Much I have learned about life and death in the last three months of 2009.
The past fall, because of my trusted doctor's error, I was given medicine for three weeks longer than was necessary. My red and white blood cells fell, as did the platelets, to life-threatening levels. And there were complications, which I won't bore you with. I couldn't rage against my doctor, because he was the angel who saved my life eight years ago.
Since September, I'd started to lose weight and I spun into a deep depression. When my weight fell steadily down to 103 pounds, I knew I was in deep trouble. If I remained in a funk, I would spiral down that dark rabbit hole and never be able to hop out. I can't die now! I have responsibilities: I have too keep my mom from sleepwalking. I have my dad to entertain. AND I have three months to go on Forget Sorrow, the graphic novel. I need to live.
So I started force feeding myself. People laughed when I said they wish they had the same trouble of losing weight during the holidays. It wasn't funny to me. I'd been skeletal before:
In 1999, I had a mere two weeks (so my doctor told me years later when I was as strong as a water buffalo), but the graphic novel about my great grandfather I am currently working on kept me alive. Back then it was unfinished and unsold. Great granddad arrived in a dream to say he wanted me to send his story out into the world. (He was in a wheel chair and resting in a shopping mall.) So I started to push up and out into life. I started to gain flesh, going from under 80 pounds to a normal 115. I learned to walk again-at first with a cane--to gather enough breath to talk again.
When you decide to live, when you have mustered the deepest, strongest desire for life, you feel it in the dan tian, that place just a few inches below your belly. You begin to force your "chi"-the breath of life-to expand. I don't want to be dramatic, but I know I made a choice to live this past fall. I could also have decided to die. It was a conscious decision. I've talked to nurses having lost patients who had every reason to live but chose to die.
A friend is now in hospice. She is in a coma. She'd lost her husband a year ago. She didn't want to continue breathing. (At the edge of her the rabbit hole, I'd kissed her on the forehead. She smiled even as she fell.)
Once I made that decision, I also took up a hobby just the right pace for me at the moment. I'm now a mushroom hunter, armed with my field guide. Shrooms don't have legs to run away from me but they are ephemeral. I have a great longing to be a good observer, to get back down to dirt level on my knuckles and knees. The get muddy, to touch living entities.
This mushroom began as a mushrump or just "shrump" for short. A shrump is the sign of an emerging mushroom beneath pine needles or clumps of earth. I've visited shrumps in my backyard multiple times the last couple of days. From decay, push, push, push into the air and breathe. Mushrooms love to breathe. I, too, am pushing into the air. I am shaking off the clods of earth. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. I want out. Give me air. More chi for the fun-guy or gal.
Below are a few photos I've taken.
PS-I love being a beginner. Everything is exciting and rare for the beginner.
Look at these fun-guys push! I think they are Agaricus bitorquis or marinus, both species love hard, compacted soil. So watch for the cracks they create.
I'm watching these ones everyday! They are emerging from the base of a dead pine.
Found this beauty beneath a cypress
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