Full Heart, Half-hearted

I passed a leaf on the path yesterday. Autumn arrived some time ago, but it’s a reluctant beginning. We’ve had an extraordinary summer.  Long, dry and hot. And the first summer in years that I have been able to function like a well person. Trips to the beach most weekends, drinking from the scratchy edge of the thermos cup, eating squishy sandwiches and luke warm sausage rolls. Lying on the blanket looking up at the sky, deeply content that it no longer wheels around me. I have read books this summer, lying on my tummy on the picnic rug, or sheltered by the beach tent.  The most memorable being Chappy and Being Mortal. And this summer, I have joined in, swimming in the surf, riding my bike, climbing the volcano that sits just outside my window. When I was sick I couldn’t make the walk up the steep track without the certainty that there would be payback. I couldn’t enjoy the views, bleat at the resident sheep or let the breeze push my hair back from my face, soothing the heat of my exertion. The few times I managed it, it was with teeth gritted, heart hammering, nausea rising. There is a seat up there, on the lip of the crater. It looks towards our house. It is a favourite spot, not least because I used to look at it from my bedroom window and despair that I might never sit up there again.

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But now I can.

Yesterday, Zed joined me for a walk up ‘our mountain’. He was keen to burn off some excess energy, I’m trying to improve my fitness. Six years of an extremely sedentary, sometimes horizontal life, is hard to physically bounce back from. But now I have a personal trainer, a plan, and yesterday it was my homework to go for a ten minute walk; an as ‘hard as you can go’ kind of walk. The kind of walk that our steep sided volcano track was built for. So Zed and I set off down the road.

I am blown away by how beautiful this country is. We live right in the centre of this sprawling city, but there are green spaces and volcanoes dotted all across the urban landscape. And trees, so many beautiful trees. Trees fill me with calm.  Look at this beauty.

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At the start of the track my intrepid 8 year old darts off to the side of the volcano: “meet you at the top Mum!” he shouts, already shoulder high in grass.  He’s climbing directly up, I’m taking the track. At the top he calls out that he’s going to run down into the crater and meet me up on the other side. He’s always been a ‘road less travelled’ kinda kid. I smile at him and relish the solitude. It’s gorgeous up the top here. Park benches dot their way around the crater rim, looking outwards.

Our national treasures of trees, the Pohutukawa, reach their arms across toward one another, high on the hill, circling the site that once was home to a Maori Pa. You can see evidence of their settlement in the kumara pits that still exist. In true Pa fashion, this crater would most likely have been barren of the grass it now wears. The ground would have been cleared around the whare. Now, the crater is resplendent with a thick carpet of grass.  Around the outside of the volcano, untrimmed by grazing sheep, it is long, rippled by the prevailing winds. But in the shelter of this hollow it resembles an inverted paddock. Like a fish-eye lens has warped the contours of the land. It drops away and lifts again in a perfect bowl. It would have been a safe and easily fortified home for those Maori villagers.  I wish I could go back in time and see how it was, see the cooking fire smoke and listen to the singing.

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Too soon, I’ve reached the far side of the crater rim track. My boy is ascending the steep edge.

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We hear voices, echoing through the natural amphitheatre, we are not alone anymore. A group of teenagers laugh and stumble through a gate that connects the volcano to the streets below. They take selfies and videos to upload onto their social media. One chases a sheep and another calls out “tackle him!”. The sheep has more wits about him than the boy, and is up the mountain faster than a goat. I smile and reach for Zed’s hand. “…it’s nice up here, hey Mum,” he says. His cheeks are rosy. We pass a stand of bamboo and slap the mosquitoes away.  It is nice up here. Even with other people around, it’s beautiful and serene. We come across a few more groups of people. I take some photos and think about how I would like to share them with you.

The two of us stop for a little sit down and I notice for the first time, a plaque attached to the bench. It’s a memorial seat, placed there by the wife of  ‘Michael’. A beautiful spot for remembering. I think about them, the people I don’t know. The words fill my heart. This is the song of my soul’s learning through all those years of illness.

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We sit and think for a while before heading home. Of course, Zed makes off to slide down the slope of the hill, while I take the dirt track. Back on our footpath, I see the trees turning and notice the colours of autumn, slowly but surely transforming the streets.

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I long for the cooler weather, but I have loved my first real summer in years. I realise I am half-heartedly welcoming my favourite season. And just as I think it, I see it, a half-hearted leaf, laid out on the footpath in front of me. Maybe, this year, nature feels the same as I do.

Full heart; half hearted.

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Karen: Lost in the Fog

Welcome back to the Meet my Peeps Guest Series.

I am so delighted to bring you this post from Karen. IT Professional,  fellow horse lover and chronic illness sufferer, Karen has a hard row to hoe.  She is dealing with all the challenges Dysautonomia throws her way, largely, on her own.  She does however have the wonderful company of her beautiful animal companions. Three very special horses, Meko, Oscar and Bazil, and two personable pups, Kitty and Milly.

Karen is a deeply practical person with a passion for animals and the outdoors.  She lives in beautiful Tasmania. Whenever she can she spends time making the most of her stunning surroundings and the company of her faithful companions; cooking for friends when able and enjoying being part of a close knit community.

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A picture of horses in the dim foggy light of early morning.

I’ve reached the point in my journey of chronic illness where suddenly all of the denial is falling away. As night ends the dawn appears and the reality of my situation arrives quietly, like an early morning winter fog. It’s a cold…desolate…an eerie place to be.

My Specialist, who has gone over and above in his efforts to help, has said there isn’t much more to try. And I have tried to keep those thoughts of reality away, hoping my current trial treatments will be enough to help me to climb out of this latest setback. And always, the hope that perhaps, there will be a magic pill that will suddenly get me back on track to better health.

Lost amongst that fog, I cannot see where my journey will take me and what the future holds for me. Feeling cold and somewhat numb, I realise I need to pull myself together, to prepare myself for when that fog eventually clears. The key words here are ‘Me’ and ‘I’. Not ‘The Specialist’ not ‘The Medication’ not ‘My Friends’. I cannot find them through this fog. So I look down at what I can see….my hands, my arms, my legs, my feet and I realise that they are all I have to help.

All the things that I either can no longer do, or which cause great expense or payback, come to mind. I think of my dreams of being healthy and active again, living life to the fullest. I think of watching it all pass by me, the whole impossibility of the situation, and a few random tears begin to fall. I’m so glad that shrouded by this fog, nobody can see me like this.

And as the fog begins to dissolve, I see clearly what matters to me the most. My beautiful animal companions who worry over me, who are there for me, the ones that offer me a hug when there are some tears or when I just need one. I can give them a better life if my health improves. Walks along the beach, rides along those bush trails, drives to mysterious destinations yet to be discovered. New experiences. This is what I have to work towards and hope for when the sun re-appears.

I muse a little more. I make some plans. I make a decision in the depths of that fog. This is my tipping point. This is where I need to take control of my own health and not expect others to fix it. It’s a wake up call. I promise myself that I will do what I can to climb out of this valley I’m in. I think about how the introspection within the fog has allowed me to centre my thoughts on me. To block the distractions out and decide on a new direction.

As that fog makes way for the bright sunlight and the brilliant day that lies ahead of me. I know I must take advantage of this day to put my plans into action. To reach my goals in life. To climb out of that valley myself.  I know that next time, I will recognise that fog as something beautiful. Knowing that I am in charge of my life and that I got through it before, into the light of a sunny day.

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Karen and the magnificent Meko in Swan Lake

 

Picture of a beautiful bay horse face (belongs to Bazil, who belongs to Karen)
The Beautiful Bazil