“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 60: The Deep Root Cure

Yesterday I woke up with a headache.  I get them on the days I take Zoe for chemo, and they usually linger the day afterward.  It's no big deal.  They're just like some bad weather I'm moving through.  A lot of people get headaches.

It's odd, though, because I didn't grow up as a headache sufferer.  I only started getting them regularly this past summer, before we knew Zoe was sick.  When I took her to two vets to find out why she was limping, and they both said she was fine, but maybe had a touch of arthritis, the headaches got worse.  I got two whopping migraines--my first ever--the week before that Saturday when, on an impulse, I took her to the Canton Animal Hospital, where she wasn't a patient, and asked them to x-ray Zoe's leg before I knew what I was going to say.  Ever since we got the diagnosis, the migraines haven't come back.  Just the milder malaise headaches on chemo days.

If you've been following the posts in this corner, you might have sensed that this week for me was kind of intense.  I wanted to have a relaxing Saturday, but I also wanted to see if I could cure the headache without taking anything.  It was a challenge because I carry around Ibuprofen in my purse so it's always there when I need it.  I'm not a purist about these things, but I was attending a workshop on balancing one's energy, taught by two lovely sisters, Jan and Julie, and I thought that maybe I could put the workshop to the test and get to the root of the imbalance without just treating the symptoms.  And then after the workshop, I was going to take two students I have deep roots with, Lettie and Scott, to a party at Deep Root Farm.  It seemed like a good convergence of forces for experimenting with natural remedies.

A year ago December, my students and I ate a chicken at my house that Lettie and Scott had helped raise and slaughter at Deep Root Farm.

At the energy workshop, we started with a meditation I have done for years.  You picture deep roots growing down from your spine into the earth. That always takes away my excess nervous energy. Then you picture branches growing up through your body, out your head, that reach to the stars.

Jan and Julie
Jan told me at that the sixth chakra, which governs intuition, could be the source of the headaches.  Sensing something is wrong even when others are telling you all is well will certainly give you a pain in the head, even if you don't go in for this kind of thinking.

Halfway through the workshop, my headache began to lift.  The delicious, earthy red lentil soup and homemade bread that Ann made us for lunch helped too.  And I drank a lot of tea and water.

Then it was time to meet Scott and Lettie.  They were waiting for me in the parking lot of the bookstore at St. Lawrence University.  I love these students, and seeing them also reminds me of places I have been with them--excursions deep into the country up here with Lettie and her classmates from a first-year-seminar I taught called Widely Traveled in the North Country--and adventures in Quebec City and Rouen and Paris and Dakar with Scott and the students who traveled with me on the France program.  (To read Lettie's lovely prose, See Day 8: Lettie Discovers the Zen of Orange- Eating.  See Day 45: An American Dog in the City of Light, Part I, where Scott has a walk-on part.)

Lettie and Scott
But I still had the ghost of the headache when we arrived at the party, even though the drive was so lovely, out into the deep country, on a road I'd never been on before, past pastures of horses, and tree canopies laden with fresh snow. 

The cure crept up on me before I knew it.  I loved talking to Mike and Maria Corse, who own Deep Root Farm, and their son, Ian, who, at age 17, has already written a novel, which he was happy to turn into a 750-word story, because he gets that you have to cut/cut/cut and let go to be a good writer.  Val, my massage therapist was there.  And it was great to catch up with Lettie and Scott and other former students like Maddie and Mike and Claire.  Mia, who went to to France in the group Scott was in, came in from sledding and we were happy and surprised to see each other.  She volunteers for Campus Kitchens, which serves free suppers to hungry people in our community on Monday nights.  They get some of their food from Deep Root Farm, and Maria helps them.

Claire wants to be a farmer, as do a lot of this group's friends.  I spoke to an English major I'd never met before about the meditation class I'm taking, which she is going to take next month.  Some of us went outside and watched children skating on a pond, and watched the last of a bonfire become coal, and we checked out all the greenhouses where seedlings will get started soon.  And naturally we had a good talk with the chickens.

Scott, Lettie, Maddie, Ian

Deep Root Farm chickens

a new greenhouse at Deep Root Farm

We saw a lovely bird with blue markings and a white breast, and we all tried to guess what kind it was, but didn't know
Before we left, Scott and Lettie and I each had a mug of Mike's homemade soup.  He had made it with kale and squash that grew in these gardens we had just walked through.  It was so delicious, so nourishing, and it made me feel, for lack of a better word, balanced.  When we left the house, it was hard to believe I'd ever had a headache, or might ever get one again.

Then, homeward bound, and a gentle walk with Zoe across the river and back.  We looked at each other often on that walk.  She is always a bit subdued after chemo days, a little tired, and I am too.  I asked her when we should stop and she told me with just a slight nod of the head. When interspecies communication works, it always seems like it's the simplest thing in the world.

Sometimes what we need is very simple, so elemental.  To feel rooted to this earth.  Warm soup with legumes and vegetables that grew near the place where you are eating it.  The company of people who are kind and who are trying to plant themselves in a community where they can grow and be part of other people's growth.

Sometimes we don't have to travel very far or do very much to get what we need to cure what ails us.


  1. a great recipe to be 'home'
    deliciously sublime

  2. That sounds like such a lovely day!

    I started getting migraines when I was college-age, and I've found the key to preventing them is self-care. For me, this includes a vegan diet, getting enough sleep on a regular basis, alleviating stress with exercise, daily meditation, spending time outdoors, and spending time with close friends. Travel sometimes can put me on the edge of a migraine (my head does not like the pressure inside airplanes and my body hates hotel rooms where you can't open the windows), but I've found some tricks, like taking a nap to ward off a migraine or running hot water over my hands and feet.

    So yeah, your cure fits in with my experiences exactly.

    1. Hi Jo(e) I think I wrote you back privately to thank you for these great remedies, but if not, thank you again! I just went through them again. Great advice.

  3. Such a lovely afternoon! It healed me too :)

  4. A refreshing read, thank you. I am a brain aneurysm hemorrhage survivor and childhood friend of Mike and Maria. I too struggle with migraines and have a special bond with animals. I enjoy the pleasant peaceful feeling while photographing wildflowers and nature. It is my release from stress through the lens of my camera. I feel for you and Zoe. Please accept my blessings and prayers for a long life and full recovery for Zoe as well as your continued success into the exploration of natural relief of your headache pain.

    1. Dear Ray,
      I just wanted to thank you for your kind words. Thanks for reading my post. I'm so glad you get release from stress through the lens of your camera. I love learning more about mine. It's so new. Thank you so much for this note.

  5. You are most welcome Natalia. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts. Your writings capture a perspective which is so therapeutic for me. I look forward to more great writing.
    Thanks again for sharing.