Garden, June 3

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The petunias above have quickly earned my favor in this year’s garden. A garden full of petunias and its petite cousin calibrachoa is a somewhat lazy choice, but they can provide reliable color and joy for nearly half the year.

Since I am apt to think in tangents during most of my waking hours, I present a photo which reminds of a Stevie Nicks’ album title, The Other Side of the Mirror:

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Once upon a time, such a title could evoke all sorts of feminine mystery. In my teen years, I’d imagine that the other side of the mirror held a land full of light-hearted witchcraft and Adonis-like suitors who’d ignore the perfectly preserved plush animals of one’s youth that would punctuate the decor of your lair.

Nowadays the notion of the other side of the mirror seems entirely different. In an age of cell phone photography and video, the other side of the mirror can mean a couple different things. At best, it is all the visuals of one’s life we’d rather not share, from the double chin that emerges while one is reading or writing to evidence of clutter and projects undone. At worst, the other side of the mirror is just that: a two-way mirror through which persons unknown may see anything or everything about your life. As the late Steven Jesse Berstein proclaimed in “This Clouded Heart“: “You feel like you are watched when you are private, and even when you are not private, you cannot choose your audience.”

In the picture above, you see the things lined up against the back of the house, a hose imperfectly wound along with spare propane tanks and a grill in need of a new cover. Then there’s the trash can, which I suppose is the terminal expression of that other side of the mirror, the footage left on the cutting room floor of daily living.

As for the pinwheels that have appeared in the garden, they are part of a small bounty of items my husband bought at an antique tractor show a couple years ago. It seems that most gatherings related to old but useful things have vendors selling all sorts of items. In the sweltering heat, he found a booth selling all sorts of pinwheels, and it wasn’t until this year that we got around to placing them in the garden. Unfortunately, we’ve had some wicked wind lately that dismantled a couple of them.

I will close this post with a few more images from the garden:

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Nothing Ever Changes Unless There’s Some Pain

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Spring is well into its eruption of green and blooms. Once again, it’s been entirely too long since I last posted. I actually took these photos a fortnight ago, but I haven’t gathered the will or candor to post them until now. The previous sentence begs the question of why should honesty enter the equation of creating a blog post with nature photos? This oddity arises because this blog is also an open diary of sorts, and I feel that failing to disclose parts of my ongoing problems would be a lie of omission.

I continue to struggle with chronic pain, and I suspect that I have partly alienated key people in my life with my complaints about it. I can take enough of their perspective to understand why some people just look at me with stone-still faces as I talk about my nerve pain or migraines. They can’t solve this problem for me. Nerve damage is not something that can be fixed like a flat tire.

There’s also something to be said about the notion that thinking about pain is not helpful. I don’t think it’s possible to talk about pain without thinking about it. Reflecting on pain can intensify the sensation of it. Perhaps my conversations about pain tend to become monologues because people might think being supportive of my talking about pain will lead to me thinking more about it and hurting more. There’s an innocence beneath such a perspective. You are lucky if you’ve never felt pain so omnipresent that it could not be ignored. Since I think of lyrics entirely too often, this sort of aforementioned innocence reminds of some lines from “These Days” by the Foo Fighters: “Easy for you to say . . . your pride has never been stolen.”

Speaking of lyrics, the borrowed the title of this post hails from “Goodnight Song” by Tears for Fears. There are bits of treasure to be gleaned from pop culture.

Another gem I remembered this week hails from “I Wish You Well” by Tom Cochrane (who, btw, also wrote “Life is a Highway”): “She wants her space to feel love and be angry.” I’m still angry that pain erupts in me every single day, like a toddler who tantrums again and again for toys that might have been bought if not for the fit thrown. There are few certainties in life aside from birth, death, and change. I’m mad because I don’t want my life to change.

I loved the character and substance of my days in the decade before this mess happened. I loved that I had become a morning person, that I had conquered my fatness (a problem which has returned btw, but not entirely). I loved binge-watching British mystery shows while riding an exercise bike or elliptical machine for the entirety of a series (I’d watch the show for 30 to 45 minutes at a time). I loved my small feats of strength, such as carrying the better part of a trunkload of groceries in one trip.

I’m beginning to consider that the sort of life I was leading was both a denial and intuitive treatment of spinal issues that had been brewing for years before their diagnosis. Weight loss is a good conservative treatment for spinal degeneration. Losing 130 pounds did make me feel better, but all the while I ignored important signs. It is not normal to awaken five nights a week due to leg cramps. It is not ordinary at all for weight loss to restore sensation to a knee that was apt to go numb when doing any significant standing or walking. This era of my life now seems to be an extended remix of the sort of denial that can lead a woman to fail to realize she is pregnant until she is in labor. Wasn’t there a show about this phenomenon called I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant? I remember seeing an episode of this series wherein one of the women said she was mystified by pains that were “growing stronger and longer and closer together,” until her baby crowned.

I recall laughing heartily over that woman’s surprise childbirth story. I thought, holy shit, how can you be of childbearing age and not equate pain that gets stronger, longer, and closer together with labor? I now know that life is full of such willful ignorance. We bury all sorts of deception and pain until we’re ready to deal with it. There are times when we’d rather not add up signs of betrayal or know what that pain means. We don’t want to stop just yet and open the door to that which must be reckoned with eventually.

I’m lost in charting a course in how I must change to cope with my chronic pain. Should I pursue a cure when some of my previous attempts seemed to be worse than the disease? I belong to a Facebook group for people who’ve had spinal fusion surgery. I’ve noticed that many members have written that spinal fusion surgery was the most painful experience of their lives. In all honesty, I didn’t think it was exceptionally painful compared to other surgeries I’ve had. Actually, there have been times every day this week that I have felt worse than I did in the days after that surgery.

I suppose it doesn’t help that my affect is rather flat through all this. My Midwestern stoicism is very deeply ingrained in me; I seldom look stricken when I’m in pain. I suppose that it is hard to believe me when I mention that today I felt worse than when I was in labor with my daughter, even if that is a true statement (and I had back labor for 44 hours, half of which I endured with no pain medicine).

Here are the diagnoses on my chart at my family’s doctor’s office:

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There are several chronically painful conditions on that list.

My chart at the local orthopedic center has a bit more detail:

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I don’t know how I could keep this mess to myself, to spare people the details and reality of such pain, without being a fundamentally dishonest person. I am the sort of person who has almost no mental real estate for keeping secrets, and all of that space is reserved for secrets that belong to other people.

Lately, I’ve heard that I must be blowing this struggle out of proportion, for I’ve been through worse in the past. For example, people will mention that it must have been harder to leave everything behind but a couple suitcases when my daughter and I relocated 2,000 miles away during her infancy. I assure you, dear reader, that my past struggles were very easy indeed compared to what I face now. Nothing is easier than quitting, no matter what the consequences of doing so. Through quitting, you take the power of choosing the outcome, even if the result is awful. Quitting is not an option now. I must bend without breaking to keep everything in place, no matter how bad I’m feeling.

I will close this post with images of this season’s enfolding growth, and I hope that my mind, body, and spirit begin to reflect this renewal.

Spring Photo Walk, April 8

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I was hoping that I’d spot some early wildflowers in bloom, such as bloodroot or jack-in-the-pulpit. I’ve seen several crocus patches in bloom in town, so I was just a little disappointed that the forest floor hasn’t awakened yet. The sole flower I spotted was a brave yet small dandelion on the park lawn. It was so tiny and ill-situated in the grass that it defied having its photo taken.

There was a red cardinal who paused graciously for his portrait as he called for his mate.

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Yesterday’s Fall Photo Walk

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The light prevailed so well over the weekend that I was able to do another photo walk. This one was at a different local forest park, one I’ve neglected in recent years because it is not heavy on wildflowers or maple trees.

There was still a coating of frost on some of the leaves as the sun rose, as was the case with the fallen bald cypress leaves below.

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The trail at this park had plenty of honeysuckle bushes on its margins. The leaves of these bushes have not changed in color yet, so it was odd indeed to see so much green at the end of November.

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Of course, the oak trees are the stars of this November forest.

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Fall Photo Walk, November 25

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I hope that your Thanksgiving was as lovely as mine was. My brother and his brood flew here from Denver. My parents’ house was full of food and conversation about the past, present, and future. I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday.

The light has begun to brighten from the dark damp of mid-fall. There were several evenings and mornings in which golden sunlight made a cameo, but I’d be reliably stuck on the wrong side of a window at work or home as it paraded by.

This morning I was finally able to catch some of the light with camera in hand. I returned to my favorite forest park, where the oaks are still hanging on with their many brown tones. It is not until fall is winding down that brown leaves reveal their glory.

There are also a few other trees whose leaves still linger. Among these were a trio of bald cypress trees, which is a true oddity this far north. I’m not sure who decided to plant these trees at our local parks, but I’m glad that it happened. Every year their shedding of needle-like leaves is a surprise to me. They look like evergreens until the moment those needles turn a tawny brown.

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(This post is also my entry this week’s photo challenge, Transformation.)

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Fall Photo Walk, November 19

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I hadn’t planned a photo walk today. As noon approached, a few patches of sunlight I spotted outside my windows persuaded me to take a short trip to a local forest park. Of course, the good light had fled by the time I reached the park.

As I started my walk along the forest trail, I felt that I was exactly where I needed to be. The chilly air and remaining leaves recharged my spirits. The beech and oak trees still had plenty of leaves fluttering in the blustery wind.

I walked until I had a silent sense that all would be well. I knew it was time to go home, where I could wrap myself in warmth and the company of those I hold most dear.

Yesterday’s Fall Photo Walk

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I hated winter until I learned that I needed it. I spent four winters away from Ohio, in places where a 45-degree dawn was hailed as the start to a frigid day.  Each winter away from the Snowbelt would begin with a feeling of escape from a harsh fate and end with a sense of impending madness. I needed the deep rest that only a classic, frosty winter can offer.

While winter has not arrived yet, the temperatures have been cold enough to suggest that it’s getting time to bring out the blankets and sweaters, that there is no time like the present to dust off the books you’ve been meaning to read. The time has also changed, so there’s not enough light to get much done outside before or after work.

I had hoped for sunshine yesterday, but the skies were also gathering a blanket against the cold. The temperatures hovered in the low 20’s during my photo walk. The oaks, with their russet tones, are reigning now. Just a few sweetgum trees are blazing red. Last the willows and Bradford pear trees will change color before all of the trees slip into their winter’s rest.

(This post is also my entry in the Weekly’s Photo Challenge’s theme of Temporary.)

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