Illness and Recovery

The app says the moon is 98.5% full this morning. And that is more than I need to know. “Almost full” is fine.

It’s overcast, but the wind blew the clouds away for a few moments while I was walking Leonard. Long enough for me to notice the almost full moon tinging the sky a deep purple.

The new morning routine is already taking hold. Leonard went to the sliding door as usual, but then it must have occurred to him that we would be heading around the block first thing. He nudged the entry door open with this nose to find me wriggling my feet into my boots. He ducked his head to let me slide the harness on. Tail wagging. What a nice way to start the day: tail wagging.

I am not sure how I feel about him adjusting more quickly than I am to the morning walk. It felt good today, but the run that followed was sluggish. No owl. Not even a hopping blackbird in the underbrush this morning. I guess it’s silly to think every morning is going to lay gifts at my feet.

Warriors, bridges, happy babies. Meditation. I should maybe add a bit of tail-wagging to the mornings.

This time last year I was in London, heading to Northumberland for the half-marathon. Wondering if the people on the train to Heathrow were wearing masks to protect me or to protect themselves. No one outside of Eastern Asia was even talking about masks then. The next day, I was wondering if I were stupid to be shivering in a tent with 400 other runners waiting for a bib — knowing someone could be infectious. Maybe. How likely? Two, three cases so far in England?

Three weeks later everything here at home shut down. I’d slipped through a narrow window at the beginning.

Middle-aged people who’d been playing beer pong at a ski resort in Austria set off a ring of contagion up north. Or so I read in the news. But it could have easily been me, having brought it home from that tent.

Scientists keep changing their minds about what makes us human. What makes us unique when compared to other animals. I have heard some say it is our ability to comprehend our own mortality.

This doesn’t ring true to me. I think this fear of death, this awareness of our impermanence is what we share with other species. And our response is as illogical as theirs. Social animals will shun one of their own with a sign of disease. They bare their teeth. Chase them off. So do we. We can be subtle, though: we use shame to run them off.

Wikipedia says that Syphilis is spread by (among other things) prostitution. I find this utterly fascinating: a bacteria with the awareness to know when money is being exchanged for a sexual act. It is so difficult to wrestle science from our moralities.

There’s been a problem in the Norwegians schools with what they are calling contagion-shaming. (It’s a catchier phrase in Norwegian) (Pun intended). When I talked to my students about the randomness of viruses and our very human nature to want to blame people for their own misfortune so we can convince ourselves we are in control of our own fates, I shared with them that two of my family members have had the virus.

A hand went up: “You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but what were they doing? How did they get it?”

Don’t we all want the answer to be: beer-pong?

Not that I am a complete misanthrope. Margaret Mead said the first sign of civilization in ancient culture was a leg bone that had been broken and healed. She says that doesn’t happen in the animal kingdom. I don’t know. I think it may be more complicated than that. I am not convinced compassion makes us unique either. I don’t think we are the only species continually balancing compassion and self-preservation.

At any rate, there’s no run in the north of England this year. There’s only this new beginning. Dusting myself off and not asking myself what I did to deserve this little break-down. Mental illness. No asking what I did to bring it on. What I didn’t do to avoid it. It happens. There is no returning to the way things were. Things will be different. We heal imperfectly. But we heal. If we let go of our previous ideas of ourselves. And remember that imperfection is part of our charm.

Just look at the crooked trees that are so interesting.

The pine tree’s branches
wither with a new rung’s growth
mycorrhizal networks weave
and redirect through hairy
systems laced like spiders’ silk

Comments: