Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pouring salt on wounds may hurt, but it also heals

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I remember now how I got so strong.  

As I pulled the full backpack onto my shoulder, I caught a glimpse of myself in the store window.  The breeze brought reminders of an afternoon in 1970 (?) when I had taken off from the Yoga Ashram in Burbank to hitchhike up the California coastline, intent on going to Alaska.  On one of those nights hiking along Highway One with a backpack on my 22 year old frame, the breeze had been exactly the same as this day in 2014 Lancaster CA.  The strength I found trudging along the road carrying so much stuff with me was astounding even then- I think I even had a pan for cooking on open fires dangling from my waistband.  It is the same strength I have today, bringing broccoli onions and strawberries home from the weekly farmers market. 

Last July I’d been in a kind of crisis.  No food for a couple days.  Well I’d bought a jumbo veggie burrito on Tuesday, ate half of it then saved the other half for Wednesday.  Then it was Thursday and my stomach was so empty I felt like I could feel it eating itself inside my gut.  Of course I combined the endless fatigue pain and loneliness in my life to make the hunger just another horrible thing and spent a good deal of time crying.  But thing is I moved in June just blocks from all the social services a person could want right there on Sierra Highway a block up from my address. 

So after transcribing these three very weird files for my job, I had just enough time to grab my drag-along and an umbrella for the sun, and hobble over to the food bank. Turned out I was in the wrong line, so ended up being last in line for “new clients.”  It took So Long, a good 45 minutes before they finally got around to handing out the bags and I was so hungry sitting there, popping Tic-Tac mints to keep my stomach from hurting, drooling at the bags sitting in piles at the end of the room.  At one point the guy talked about services they provide there at the Grace Resource Center including "just someone to talk to if you need someone to talk to, a lot of us don't have anyone to talk to," and tears burst through my eyes.  I put on my sunglasses and sulked in the back beneath my sun visor and waited.  Endlessly waited.  If I’d brought my cane I could have gone sooner, they let people with canes go first along with wheelchairs.  But since I don't have a car, I pulled a suitcase instead, my drag-along.  So I had to wait longer.  

Acting the same as when I was in Elgin waiting for May 31st to come so I could leave, this sense I get of riding the Earth as it goes around another time and days tick off, then riding the Earth as it turns through another hour, another day.  At the food bank, I waited while they called all the people who were in front of me, and I was so hungry, so hungry. 

It turned out they gave such a huge amount of food that it was really heavy, like thirty pounds, lots of canned goods, a huge bottle of grapefruit juice GRAPEFRUIT JUICE!!!  Mostly it's pasta and rice and oatmeal which is all I really wanted.

When I got my bags, two Mexican guys were helping me load them into my suitcase, as well as the backpack which I had emptied before leaving that morning.  I filled every inch of space with canned goods and this bag they put in that turned out to have about 8 12=ounce bottles of diet Dr. Pepper, that if I’d known I’d have turned it down, but instead that was just a small part of the suitcase full of juices and canned goods, then my backpack had pasta and rice and beans and this raw pizza dough that I may cook tonight PLUS a little plastic carton of Gazpacho and a big sack of day-old donuts which are now in the freezer. 

As I lifted the backpack over my shoulder and pulled the suitcase behind me, the little Mexican boy seemed concerned, then watched me throw the weights on my back and hobble away.  I said, “Muy fuerte,” while flexing my arms and he laughed out loud. 

I pulled those pounds of food home the three blocks of Mojave desert noontime sunbaked sidewalk and was so happy to have that food in my stomach, first thing I ate was a donut. 

This apartment I have now in Lancaster is the nicest place I've lived in almost my entire life, dating as far back as Hollywood in the 1960s when rents were really cheap.  I had an apartment in 1967 on Hollywood Boulevard, the part west of Fairfax that begins the climb into Laurel Canyon, a beautiful place.  I shared a two-bedroom with a girl from Australia and we had new comfortable furniture, even though neither one of us had full time jobs.

Went by there in 2010 and it's priced so high I can't even consider living there.  

How was I able to do that then and not now?

This strength that seems to be in my DNA amazes me at age sixty-five.  Like when I was in West Virginia two years ago, near where this photo was taken. 

I got bitten by something, probably a spider.  I don't know when I got bitten, just discovered the bite.

On the front of my leg above the knee appeared this huge mucous-filled four inch diameter pimple, a bulbous fluid-filled infection on my skin.  It was pulsating red inflamed, full of puss that wanted to burst out so bad it pushed against the skin making it almost purple.  I've had infections like this before.  In L.A. I picked up something from homeless friends that would appear now and then in my arm pit looking much like this thing on my leg, pulsating inflamed and full of puss.  In L.A. when it happened, I either took a needle to it or went to a doctor but now I was living in this strange place surrounded by strangers.  I’d heard there was a hospital with an out-patient clinic about a mile up the hill but I hadn’t seen it yet.

I didn't have the heart to take a needle to the massive thing and drain it.

So I used salt. 

I poured salt, right out of the shaker onto the infectious bubbling skin several times a day for a few weeks.  Slowly, just a small amount each day, the green stuff oozed out, bit by bit day by day  I'd clean it and pour on more salt. 

And it HUUUUUURRTT

But I had no way to get to a doctor.  I was in this little town in West Virginia where I knew nobody and nobody wanted to know me.  I had no car and there was no way to get anywhere but those few square blocks of the little town where I had been stranded.  

So I salted my wound and lived with the pain for weeks

But it did heal.  The salt drew all the infection out and there’s not even a scar today.  I felt so smart and tough and strong when I got through to the other side of that experience. 

Lying on the 2-inch mattress in that “furnished” apartment in Appalachia, it was already hard to turn over in bed without getting a wire coil in your hip, but it was nothing compared to the throbbing pain on my leg from that spider bite. 

I don't think there’s a human being on earth who is as isolated as I was that year in West Virginia, unless they wanted to be, like a unabomber wannabe, or a Louisiana bayou man shooting strangers who come near his tree house.  I'm no hermit. 

I do not want to ever be by myself that much ever again. 

-ke

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