I look back on the dusty trail. The footprints are mine. I walk here for the first time in 34 days. The last time I walked here I was descending into a near-fatal episode of low sodium. My journal entry from August 1: …followed by a moderate headache…my neck hurts – muscle hurt. I stopped on Old Munds Highway, walked on the little social trail and thanked the sacred Trees. It was beautiful, gray-black storm clouds in the east and west; vivid green grasses; colors saturated; silence around me except for a few low thunder rumbles. The head pain and discouragement are letting (missing word). The sky is pale blue with gray and white clouds. Thank you.
August 2: 1:45 a.m. I’m terrified…I’m scared I have meningitis. My fear began with a headache and stiff neck. I threw up. I can’t calm myself.
My friend took me to the ER that day. The doctor didn’t order the right tests and sent me home. Sometime between August 3 and August 5, I passed out from low sodium and lay on the floor near my desk for at least a day. Now, I have my scrawled words in my journal as evidence, evidence that will do no good legally. I’ve talked with three lawyers. Each told me that I was too healthy for a law suit against the hospital or the negligent doctor. “I have no doubt that the doc was negligent,” one of the paralegals told me, “but the damages wouldn’t be high enough.”
I walk the dusty trail. The colors of the grass, the flowers, the trees gone gold in the sunset are as brilliant as they were the last time I walked here. I press my hands into the rough edges of the old hollow stump. “Thank you,” I say, “for still being here.” I lean carefully on the big old downed Ponderosa. “I’m back,” I say. “And I’ll be back again.”
I walk to the dirt road and turn around. The sun drops to just above the dark tree line. I walk carefully back to my car, touch the downed pine again, the hollow stump and say goodnight. I look back on the trail, see my footprints and know what to do. While I am physically better, my fear isn’t. I will need the picture of my beautiful footprints to remind me that I am healing – and to remind me where I can go – as long as I can walk – for my deepest medicine. I need the evidence. And, once I’ve taken the picture, I understand I need the evidence to put out to others.
And you? What is your evidence? What do you carry with you to remember that you are alive? Please send us a half hour’s writing.
Here is Lynette Sheppard in response to a butterfly/milkweed picture prompt:
Two people are on their first date. One of them hands the other the picture attached and says, “You may not know this, but inside the Milkweed is a sticky white sap that contains a mild poison. Monarch butterfly larvae are immune to this toxin. By feeding on their leaves, they are able to accumulate enough poison to make them distasteful to predators.” Write what is said and happens next – for at least twenty minutes.
Leialoha glanced sideways at the tall, blond man as they meandered through the meadow. She’d been sure they were kindred spirits when she read his profile.“Single haole guy with dream job at InterIsland Land Trust seeks local girl for friendship, sharing, and open to possibility of more. Loves the ocean, long walks, and Hawaiian food. Okay, just kidding about the food, but crazy about Hawaiian music.”
They’d communicated via email and decided on an upcountry walk for their first “date.” Now they dodged spiky thistles and wild blackberry bushes as they walked. They exchanged the who, what, wheres of their lives so far. Lei was anxious to get past the necessary history and discover the whys of this man.
The sun caressed her shoulders with warmth. Backlit skeins of rain floated down the mountain heading for the sea. Bees droned and butterflies flitted from blossom to blossom. Pairs of monarchs were joined in midair. “Hey look, Darren. Butterfly porn.” Lei blushed. “I mean butterflies are mating and laying their eggs on the crown flower plants.”
“Milkweed is an invasive species, you know. We are doing our best to eradicate it on the Land Trust acreage.” He smiled. His teeth reminded her of Mano the shark deity.
“Of course, but if we got rid of all the milkweed, what would the pulelehua, the butterflies eat?” Lei’s tone was measured, just the way she had learned in school, even though she could hear her blood begin pounding in her ears.
“Oh I don’t dispute that the monarchs are marvelously adaptive.” He pulled a photo from his pocket. “See here? You may not know this, but inside the Milkweed is a sticky white sap that contains a mild poison. Monarch butterfly larvae are immune to this toxin. By feeding on their leaves, they are able to accumulate enough poison to make them distasteful to predators.”
Lei grabbed a leaf on a white blossomed plant and turned it over. Tiny white dots mimicked the pattern on photo he still holds. “See these? These are babies. There are songs written about them – they have a place and a history now.”
“But my point is,” Darren said, “they shouldn’t be here. They don’t belong. We need to abolish the invasive species to make room for natives to thrive again.”
Lei pressed her lips together. “ Uh huh,” she said.
She looked up at the tall blonde. His sunburned forehead was just beginning to peel. She rolled her shoulders and sauntered ahead through the unkempt field. Might as well enjoy the rest of this first and last date.