I’ve planned to hike in the Adirondacks today. Meeting a friend at the trail head. With the understanding, of course, that I’m bagging-out if it rains. I’ve had more than my share of rainy hikes. In the Adirondacks. Wet leaves over wet rocks are slippery as ice, but with a trustworthy appearance. When it rains in the woods the amount of water seems to multiply exponentially. Each drop that lands on a leaf turns to three. You become wet to the bone in moments, regardless of the Gortex you’re wearing. And even though your hiking boots are waterproof, your socks are saturated by the water that’s running off your legs. Water drips from your nose and your chin. You’re saturated. I’ve had this experience many times. I’ve become a fair weather hiker. I don’t mind if the temperature is well below zero. Bring it on. But I like clear skies. It’s just more fun these days. Not to mention safer.
But then there’s the sounds you hear on the rainy days. The rain on the trees is a cacophony of tiny drums. The birds will be out. I can’t recognize a single one from its song, but still. And there’s the company. Hiking up a mountain with a friend, catching-up, sharing stories of the past several months. And, best of all, there will be few other people out. I’m not alone in preferring to hike on clear days. And I’m a prima donna when it comes to privacy. I like to have the place to myself. Whether it’s the mountain, the beach, the museum, or the theater I don’t want to have to contend with crowds. Not a realistic preference, but none the less, that’s how I like it.
The rain is teeming down as I write this. The forecast calls for rain showers all day long. All Day Long. My lunch is packed, along with a big water bottle and a change of clothes for the ride home. I’ll be leaving in 15 minutes. It’s going to be a rainy hike. Guess I’m going to go for a walk in the rain.
When Marleigh and Delaney were small and they asked about death, I would tell them that a person dies when their heart stops beating. “What then?” they would ask. “Well,” was my explanation, “then their spirit flies away. And their body begins turning back into the earth. But their love always lives on inside of us.” This satisfied them. And me also.
John sent me this photo he took earlier today. He told me that at Ethan’s burial they released a white dove. Later, when the family and friends had gathered back at home, a white dove flew in and lighted on their roof.
I was awestruck by his words. I could hear in the few sentences he wrote that the white dove was a powerful messenger for them today, though he didn’t say exactly how. Did it speak to them of the flying away of the spirit? Did its return speak of the love that resides in their hearts and that will remain there forever? Was that dove a messenger to them of love and peace? To them, was it a symbol of hope and comfort and healing?
I’ve been noticing how I have been altered since John’s phone call the other morning. My feelings of anxiety and apprehension around him have turned to compassion, concern, and support. We live far removed from each other. 800 miles and many years separate us. I’ve only met his family once, perhaps twice, and then only briefly. Our lives have carried on without each other. And yet, of course, with the news of the death of my former husband’s stepson, the estrangement falls away. Rightly so. I want to help. I can’t begin to imagine what he and his family are experiencing with this tragedy. They’re living the unthinkable; the unimaginable. Every parent’s worst nightmare. This is their reality now. And I want to send them support, love, comfort. Small tokens. Small, yet I believe that compounded with the hundreds of ways they’re being loved and supported by their family and friends at home it all adds up to something that will help to carry them through this time. At least that is my wish for them.
Calling hours are this evening from 5-8pm. We won’t be traveling to West Virginia for the services. But tonight at 5pm Marleigh, Delaney, and I will be lighting two candles: one for Ethan, who lost his life on the evening of September 30th, and another for those who love and were loved by him. We will burn the candles for the duration of tonight’s service. I invite you to join us in lighting a candle tonight. In support of John and Susan and their family if you like, or in support of anyone else who is suffering and in great pain. Please share your stories if you like. I’m always grateful to hear them, because we’re all in this together, aren’t we. And when it comes down to it, it’s the love and support we share that help each other through it all.
Tuesday morning I received a call from my former husband. I noticed how my stomach began slithering in knots and my heart began to race. Even after 10 years my body still had that immediate visceral response just seeing John’s name on my ringing phone. I was sitting in my auto mechanic’s office, waiting for my car to be inspected. Not the place to talk. I put my hand over that slithery place in my abdomen, took a deep breath, and smiled. It’s okay, I thought to myself. I imagined he wanted to talk about Marleigh and Delaney, as they hadn’t spoken in several months, and I didn’t anticipate it being a particularly pleasant conversation. I’ll get back to him when I get out of here, I thought.
But the moment I heard his voice in his message, I knew this wasn’t a frustrated or angry call. I could hear immediately that there would be no riot acts being read. His voice was soft, his words were paced slowly. He was calling to tell me his stepson had died in an auto accident the night before, and he really needed to talk to his daughters. Could I help him.
I was sitting in my auto mechanic’s office, amidst a regular day. Their world had been turned upside down. Altered indelibly. Unimaginably.
Phone calls and text messages have filled the quiet spaces of these past two days. They will continue to do so. There seems so little I can do, other than send love and support from afar. Assure John that our daughters are healthy, and happy, and, most importantly, safe. John’s partner fills my thoughts. The mother of the young man who died. I wish her comfort. Great comfort. May she be held and cradled. May she receive and feel great love. May she feel comfort.
For those of you who were absent for yesterday’s pop Anatomy Quiz, here’s the question:
The Occiput: What is it? and Where does it live in your body? Discuss. Extra Credit for naming any muscles associated with it.
The Occiput (aka Occipital Bone) is the bone at the base of your cranium.
It articulates with the temporal and parietal bones of your cranium and serves to cradle, support, and protect your Amazing Brain.
It also articulates with your first cervical vertebra (aka C1, the Atlas Bone).
There’s a circular hole in the bottom of your Occiput called the Foramen Magnum (Great Hole). Your spinal cord leaves your brain and passes through this space, then begins its journey down your spinal column.
Like Deb pointed out in her comment yesterday, some important muscles attach at your occiput: Your suboccipitals, splenii, and upper trapezius are among them. (You will not be quizzed on those names.)
If you’d like a more scholarly description of the Occiput, please read Deb’s comment from yesterday. But don’t let her scare you, she has a graduate degree in this stuff.
During your massage session, when you’re lying on your back, I’ll hold your cranium in my hands and my fingers will wrap around your occiput. You might be surprised at the tension and discomfort you hold in this region. But when you think about it, it makes sense. These muscles help hold your heavy head (brain and all) up on top of your spine. They work hard all the time stabilizing and balancing that mighty head of yours. Muscular tension in the occipital region can be the source of (chronic) headaches. Massage, of course, can resolve this tension and be a source of tremendous relief.
Many thanks and great job to those of you who participated in the quiz. I LOVED your answers, both the text book and the creative. Join me again next Monday for the next Pop Anatomy Quiz. Don’t be shy, ALL answers are appreciated. And there’s no right or wrong.
Do you remember when you were in high school and your biology teacher would greet you first thing on Monday with a cheery “Good Morning!”. You’d be all bleary-eyed and tired because, well, because you were a teenager and that’s generally how teens feel on any given morning, especially Mondays. Then s/he would announce a pop quiz. You’d groan, roll your eyes, and slouch even more deeply into your chair. Not only because you were totally unprepared but also because, well, you were a teen.
Well, you’re not a teen anymore and I’m not a biology teacher, but I’m going to start this last-day-of-September-Monday-morning with a little Anatomy Pop Quiz anyway. Anyone who answers it, right or wrong, gets a gold star. Tomorrow I’ll answer it myself, along with a little story about this part of your body, including issues we may experience around it and how massage therapy can tend to those issues. You might just learn a little something.
So without further ado, Stairway’s first Anatomy Pop Quiz:
1. Your Occiput. What is it and where in your body does it live? Discuss.
Bonus for you anatomy hotshots: Name a muscle that attaches to it.
We watched her walk out on stage, sit down, adjust the microphone, smile at the audience, and just start strumming. I was kneeling on the floor, off to the side of the audience so I could record her. Marleigh and a group of her friends had joined me there. We were all holding our breath. We listened as she circled around and repeated the intro. Clever, I thought. Not rushing into it. Taking a minute to get acclimated. She was up there just smiling. And then she started singing, “Now she’s back in the atmosphere with drops of Jupiter in her hair…” Clear and strong. By the third stanza the crowd was clapping along. They were digging her music! Marleigh had tears running down her cheeks, “She’s really good,” she said. We were all crying. And smiling. Whooping her on. She looked so composed, that crazy 13 year old of mine. So natural. Like she’d always been sitting on a stage, strumming a ukelele (a ukelele!), singing.
A good friend of ours gave her the ukelele over the summer and she just started playing the thing. And singing along with it. She has a good ear and tunes it easily. So I wasn’t surprised when she signed up for the talent show. I was nervous though. I mean, I’ve sung with groups and chorales in front of large audiences. But I’d get nervous even with 60 other voices around me. She was going to do this solo. Alone. Just her. In front of a bunch of teenagers.
“But, Mom, you have to promise me something,” she had said when she announced she was going to enter the show. “If I change my mind the night of the show, you have to just let me not do it.” What??? Isn’t that when I’m supposed to support you and urge you on and tell you that you can do this and how good it will be for you? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? No, she informed me, indeed it wasn’t. If she was going to do this she had to know ahead that she’d have my full support in also NOT doing it if she so chose. So what could I do but agree.
And there she was, doing her thing, bringing the crowd to their feet. They loved her.
“The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.” —Martha Graham
Your Body is a Sacred Garment.
It’s Your First and Last Garment;
It is What You Enter Life In
And What You Depart Life With,
And It Should Be Treated With Honor.
Taking care of yourself/your body is not a luxury. It is not decadence. It is not something you need to apologize for. Or make excuses for. Or put off doing. It is completely essential. Vital. Treat your body with honor. It is your sacred garment.
What will you do today to honor and take care of your sacred garment?
I always recommend a warm soak in the tub following an intense massage. Go ahead and dump in lots of epsom salts. The warmth enhances your muscles’ new-found relaxation; the salts help leach your body of the toxins that we just released. Close the door. Light some candles. Put on some soft music. Just enjoy the quiet time to yourself.
Or, better yet, find the hot pool in the photo above and dive in.
I practiced massage therapy in a studio in my home for 15 years. I called myself “Battenkill Massage” (after the famous stream that flows behind our home) and established myself with a lovely sign by the road. But since I moved my studio office into the village 4 years ago some of my clients have taken to referring to me as Cambridge’s “best kept secret” because, for one reason or another, I hadn’t arranged to have a new sign created and hung. Until now, that is. And I love it. Some things, inexplicably, just take time.
Dennis Duggan of Custom Crafted Signs, working his magic.