The truth is, I don’t want to write this. Or anything.
The truth behind that? I really do want to write and share. It’s just hard right now.
It’s been a very hard summer. All of the stress is catching up with me, and I have been shrinking back into my shell.
It has been the most beautiful summer I’ve ever seen, yes.
The sky has arched overhead, day after day, her broad, blue belly pulled back toward the sun. The coastal wind, usually a torrent of air, has just whispered this year.
But the summer began with the slaughter of trees.
I know it’s popular to put a positive spin on things, and usually that’s something I can do in my sleep while I simultaneously drool on my pillow. But today, I’m not in the mood.
Then we visited family, a very positive thing, but also a stressor. (Sorry, fam, I’m just telling the truth.)
Then my sister-in-law’s father-in-law died. Though we didn’t know him well, we are close to many of his family members, and his influence on our community and the local Native American tribes was immense. His death hit us like a bagful of bricks, and hit his family a thousand times harder.
We looked at each other at that point in the summer, my husband and I, and we breathed. It would get better. We were well. The animals were well. I had my art. We were all okay.
Well, most of us were okay. Because I’d been getting mysteriously sick, crashing out with exhaustion, shaking with fatigue, and I didn’t know why.
Soon, I knew, and was heartsick. I was getting sick from using my beloved acrylic paints and mediums.
I had to give it all up. All of it.
Then Daisy, our dear golden retriever, started growing a lump on the side of her jaw.
It was a small lump. She’d had many small lumps — sebaceous cysts, some of which had drained, some of which had simply disappeared. All normal, with no concern.
But this lump kept growing.
Meanwhile, we took our big orange kitty boy Tucker to the vet. Soon I heard the vet’s voice through the phone: “Tucker has early stage renal failure.”
I went numb. It took me nearly a whole day before I realized what renal failure meant: eventual death. There is no cure.
And Daisy’s lump kept growing.
And all the while, I stayed far, far away from my beloved acrylics as I struggled to find a painting medium that would not make me sick.
This was already a hard summer. It got harder.
Two weeks ago, we got a call from a family member with horrifying news. It is news that makes my blood shake inside me, news that I won’t share, that I don’t ever want to google, that I wish I could never have known. It has wakened me in the night with nightmares. It has made me nauseous with fear.
I don’t want to inflict this news on you. Just know that I’m still in shock from it, and sometimes, when I find myself paralyzed, I track the terror back in time to this, and to all the befores, and I start to shake with anger and fear.
A very hard summer.
As I wrote the section above, Daisy rushed into my office, barking, her face tense with concern. She wanted to break me out of the knots that had tightened inside me. It worked. I felt the flow of words come back. Now Daisy has left, silently. Thank you, Daisy.
Daisy’s bump has been skillfully removed, biopsied, and pronounced benign. Her stitches have been taken out, returning her to her greatest joy — racing across an empty beach and plopping herself down in a wave. She is happy and well.
My husband and I are slowly gaining skill at administering sub-cutaneous fluids, an essential intervention for cats with renal failure. But every time we get out the sub-q supply, I feel the tension grow. I breathe, I breathe. We snatch Tucker up out of a deep, snoring sleep (it’s the only way to keep him from running scared at the sight of the fluid bag). And we begin.
And I now have paint, beautiful paint, a gorgeous and slippery new-to-me medium that shines and glows. And I have another kind of paint, too. They are the mystery mediums that I have wanted for weeks to share with you, but, the truth is, I haven’t had the heart to celebrate.
And This Now
This post is really a purge. I want to get this summer out of my system. I want to let it all go and return to this Now. There is so much to celebrate. It has just been a hard summer, that is all.
Autumn Equinox is strolling languidly our way, and I welcome it with open arms.
It won’t stop the stressors. It won’t change the news I wish I did not know. But there is something about autumn, the longer, lower light, the glow at the tips of the maple leaves, that says to me,
Sit, just sit. And breathe. It’s okay. It’s all done now. The time is changing, and there is nothing left to do.
So I sit, quietly. I breathe. I watch the hemlock and fir trees move in the wind like kelp moves within water. Then my eyes come closed, my heavy eyes come closed, and all there is is a word in my heart, the word I have for the secret that is greatest of all secrets, and I hold that word there and give it breath till its embers start to glow, and I am lit from its small lick of flame.
Come, autumn. Come, harvest. Come, joy.