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I missed it. Summer, that is.
All around me she twirled, a wood nymph fresh in skirts of spruce bows.
Summer was hot this year. Crowned in dandelions, she imbued all the festivals with brightness. But she didn't darken my dark door.
I was laid up all summer. I was on the sofa, my immune system in some sort of bizarre overdrive. Stripped of mobility, I also suffered the side effects of toxic medication. While the summer fairy danced, I had to imagine it all happening just beyond my haze of pain. This year, summer didn't invite me out to play.
So, instead, I posted an open invitation on Facebook to friends far and wide. "Visit!" I cried. My door is ajar. I'm here, I'm just housebound. I'm not contagious. "Come," I implored. Bring me your stories. Come, please, come.
And they did come – every one of them bearing some gift.
I received a personal potion concocted by an old friend, a wise medicine woman who knows herbal combinations and the medicinal properties of plants. I received organic salves and sacred Dead Sea salts from friends who had travelled to Israel. Another friend gave me tiny particles of some mysterious substance breathed upon by Tibetan monks, and yet another friend a birch-bark medicine bag on a hide string for holding them.
I received flowers and cards and prayers, a painting and books galore, in every genre. I received archival video footage painstakingly transposed to CD about traditional healing for my illness.
And appliances. Yes, appliances: a handheld humidifier, an amazing automated foot bath/massage unit (did I mention I cannot stand?), as well as a somewhat mystifying earthing mat, electrically grounded to Mother Earth and pumping magnetic energy up through the soles of my bleeding feet.
Healing meditations were chanted, reiki performed, poetry shared, stories exchanged. Everyone had a cure, or had a cousin who knew a cure.
Softer blankets were procured as I struggled to regulate my body temperature; special sheepskin plasters for my feet were secured by knowing nursing friends; and even slippers that could be heated in a microwave oven. Any item that offered even a modicum of comfort, I was gifted with that summer.
Even though I find eating an effort, I received masses of food: meals for my family; delicate tidbits for me; smoothies to settle my stomach; protein to promote healing; a 20-pound bran bread to (ahem) make my beleaguered body function. I can’t begin to describe all the delicacies fashioned and presented at the side of my summer sofa. So much love.
Because my invitation was open, I never knew who would come, but I vowed not to close the door to any well-wisher.
I spent a very pleasant hour with a woman who claimed she was in a writing workshop I taught recently, but for the life of me I could not recall her face. I will never forget it now.
Another woman, a neighbour, came with a notion to heal me, and over the course of our hour-long visit we shed tears over a misunderstanding we’d had more than a decade ago.
I learned a lot this summer, while the festivals and outdoor celebrations roared in the distance.
I learned what it means to receive, to be the receiver. It’s a different kind of difficult.
I learned that there is strength in vulnerability.
I learned that prayer is a powerful tool and it came from people I least expected of praying.
I learned that health can turn on a dime, but friendships and support and community bolster us when we are weak and afraid.
All my toenails and some of my fingernails have fallen off. Clumps of my hair are gone. I am still really shaky when I stand. But as the evenings cool and the days grow shorter, I can honestly say I am thankful for this summer of sickness. Without it I may well have danced with summer, listening to folk music, eating green-onion cakes and swimming in cool lake waters, but I would never have known what I know now.
Certainly, there is a season for everything, but mercifully love disregards seasonal separations. It scales the fences of illness, permeates the boundaries around disability and sits compassionately at the side of those who ask for help.
The summer fairy has fled, but this old sofa upon which I have journeyed has been buoyed by a different, deeper power.
Love has its own wings and it is those that will carry me well into winter and far, far beyond.
Margaret Macpherson lives in Edmonton.