an auspicious solstice

Happy Solstice to all those near and far and dear to me. I'm preparing to go outside in about half an hour, start a fire in the chiminea and sit back with a glass of whiskey and watch this rare solstice, total lunar eclipse. I'll be by myself, but I'll be thinking of all of you, and preparing for a new and better year.

In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy this holiday card I made. Some have been printed up and sent to family and friends. If you click on the picture, it will take you to my flickr page. Click on "Actions" above the picture and then, "All sizes" to see a larger version or the original (really large) size.

polarbearcard 2010

Happy Solstice everyone!

on becoming a patient

For weeks I've been thinking there was something wrong w/my GI tract. Pain, up high, mostly on the left side under my ribs. What's there? Heart, lung, spleen, part of the stomach and pancreas. But pain can be referred, so possibly any of the major organs that are jammed up in there. Everything I tried seemed to make no difference, going on a blandish diet, lots of nicely cooked leafy things, home cooked soups, nettle infusions, carrot juice. Soothing herbs for the tummy like slippery elm, catnip, chickweed. Dandelion, milk thistle, yellow dock for the liver...nothing seemed to make a difference. So, finally, in desperation, I go to the doctor. She did blood work and ordered an ultra sound of the abdomen. Everything seemed fairly normal except for some fatty deposits on the liver. I promptly quit drinking alcohol. She suggested I see a gut specialist, but none of them could see me for before December.

Then, yesterday, the whole area seized up. I could not move without severe, spasmodic pain. I couldn't breathe, laugh or cry or even draw, type or drive. Walking my neighbor's dog or going to my sculpture class were right out. The doctor said to get myself to the ER.

The last time I went to the emergency room, I had broken my foot. The place was packed with damaged limbs, broken heads, ice packs and compresses spilling out into the hallway. I hopped over to the reception desk, leaned over some bruised and bleeding people trying to see what was on the television across the hall, and asked, "How long is the wait?" The receptionist said, "I don't know how long you will be waiting, but see that woman in the chair over there? She's next in line. She's been waiting three and a half hours and no one has seen her yet." I hopped back over to the door and told Brni, "Take me home. I can fix my foot myself."

No such luck this time. At noon, the ER was practically empty and they took me back within minutes. Once through the locking security doors that swing open towards you after an authorized person swipes their card (homeland security has hit suburban hospitals), you are a patient. I'm not sure doctors, nurses, lab techs, and physician assistants ever talk to each other, because every one of them had to ask me the same things including, "What's your name?" "What's your date of birth?" "Why are you here instead of at your sculpture class?"

I understand the need to make sure that the right patient is being treated for the right problem, but the damned wrist bracelet and the chart on the wall, k?"

Anyway, because of all the organs and such all jammed up in my painful abdomen, and the fact that the pain is mostly on the left side, I get to have an IV stuck in my arm (after 4 tries--my veins were "flat"), blood syphoned off, lots of leads glued to my chest and am hooked up to a monitor so that anyone and their brother can see my heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure. I am obviously not having a heart attack since the nurse kept muttering, "Wish I had that heart rate." This does not stop them from doing an EKG.

*did you all know that saline solution pushed into a vein tastes briny? kind of a cool mouth rush. yeah, i get my kicks where i can*

Being a patient means that you get to wait. You wait to be seen. You wait for test results. You wait for nurses, techs, doctors and bad news or most likely, befuddledness, but mostly you wait to find out whether you get to go home or not.

After about two hours my blood work came back and showed that I had a possible blood clot in the lung. Okay, I wasn't waiting for THAT. Hey, I was thinking a blockage, pancreatitis, a tumor somewhere, but blood clots? People die from that. So, next up, Xray of the chest and then a CT scan of the chest and abdomen, but not before I get results telling them my kidneys are okay because you can't inject contrast dye into someone with fucked up kidneys. So we wait...and wait...and wait. We wait until 5:20 because some little old lady drove her car into the back of some other car, biting down on her tongue, causing a traumatic event that backed up the lab and the CT scanner. I know this despite Hipaa privacy rules.


Contrast dye is cool. In fact, despite the massive dose of radiation from CT scanners, the whole CT thing was weirdly interesting, reminding me of something out of a SciFi 3000 lab. The thing is a big, white, shiny donut, seemingly suspended in the cleanest room I've ever seen. For some reason, there is a happy face and a frowny face on it. They light up. The very personable tech, Joe, transfers me from the gurney to the sliding CT table, which is made up like a very low, white massage table complete with poofy pillow and knee wedge, all the while regaling me with humorous tequila drinking stories. Joe then hooks me up to the contrast dye infusion apparatus, which consists of two clear glass containers with spiral tubing coming out of them (I really like the spiral tubing--nice touch).

Joe leaves to go sit behind a distant glass wall. The little massage table starts moving back and forth, the donut starts to hum and whirl, the frowny face flashes and Joe cautions me to alternately breathe and hold my breath. A light starts flashing over one of the glass containers and then the telltale mouth rush of saline hits. After that, the light on the other container flashes. There's a burning and pressure in my arm, then a seriously warm flush starts at the top of my head and flows down my body to my genitals, which for all the world feels as if I've just wet myself. And then the feeling is gone, the bed is no longer moving and the donut stops whirling. I have not wet myself.

After another 30 or 40 minutes, the results are in. No blood clots. No heart problems. No problems with any of my organs. No idea what is causing my pain. Seven hours after becoming a patient, I am released back into the world with 15 percocet, orders not to lift anything, and to see my doctor in a day or two.

I wonder how long it will take me to pee out the dye.

ghosts, herbs, biting burros

I tend not to board planes to go places, but when we had to cancel our road trip to take care of my sister, I had no choice but to go to the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference by airship. Happily, the flights to and from were uneventful (though I lost half my potions when the security dudes decided to stick the one quart baggie rule on me. But being so high from the conference still, nothing so minor as the one quart rule could bring me down. A week later, I'm still feeling the love.

The conference was held at the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM, former home of Georgia O'Keefe. The weekend was filled with an amazing, feral energy that imbued an already enchanting landscape with a magic that only herbalists and wizards can conjure. Organized by Kiva Rose, Jesse Wolf Hardin and Resolute, the conference brought together an array of herbalists from all over the country. The featured presenters were Rosemary Gladstar, Matthew Wood, Phyllis Hogan, Kiva Rose, Paul Bergner, Charles Garcia, Phyllis Light, Jesse Wolf Hardin, 7Song, Jim McDonald and Howie Brounstein. There were many other guest presenters as well as vendors and three nights of amazing music performed by Flamenco World Company, Tina Collins & Her Pony and the now official TWH band, Rising Appalachia.

Two incredible teachers who inspired me are Kiva Rose and the uproariously humorous 7Song.
kiva-7song closeup

And of course, Jesse Wolf Hardin. I had an image of him as serious and unapproachable, but in fact, he's a very huggable and goofy guy with an astounding and inspiring message for all of us. I hope to visit The Anima Center one day to spend time with and learn more from Wolf, Kiva, and the rest of their family.

Going to New Mexico is going home for me. I lived there for almost a decade back in the 60s and 70s. My body feels good in the high desert and my mind feels at ease under that big, expansive sky. I had my first born there. It's where I hope to be when I die.

I'd never been to the Ghost Ranch when I lived in New Mexico -- had never ventured that far north. Unlike Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the northern Spanish land grant region has not been built up and run over with malls, markets and trendy shops. On my way to the ranch I had to pull over several times to photograph the land. Here are some shots off I-25 North.


With its spectacular mountains and rock formations, unobstructed by tall buildings, populated by ravens, vultures and little blue-tail lizards, I spent a lot of time catching my breath in awe. For a visual artist, this country is simply astounding. I understand why Georgia O'Keefe kept a home there. Add to that, the energy generated by the conference, the experience was awe-inspiring.

This mesa dominates the ranch.

During the conference, I made notes of places I wanted to revisit and photograph. I like to take photos after an event for some reason, as if catching echoes. Wherever you turn on the ranch, you find little surprises, if you look for them.

Here's a sweet adobe bench with surprises inlaid on the back.



A very tall carving of St. Francis.

Chimes to pleasure the birds and burros.


A labyrinth! The first I've ever walked. I built a small altar for my sister on one of the center stones.

Things are wonderfully low-tech on the ranch. No cell reception and I refused to bring the tiny laptop my husband so sweetly offered. So, here are some "road signs." Who needs a GPS?

One of the guest houses.

The dining hall.

This friendly, old swayback would follow a person closely, allowing pets and nuzzles, but really just wanting some food. When she determined no food was available, she'd follow someone else.

A pretty corner in the old "Ghost House."

An irrepressible cottonwood.

Where I slept on the "upper mesa."

My bed -- packing to go home.

One view from my room.

And in the other direction, this is the first thing I saw in the morning.

raccoon music

There are sixteen raccoons in rehab at this time. Deb told me that she usually has at least 30 raccoons during baby season. She has no idea right now why the numbers are so low, but we're hoping it's because the mamas are not being killed. There are also three groundhogs and two foxes. No skunks yet.

The raccoons vary in age from around 5 - 8 weeks. Today I found out that an 8 week old raccoon is almost a different animal from a 5 week old raccoon. They are hugely bigger, intensely more curious and they have a finer appreciation for music and stuffed animals. They are just as squirmy, but with more teeth and sharper claws, squirmy is a bit more painful. We wear surgical style gloves while handling the little dears, and today, they shredded three pairs. I finally gave up and just wore the shreds.

Raccoons are very intelligent and probably the most tactile animals I've ever handled. They not only want to touch everything, they need to touch and be touched. They need toys, interesting sights and sounds and they need incredible amounts of social interaction. If a lone baby comes in, we hope for another of the same age so that they can be cage-mates. Baby raccoons need to be close to each other. They need family. A lonely raccoon is a sad sight indeed. We try to give them extra attention, but it's just not the same as being with a littermate.

The lucky thing for us about raising raccoons is that we can lavish all sorts of love and attention on them without worry that they will imprint on us. They recognize their caretakers as okay sorts of animals, but they don't bond with us. They wild up really quick once they are moved outside. When they are released, they leave wild and don't seek out humans. So we humans, as temporary caretakers, get to coo and ahh and cuddle our raccoons with abandon. Which is good because we can't do that with skunks or foxes or most other critters because they do imprint on us and if that happens, state law dictates that they must be destroyed.

Yes, there is a bitter pill with all this. And more bitter are the babies who come to us in bad shape. We had two babies dropped off today that had been on their own for 7 days. Mom must have been killed, because raccoon moms never leave their babies for more than an hour at a time. Why the humans who found them left them on their own this long without calling is a mystery. The poor dears were starving, extremely weak, covered in fly eggs and literally being eaten alive by maggots. No hope for these two. So today, I witnessed my first release by euthanasia. It was terribly sad, but humanely done, with tenderness, love and respect.

Yes, there is the bitter downside.

But I also helped feed sixteen babies, was purred and trilled at, pawed, sniffed, had my fingers sucked on, and witnessed raccoons making music on toy pianos.

There is magic as well.

treading miles through gulfs of oil

I have been very dissatisfied with myself of late. Before my back went out, I was fairly active, going to my martial arts school two or three times a week and going to two different styles of yoga twice a week: Ashtanga yoga and a gentle Kripalu yoga. I could walk miles without breaking a sweat and my doctor once told me I had the lung capacity of a marathon runner.

Then the back started to deteriorate. I don't know why. It could have been a long ago diving accident or maybe I was just blessed with the bad "saboe" back that plagued my dad and others in our family. At any rate, I slowly had to give up Ashtanga yoga, then my TaeKwonDo/Karate/Aikido classes, then lastly my gentle yoga classes. I lived on percocet until my surgery, at which point I felt I'd been given a second chance.

My surgery was successful. I could walk again, and even though I was left with painful nerve damage in the right leg/foot, I was so much better that the nerve pain wasn't more than an annoyance. Even so, I soon realized I would not be able to resume martial arts training or any sort of vigorous yoga practice. My surgeon recommended Pilates, which I began doing with wonderful results. Really strengthened my core, but did nothing for the weight gain that came with the decrease in my activity level. Eventually, I had to give it up due to the expense (why is Pilates so expensive?). I tried walking, but honestly, I dislike walking in my neighborhood because it is very hilly here and even with the bolts in my back, inclines == severe back pain. Then I got hold of a stationary bike. ouchouchouch. The seat just hit me in the wrong place, causing pain in my lower back and legs. All this fitness failure has been making me very despondent.

A couple years ago, my aunt downsized and sold my sister her treadmill. Lori's experience with the treadmill mirrored mine with the bike, so a few days ago we did a fitness equipment trade and I think this will work for me. I've vowed to do at least 1 mile a day to start, and have even found a way to mitigate the boredom of walking in place in the basement -- C-SPAM!! -- er, I mean C-Span!!

Yes, I take my laptop down to the basement, balance it on a big box on top of an old tv-tray and then log onto C-Span and watch congresscritters grill BP, Transocean, and the rest of the culprits. Today, I did a mile and a half in what seemed to be no time. I'm up to where the tar balls hit the Florida keys.

I have a feeling that with the help of Congress, I will finally lose this post-surgery weight.

of dogs and parrots

Sometimes my animals are just too cute for words.

When the weather is nice, Loki will go out on the deck, choose one of her balls, and then sit there, ball in mouth, waiting for one of us to notice that she'd like to play. She will wait for quite some time, as she has the patience of a saint.
Loki waits patiently

Milo likes to hang out at the front window, watching the neighbors.

Milo at the window

The two seem to like each other. One day, Milo was perched on his cage door, eating a snow pea. Loki likes to sit under him and wait for crumbs. This time, Loki reached up and gently took the pea from Milo's beak. Milo didn't seem to mind as nary a feather was ruffled. He just went inside and got another pea. That's one picture I regret not getting.

I can hardly believe that Loki is 9 years old and Milo is 24.

Dragon Shirts!

So, I decided to make up some t-shirts over on Zazzle with the different dragon illustrations. The shirts also have the listing of contributing authors on the back. If you click on the link below the pictures, it will take you right to the shirts in my Zazzle store. Two shirts are shown below, but there are seven in total for the Dragon's Lure illustrations.

Support your local starving artist! Buy dragon shirts!

Dragon's Lure shirt
Dragon's Lure by lindasaboe
Many more t-shirts online at