Over the course of my recovery, I have received a number of things from well-wishers to help me with my healing.
One of the first was a small jar of dirt from the chapel in Chimayó, New Mexico, el Santuario de Chimayó, where a miracle is believed to have happened some 200 years ago and where pilgrims continue to visit seeking healing. Karen and I visited it ourselves some years ago. The little jar, shared by someone who has also made me wonderful soup several times over the last few months, sat on the table next to me during the long weeks when I had to remain upright and remains close at hand. I will pass it on when my recovery is complete.
On loan since before Halloween is a small mascot, a stuffed zombie kitten made by a librarian colleague of Karen. I call it Cyclops. You cannot quite tell from the photo below, but its right eye is hanging out of its head. It is at once adorable, pitiful, and funny. It has helped me keep a balanced perspective throughout the ups and downs of this process.
One of my collectors gave me a turquoise Zuni fetish of a dancing bear. I call her Ursalyn. Bears are symbolic of vigor and health, and her smile and dancing make me smile. She reminds me of me. Turquoise is a healing stone and also happens to be my birthstone. She dances next to me while I watch TV or eat or work on the computer.
Another customer gave me a poem by Jane Hirshfield called “For What Binds Us,” written out by hand. It reads in part:
And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,
as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—
Read the full text of the poem here. More than scars, it is about love. I reread it often.
The most recent healing aid is from my dear friends Pat and Darcey, who have been present at every step of my recovery. At my birthday, they put together a medicine bag for me, a small leather bag that contains a chunk of turquoise, a shell, a small bundle of sage, a shell, a feather, a sandstone rock, and a slice of mesquite. I wear it around my neck or keep it on the table next to me. Sometimes I unpack it to contemplate its contents.
These things all help. Beyond their respective healing powers, each reminds me that people care. They are my steady companions on an unsteady road.