Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Harming, Healing, Hope

The following is a post from herbalist Aubrey Ellen Koch. I met her years ago when she was a teen and had the pleasure of making some wearable art for her. She was then and continues to be an empathetic, creative, and gifted person.

In the wake of the New Zealand tragedy, she posted the following on FaceBook and has given me permission to share it with you. Take heart! Let us all be healers, each in our own way.

“On this day and on so many days in the past few years as I watch the rising tide of acceptance for, and indulgence in, deep hatred and white supremacy I have felt hopeless. I feel small and impotent against this deluge of hate. I struggle every day with my own trauma, my own gaping wounds, my depression and the aftermath of the things that were done to me as a child. I struggle with the horror I feel as I see the unfolding of massacre after massacre of people just like me. I struggle with the ancestral memory of the members of my family who died in concentration camps. I struggle with the indelible image of a girl with my face, my body, blown up larger than life in a room at the holocaust museum.
“In the end I am not a violent fighter, and I have no power for revenge, but I pledge myself over and over as a healer to reach my hands out to all who are in pain, who are exhausted, who are fighting for themselves and their families and their community. I pledge myself to those who have been displaced and have no home, who are seeking any safe place to exist. I pledge myself to lift up as many as I can and to be the foundation for anyone who has the heart to fight. I am yours and I will support you with all that I have.”

Aubrey Ellen Koch, back

As I crawl out from under a bout of influenza A, which was made dangerous for me by my anti-rejection drugs, I contemplate genetics, and how my family has been seriously impacted by auto-immune disease. Somehow aspects of my environment triggered my immune system to go into overdrive and attack the biliary mitochondria in my liver as though attacking a foreign body. My transplant has not eliminated my body’s tendency to do this; it was not a cure. It has given me some more years if I am fortunate, and I struggle to understand what has happened to me and to adjust to my new chimeric life.

 

While spending day after day in bed recovering from the flu, I read Carl Zimmer’s book She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, about the history of heredity and the impact of science upon our understanding of it. The book ended with the author pondering about gene editing of human eggs and embryos (CRISPR), which is currently in the global news as scientists struggle with the ethics and wisdom of using this powerful technology. My head is spinning with all this: I am creeped out by it, and can envision disaster resulting from gene editing, but had the gene(s) responsible for my immune system’s unwarranted attack  been successfully edited away, my transplant would have been unnecessary, and I would not have passed such genes on to my children and grandchildren. That is a heavy burden. If, if, if.

 

Although I learned about mitochondria in science class in high school, it was Madeleine L’Engle’s science/fictional account of Charles Wallace’s illness in A Wind in the Door that first reawakened my curiosity about mitochondria when my children were young. At that time I had no idea how important mitochondria would become in my life. However, it was not L’Engle’s forces of cosmic evil which messed with my mitochondria, but genetics and environment. My love of science fiction is accompanied by my life-long love of science. After all, my father taught genetics at the university level. <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Wind_in_the_Door”>

 

Myth, science, science fiction, religion, folklore, myth….I love it all. It is about trying to understand our place in the cosmos and on Earth. In a confusing, fast-paced, and precarious world, Spring brings me hope. Spring = new life. Today is my donor’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Robb! I would not be here without your extremely generous and miraculous gift of part of your liver. I am grateful every day.

We have sold our home, which includes my studio in the old carriage barn. In our new, much smaller home I have a room in what was once the attic, which I will use as my new workspace. Still sorting through boxes and setting things aside for a studio sale, because I must downsize.

Below is a photo of the space I left behind, taken after it was emptied. I’ve also included a photo of the new house. The windows upstairs in the front provide wonderful light for my new space. New beginnings!

Thinking about Sanctuary

I’ve been thinking about “sanctuary” recently. For some of my thoughts and to share yours, pop over to my other Sanctuary Without Walls blog.

Now is the time.

Snow, the Studio, Resolutions

Yesterday I visited my studio, which is in a remodeled carriage barn behind our home. There was fresh snow on the ground. It was lovely.

Snowy slope behind the studio

Snowy slope behind the studio

I was dashing out there to get some supplies I needed for a small project I am working on in the house, but I stopped to take the above photo with my phone. In the past few years I have spent little time working in the studio, though I very much want to. Over time, supplies have accumulated there: piles everywhere, half-finished projects are on tables, in baskets, tucked away on shelves. I have been “away” for years, with only occasional visits. The place is in terrible disarray.

During 2016, as I was healing from major surgery, I would sometimes visit the studio for short visits to sort and organize. I even made a few simple gifts for people. I am again able to use my sewing machine without discomfort, and now that I’m on fewer meds, my hands shake less when I work. I have hope for more time in the studio in 2017, but first I would need to make the space workable again. That will take sustained effort.

So, a fine New Year’s resolution would be to do just that. Then why have I been hesitant to make a resolution to finally get the studio in working order? Some days I feel that reclaiming the studio is what I really want to focus on in the new year; I know doing it would feed my soul and make it possible for me to concentrate on my creativity once again. And yet on other days I think there are probably better ways to spend my time. When will I return to ministry work? Should I spend time catching up with my family and friends, after being focused on regaining my health for so long? Or how about our country’s political situation; should my focus be on the environment? I am tugged in many directions.

Somehow being out there yesterday with the fresh snow all around made it seem like a new beginning is in order. Thinking about it now, I realize that beginning again in the studio has the potential to encompass some of the other strands of my life. I used to use the space not just as a studio, but as a place to offer spiritual direction, and also to have workshops for small groups. I used to do projects with my grandchildren there. The space provided sanctuary not just for artwork, but for ministry, friends and family. In it I worked on nature- and environment-themed projects. It really is all of a piece. Through the process of writing about this, I have returned to the New Year’s resolution to put my studio in order, and begin again.

Below is a 2011 photo from part of the studio, neat and spacious. Something to which I can aspire!

YULE

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

———Susan Cooper

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Yule

Photo by Jedediah Berry, Amherst, MA

Photo by Jedediah Berry, Amherst, MA

 

This gallery contains 12 photos.

“Perhaps what moves us in winter is some reminiscence of far off summer … The cold is merely superficial; it is summer still at the core, far, far within.” – H. D. Thoreau         Photos by K. Houk and S. Rockmuller.