In every moment, you are free to choose to discover new avenues to joy. Abraham-Hicks
I Gathering the Seeds
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
I wasn’t sure the reason, but I have learned to trust my gut when it comes to movie choices. And it was The Hobbit, both the original and the sequel, and Lord of the Rings, the whole trilogy, that drew me in during the two weeks before I moved to Rochester, Minnesota for the six-week Gardening Project. It just felt good to watch them, this world of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, of hobbits and dwarves, elves and wizards, fire-breathing dragons and zombie-like orcs, a world so different from my modern day life, yet somehow familiar and true and comforting, even in its fiery violence and strife. I soaked it in, the story, the kingdoms, the characters, and I drew courage from the hobbits and their other-world companions. And I brought all this Tolkien lore with me, along with my treasure chest of talismans from friends and home. And it didn’t take long for me to really feel their presence, not Frodo, who I was sure would be an ally as I adventured forth, not the elves either, not at first; it was the dwarves, the Scottish dwarves that made their presence known. For four days, from Thursday through Sunday, these dwarves, bawdy and drunk and course, but with hearts as big as their beloved mountains, were busy digging deep. With pickaxes and sticks of dynamite, they worked their way deep into the marrow of my bones, mining for the precious baby stem cell seeds of my future.
During these four days, my modern-day life was untethered and liberated. Other than a shot in the belly each morning and another Sunday evening, I was free to roam. And with my traveling companion husband, Cam, I discovered havens that would make any hobbit happy, river paths and meadows, a quarry surrounded by tall gnarly trees with a forest floor carpeted in spring blossoms. And truly, I felt pretty good. I won’t lie, however. I wouldn’t have known they were Scottish elves if I didn’t feel them working. On my hips. My thigh bones. My sternum. In the crevices of my skull. It helped to know that these guys were mining for my future. Cam and I, in great guttural sentences, would channel these Scottish dwarves and give them voice. And sometimes, being Scottish miners and liking their grog, they would slough off for a while and give my body a rest. Through it all, however, I had no doubt that these guys had my best interest at heart.
And then yesterday morning something shifted. It was time to gather up those seeds, a job far too delicate for Scottish dwarves. I knew that this would be a task for the most tender of hands. So it was the elves I called upon. And something shifted for me inside. I had felt HUGE love for those Scottish miners, knew they were giving me all they had. Yesterday, however, it was a reverence I sensed, a holiness I felt. I didn’t sleep much. The nine thousand dollar shot that you get the night before seed gathering lists as possible side effects “weird dreams”and perhaps it was because I didn’t want weird dreams. I don’t think it was the sleep deprivation however that brought about this river of reverence. I could almost hear the holy music as I entered the sacred territory where the seeds of my future would be collected, nine million of them, enough for three transplants. But there was more. I’ve always said that this is a soul journey; it has always felt that way to me. And yet, now, this is physical, this adventure that is mine in the moment. And yesterday morning, I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop the tears, the holy tears. I got something big. And I don’t know if I have words for it.
While lying on my back in my walk-in closet yoga space, while relaxing into my practice, as I pulled my right knee up to my chest, as I pushed that knee away from my body and stirred it, I heard myself saying the words, “Stir the seeds of creativity deep in your hips; stir the seeds of new beginnings.” I’ve been saying those words to yoga students and myself for fifteen years: Well-being is your natural state. You are a Vibrational being. The vibration you resonate at influences everything. As I lay there in yoga, I felt like I was born for this moment, this adventure, to bring the confidence, the knowing of our well-being, of our vibrational nature deep inside my own body, to understand it that fully, in the marrow of my bones. To experience the metaphor physically. Vicerally. To really pay attention to how it does work — you shift your vibration; you shift everything. To be with physical symptoms. To relax into the mining of your bones. To practice energetic exercise and watch the symptoms morph and dissipate. To know how precious these seeds really are. To not take this precious body for granted. So wiping the tears away, and praying that my holy ground feeling would stay intact through all the surface chatter, my husband Cam and I set forth and walked through the threshold and into stem cell collection.
And for five-and-a-half hours, I lay there, one arm unable to move as the blood left my body, the other semi-moble as the blood pumped back in. And, in between this out-blood in-blood sequence, the stem cell-thick fluid was centifruged into little plastic bags. And I could sense them, the elves doing their delicate sorting. Right away, the collection nurses that supervised these sorted cells set me straight. The two day estimate I had been given for collection was not realistic. For the nine-and-a-half million that my doctor had ordered, you might be here for days, they said. I think I made peace with all of this, relaxing into an immobile morning of mingling.
And mingling we did. The nurses were awesome. One nurse, a Norwegian-looking woman with a thick Minnesota accent, when finding out that I was from Maine, lit up with enthusiasm. “Maine! I’ve always wanted to go to Maine! I watch a show on TV about Maine game wardens in the north woods!” I couldn’t believe it. I’ve made fun of Cam for watching this show, one of his favorites, and here, he was, as the elves sorted away in holy reverence, comparing favorite episodes with his new friend. And my main nurse, male and adorable, reminded me of a forty-five-year-old version of my high school boyfriend. He was sincere and twinkly-eyed, and the three of us, me immobile, Cam in the chair beside me, and him watching the machine and the bag of different blood things, talked and talked. He’s in the National Guard; his mother was a no-nonsense big burly Czech woman; he’s married and has two kids. And when we weren’t talking to this male nurse, Cam was reading from a recent New Yorker article about Ragnar Kjartansson, an Icelandic performance artist. We loved Ragnar, loved his performance art, loved Iceland’s creative generosity, loved the article. It energized me, this article, Ragnar’s unbridled willingness to go for it, and his creative antics. It energized both os us. We started planning out my own next piece of performance art, which, while lying there immobile seemed especially funny. And the humor and the energy gave rise to a new challenge. What to do when you’ve been lying immobile and it is now the fourth hour and you’ve been laughing so hard and you can see the clock that is barely ticking and you have to pee? Commode was always an option. But my nurse looked like my high school boyfriend with a buzz cut. So I held it. And held it. And Cam began to lisp, accidentally at first, and then on purpose, and while our nurse was behind the curtain with another gatherer, we were beyond control in hysterics. Anyway, I must have absorbed the pee because I was able to lie still as my boyfriend nurse gave me another dwarf shot in the belly to get ready for the next day’s collection, unhooked me, let me spring up for a bathroom break before final blood pressure. When we left, it came out spontaneously, “That was fun!” “That’s the first time we’ve heard that!” one nurse laughed. And that was that.
Except, for the phone call, the one the nurses promised would happen in the late afternoon with elf-collecting numbers. Cam was relaxing in the apartment; I was drinking a fabulous smoothie at the Co-op when my phone rang. It was the Maine game warden nurse. “How are you?!? she asked in her strong Minnesota accent. “Are you sitting down?!?” she continued. “You got nine-and-a-half million stem cells!” she nearly shouted into the phone. “Are you kidding me!?!” I nearly shouted back. It was as though I had won the lottery! I had resigned myself to a week of lying there immobile, trying hard not to pee. This was good news! This was really good news!!! And there is something extra delicious about unexpected good news. The dwarves mined my bones. The elves gathered the seeds with grace and ease. And I have cells for long life. Holiness and the profane mingled in a good day.
(to be continued . . .)