Country living, and art

People who know me also know I was affected in a devastating way by Levaquin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. The syndrome that results is called FQT or FQAD. It’s progressively disabling, unless identified and treated to minimize symptoms. And it’s very hard to identify. Many doctors are unaware of it, and at this time still blithely prescribe fluoroquinolones as a quick fix for any kind of infection, despite the FDA’s black box warning to the contrary.

FQT has some pretty severe effects on the mind. One has to do with fear of death.

The biggest psychological barrier for me, with FQT, is seeing that a long road ahead still exists for me. FQT has a wacky mix of floating, pop-up symptoms. They keep me guessing all the time, teaching me to take baby steps and hold my eyes close to a limited forward path.

Well, that works when it comes to learning how to hold back with movement therapy and getting enough rest in. And in fact, it is the only way to handle movement therapies, without incurring tendon and muscle damage that makes one more disabled.

But it’s a fearful, disheartening and counterproductive approach, when it comes to understanding oneself as a individual who has the right to life – and a joyful one, at that.

More than a year ago, I had a numinous dream, that included a turtle embedded in muddy, red earth outside a bluestone doorstep and path belonging to a cottage I was living in, in the dream. The turtle was pale – almost translucent – and green – with a look as if it was made of jade, or celadon-glazed porcelain.

I looked up the meaning of turtle in dream, yesterday. The online “Dream Dictionary” said this:

“A dream with a turtle symbolizes motherhood, fertility, wisdom, shelter, loyalty, spiritual development and longevity. … The dream may also imply that you are going through a slow period in your life, or you need to take things slow or be more patient and progress at a steady pace in some part of your waking life.”

I like the longevity part. I’m already doing the patient, slow part.

In the dream, it was my task to gently work the turtle out of the mud so it wouldn’t suffocate.

It was significant in the dream that the earth was muddy and red, and the turtle was pale green.

Here’s what Dream Dictionary says about mud:

“To dream that you are walking in mud suggests that you are feeling weighed down by a situation, problem, or relationship. You are feeling frustrated. To dream that mud has gotten on your clothing means that your reputation is being attacked and called into question.”

Here’s what Dream Dictionary says about red:

“Red is an indication of raw energy, force, vigor, intense passion, aggression, power, courage, impulsiveness and passion. The color red has deep emotional and spiritual connotations. Consider the phrase “seeing red” to denote anger. Alternatively, the color red in your dream indicates a lack of energy.”

Here is what Dream Dictionary says about green:

“Green can often mean “go”, such as power on button or a traffic light. Green can symbolize newness and freshness. It can also symbolize money, wealth, riches, and prosperity.”

These symbolic interpretations of the mud, turtle and two colors express what’s in conflict in my life, right now.

Also in the dream, across the road from the cottage was a huge warehouse filled with art supplies. It was all mine (spoken with a Gollum-like joyful, greedy cackle). It was red, too, as was the interior of the cottage. My sense in the dream was that I had more wealth (artistically) than I knew – I was surprised that the warehouse was there, that it was mine, and that it was fully stocked. I also had a sense that that wealth would always be available, that there was no strong urgency to cross the road and take things from the warehouse, as yet.

While this is all symbolic, it’s also playing out in my life, in profound ways, right now.

When I had the dream, I could barely interpret it.

Now it seems like the story of my future.

I have work to do – with, and on, myself – to take myself to a *new* place where I will be doing thing I’ve wanted to do all my life, but didn’t have a way to achieve.

So, now, I’m grimly hopeful that there’s a long road ahead for me, and that I can live, and be healthy enough to walk that journey, and get the turtle out of the mud, and cross the road and get the things I need to make art, and welcome people into a warm-interiored country cottage with a stone path and doorstep.

A year ago, I’d have said you were nuts, if you’d proposed I’d be seeing life like that now.

Bearsville Pop-Up

This is what’s happening now:

  • Rain, fine yet driving hard, a misty veil that shifts and sparkles in the sun.
  • Wind in the trees at two levels, like two thicknesses of silk, one of organza being quietly folded, the other of taffeta in the hands of someone who wants to shred it and throw it away.
  • Thunder to the west.
  • Leaves flipped by the wind.
  • Blue sky behind fast-moving clouds.
  • Birds never quiet, bees unafraid.
  • The background hiss of a stream broken by groups of stones, memorials to ancient ice-sheet retreat.

This is: a sudden storm, shaped by the knotted peaks and valleys of two mountains, here, in the rumpled Catskills.

Below the storm is: me, and this place where I live.

Last night some animal screamed for minutes at a time. I don’t know what it was. I heard it last year at about the same time, and was scared then. This time I was respectful.

A bluejay flies into an apple tree’s darkened hollows, another calls loudly (which I interpret as it shouting, “this is mine, this land… it’s ours!”), and a small, brown bird seems to chuckle while flying through the misty rain. The thunder is louder. The internet connection goes out.

Jump cut to an imaginary, miniature girl, sitting on the edge of the round, wet, wooden table on the deck, legs dangling. She dreams she’s resting on a pyung sang (a platform-table in the courtyard of a hanok, a traditional Korean compound dwelling), shielded by a parasol.

She’s high up, compared to her tiny size. About five body-lengths above the ground, she enjoys balancing risk and safety, like I do. If she falls, she’ll be crushed. So she doesn’t fall. She lives on, a story-to-be.

The storm is off to the southeast now, its thunder low and distant. Rain-glossed leaves in many different greens shape themselves around open spaces where birds sleep, this early evening, just for now.

I sit and practice cursive, in a ragged hand that’s hard to read. Life is on one side of my nervous motion, and the certainty of death is on the other.

That quality of contrast — or more precisely, the boundary between two different things — is one of the things I like best in life. Like truth and dreams. Or facts and stories. Or practicality and love.

Or, courage’s strength, and the innocent tenderness that feels like fear but isn’t. And then, to take things to the next step, our universe’s requirements of compassion, persistence, gentleness, and redemption.

This is an awkward narrative. I’m grateful that I can see that, and say it, too, and that I can end this writing, even if gracelessly, and not diminish myself by doing so.



Image credit:
Lovers Under the Moon, by Shin Yun-bok, aka Hyewon (1758–1813) – painting of two lovers outside a hanok, a traditional Korean courtyard-centered compound dwelling.

From Wikipedia. Painting by Shin Yun-bok. Originally found at:
Shin Yun-bok [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons