Archive for March, 2013

The Garden of my Heart

michelle nicole photography

michelle nicole photography

It’s Spring. At least that’s what Punxsutawny Phil, the ground hog has led my garden to believe.  I can see evidence of perennials obediently attempting to awaken from their slumber beneath the dried debris of dormancy despite yet another late snow, bits and pieces of vibrant green poking through a mulch blanket.  Recently the temperature had risen above freezing, so I decided to take advantage of this heat wave by doing some pruning and cleaning out under the Blue Bells to give their voluptuous blooms some breathing room.

Although I am not what one would consider an avid gardener; (not expecting the Green Thumb Award this year, especially after the Mountain Laurel debacle, may she rest in pieces), I do know a few basics:

1)      Gardens need to be nourished with water and fertilizer

2)      Plants should be pruned to allow new growth

3)      Weeds should be removed

4)      The Stinkhorn is my nemesis

Each Spring I do battle with the disgusting orange fungi that pop up every morning proudly displaying sticky brown tips for insects to enjoy; nature’s way of dispersing more spores for me to scorn. Daily, I would approach the garden at first light in full regalia: straw hat, polka dot wellies, jeans and pink flowered garden gloves. Armed with a small shovel, kneel pad and a large trash bag; I would crawl through the mulch my mission clear: seek and destroy the Stinkhorn! This year I was determined to outsmart these phallic fungi before they had a chance to proliferate so I turned to a most trusted source (the world wide web) for advice. It seems that fungi thrive in cool, damp bark at the base of trees or in…mulch. GASP! Precisely the environment I have been providing. SIGH. I might as well have offered the Stinkhorn a handwritten invitation to breakfast each morning and to my horror, I found out that I should have revered them as honored guests because fungi can be beneficial to plants. Gardeners are now adding MYKES (mycorrhizal fungi) to their gardens to create symbiotic relationships among the plants! Who knew? So I decided to dig a little deeper (no pun intended) into the annals of the     inter-web to be sure that the ‘weeds’ I was preparing to pull possessed absolutely no redeeming value for my garden. That’s where I discovered that a sunflower is considered a weed.  REALLY? Despite the fact that the production of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil is a multi-million dollar industry; if the majestic sunflower is found growing in a soy or cornfield, it is a plant out of place: AKA a weed.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ah, I know all too well about weeds in the garden of life! Those seemingly innocuous events that we often disregard as minor annoyances; unrelenting pain, a test to establish a base-line, the end of a relationship, or even an off handed remark made in jest that cuts deeply. Hurt or fear that lies dormant but is quickly growing, spreading its tendrils surreptitiously bent on choking the life out of our happiness…if we allow it to. I have found that sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the weeds in the gardens of our lives from the beautiful perennials because it seems they enjoy masquerading, until, as Mr. Emerson has so eloquently stated, we take a closer took to discover their virtue.

Recently, I discovered what I suspect to be a weed in my garden. It sprung up in a most unexpected place; however, I am not rushing to pull it. I want to see how it will bloom before declaring it pernicious because it may actually benefit the rest of the plot, perhaps enriching the soil around it and bringing an unexpected and unique beauty to an already colorful garden.

Until next time my dear friends, keep looking in the right direction, where you feel the sun warm upon your face while you till the garden of your soul.

Facing Pain

michelle nicole photography

michelle nicole photography

In the past, I have viewed Chronic Pain as my bully. When he reared his ugly head I would visibly fade; the shadow of my vibrant self withdrawing from enjoyable activities while I fought to remain in control of my day. Like the villain in a low budget suspense sequel, (Pain 1, Pain 2, The Return of Pain, Pain Strikes Again), Chronic Pain was the shadowy figure lurking just out of sight stalking its prey, waiting for the opportune moment. Then, when least expected he and his posse’ of defeatists; fear, anger, hopelessness and self pity, would strike attempting to incapacitate the unsuspecting. Exhausted from the pursuit, their victim would stumble about seeking a respite having narrowly escaped the grasp of the antagonists and oblivious to screams coming from the audience:

“NO! Don’t Stop, he’s right behind you – go, GO!!!” 

Although I vilify it, pain does have its place in our lives. Our bodies have been carefully and wonderfully designed with among many, many other amazing details; nociceptors. These are specialized nerves located throughout our tissues that are triggered to send pain signals to the brain and spinal cord when damage is detected. Once the injury is healed, these signals should stop being sent. Unfortunately however, for approximately 1 in 10 people, acute pain becomes chronic affecting the centers of the brain involving such areas as sensory and action, memory, emotional experiences and often interferes with the ability to evaluate situations.

No doubt lingering pain takes its toll on every aspect of life despite our best efforts to hide it with a smile and a positive attitude; evidence which is clearly seen in eyes that have lost their sparkle, etched on paled faces or heard in a voice without its normal enthusiasm. For years I struggled to stay one step ahead of the clutches of Chronic Pain by running from the reality of my diagnosis; refusing to believe that my life would be reduced to hoping for “only a handful of good days per month” as one doctor prognosed. Searching for THE day I would not have to deal with pain was like pursuing the Holy Grail, a noble quest indeed. Then one day when I could run no longer, I turned to face the fact that I needed to live with pain and in that moment, I was able to strip Chronic Pain of its power to control me by changing how I viewed it. Finally I’d found the elusive chalice that I had been seeking and to my surprise, it had been in my possession all along. It was previously overlooked as it had been in the gnarled, shadowy form of pain and I sought a beautiful vessel; but when I drank in knowledge about it, I learned that it was not something to avoid or fear. My eyes were opened and now I could see what this life of pain had to offer opposed to what it took. I realized that it gave me the opportunity to slow down and participate in life, not merely rush through each day of it. It has given me perspective; although I will most likely have pain for the rest of my life, there are others with more debilitating and even terminal diseases. I have also learned to be compassionate. I often hear, “Oh but it’s nothing like what YOU are going through.” While this may be true, others situations are none the less painful, troubling or discouraging! I now live in gratitude for each day, every breath, each step I take and always for the amazing medical technology and wonderful, talented people who treat me.  The years that I have struggled with pain provided me with inner strength and more fortitude than I thought possible; but by far, the most beautiful gift that I have been given is contentment, in any situation.

Friends, today I challenge you to change the direction that you are running. Turn to face the villain that pursues you, look at what has to offer you instead of what it is trying to steal from you and in doing so I pray that you will find the power to take back control of your life.