Eight years ago today saw one of the worst days of my life. The last two months had become an ever increasing nightmare as life started to plunge into the icy depths of serious illness. With chronic fatigue making it increasingly difficult to work even part time and chemical sensitivities springing up like wild flowers in some twisted tormented garden, my world was definitely crashing down around my ears.
It all began from something in an apartment I rented. Whether it was from a toxic mold problem I had apparently brought with me from my last rental or from some other toxic chemical source inside the apartment, it hardly matters all these years later. But on this very day in 2001, it mattered greatly because whatever was causing my health to dramatically drop, it was now all too evident it had also soaked every single belonging I owned turning each beloved item into what was beginning to feel like a little bit of hell when around them.
The nature of this illness left others able to still use the things I owned, as I saw when a friend came with me to the storage locker I had rented in the hope of one day soon recovering and reclaiming all that was mine. It was during this trip that I came to a horrifying revelation. Although others had no trouble from being near any of the treasures I had gathered in my life, I had become so sensitive to each one’s remaining toxic soup that I could no longer be within even twenty feet of them. And so out of desperation, a plan was formed to cut my losses, which were daily growing larger, and try to restart from scratch. Hoping maybe my illness was being caused by the trappings of my former life that I had continued to hold on to and that once removed entirely, as one would do with a rapidly spreading cancer, my health would have a chance to recover.
Eight years ago today was a Saturday. It was the worst Saturday of my life and I hope it remains that way. With an inner strength I did not know I possessed, this day saw me holding a yard sale of my once normal life and everything that had ever been in it. Strangers pawed through my belongings while looking for fabulous deals that they could brag about to friends and family later. I had started the day with at most a hundred dollars to my name and so with a great weight in my heart I haggled each price higher, for I knew my only options for rebuilding would come from having the money to do so.
Eight years ago was my birthday, as it is again today. A birthday of great loss and sorrow, spent with vultures and hyenas feasting on the wreckage of my healthy life.
Today will be different. There is already more hope and happiness than I have had in years. Some early birthday wishes from friends I have only recently made is adding a sweet reminder that I am becoming human again. It seemed last night that even the woods around me sent out a shout of greeting just after midnight as animal after animal briefly called out into the dark night around me before quieting again as though nothing had occurred. That was one of the more odd things I think I have heard all these years in the forest. Deer, owl, coyotes and a raccoon all within mere moments of each other, outside and raising a ruckus each in their own turn, it was very odd indeed.
And in one of those rare moments when you see fate’s quirky sense of timing, yesterday saw what seems to be an almost unbelievable miracle. I received word that a letter I had sent to the NW EcoBuilding Guild was being taken seriously, that my request for help to finish my home and leave this tent had not fallen upon deaf ears. I do not know what will become of this; I only know they read my words and have passed them on to others to read as well. But the hope blazing in my chest is a vastly more wondrous feeling than the despair of so many years ago.
Today is indeed a very Happy Birthday for me filled with much anticipation and excitement for life and what the next year may bring.
After living in these woods for five years, I had thought I had seen just about everything nature would throw my way. I have seen four foot snows dropped in three days, rain torrents that last for weeks without more than the briefest of breaks, and winds rattling the tree tops around me in a cacophony of sound. None of these can compare to the three furiously driven squirrels that have made their home in the trees surrounding us this summer.
Each spends his days collecting coniferous cones in preparation for the long winter months to come. Sometimes they will sit low in a tree, skillfully stripping each individual scale off the cone and leaving a shower of debris on the ground below them. Inevitably, one will stray into the other’s kingdom of branches and a chase begins. They spiral around a tree trunk in frenzy, their little claws making loud scrabbling noises on the bark, until finally the intruder escapes with a daring leap from one tree to the next and jauntily scampers away.
All this would be very entertaining to watch were my nerves not raw and my eyelids heavy from yet another morning awoken by the piercing voices of these very same critters.
Sleep. The nectar of life when you have CFS. Without proper sleep life slowly grinds to a halt. On a daily basis you will see your projects decline, needed tasks sit half finished while you start walking around in a zombie stupor of sleep deprivation.
With the first hint of dawn of the horizon, all the squirrels of the forest wake and greet each other with an intensity unlike any other. You can hear their greeting sweep through the woods, an approaching wave of chatter breaking the silence of night as it crests upon my sleep and continues on. As if by their very cries they could banish the night and bring in another day for gathering.
Never before have they woke us up like this day after day.
I am a semi nocturnal creature by habit and by need. The squirrels are strictly creatures of the light and they make sure to drag me into the new day with them every morning during their daily greetings of the new dawn. My flimsy tent window does nothing to diminish their voracious cries.
Oh how I long for the days when I will be able to once again sleep past day break with a secure knowledge that nothing shrill will be shouting at the tops of its little furry lungs, ”GOOD MORNING WORLD – STAY AWAY FROM MY TREES!!!”