed away in 2012.

The next day I called my siblings and my mother about hearing Grandpa, and these were conversations that needed no I-might-be-crazy preface because to be related to my mother necessarily entails a bit of magical realism. While my grandpa I heard is my paternal grandpa, I tend to talk about such matters with my mother rather than my father. I figure that she is a better judge than I am on divulging these experiences to my dad.

Two days after my discharge from the hospital, I woke up in the morning from a dream that my mom had called me and told me that it was my day to visit Grandma. I woke up before I could explain to her that I was still too fragile to make the short trip across town for a visit.

I called Mom for real shortly after I woke up, and she let me know that the time was at hand. My grandma had passed away at the age of 88, after beating the odds time and again during her long life. She had survived a catastrophic wreck that had taken her sisters and her father. She was a 20+ year cancer survivor, and she had emerged from multiple bouts of sepsis in the past year.

From Grandma I learned that it is possible to rise time and again until God decides it is time for your life on this earth to end. Like my parents and the rest of my grandparents, she also taught me that there is no real love that is free of sacrifice.

I am grateful that as I get older, it feels like it is becoming easier to rise again, even after spinal fusion.