Otis in his new digs.

Otis in his new digs.

I am sick today, for the fourth time this winter. My granddaughter and I seem to be passing these germs back and forth between us. It has been years since I’ve been slammed with upper respiratory things. Years. I usually get one of these snotty things once every few years now, so this recent turn of events in which I seem to be sicker more than I am healthy is really getting me down.

My doctor agreed that the stress on my body from our cross country move is one that can make the first year in a new place hard on the immune system. So I keep doing the good things I know to take care of myself, and taking anti-biotics when the stuff on my Kleenex starts looking truly scary. Still, I was not prepared for the utter emotional slump I found myself in this morning. Six days into this most recent bad booger affair—during which I have been cranky, angry, and then more cranky—I awoke to a feeling of total despair.

My situation certainly did not warrant such a reaction as despair, but there it was, strong, and black, and bottomless. Numbly, I took my morning pills, ate a few bites of oatmeal, and stepped into a hot shower hoping the rush of water like a creek coursing over my body would revive me. It didn’t. Nothing inside the house offered any enticement, not even the small piece of chocolate cake left on the kitchen counter. Outside my windows, the day was—as usual—murky and uninviting. I sighed. Every few minutes, I sighed.

Carter needed to make a run to the store for some groceries and asked me if I wanted him to take Mazel Tov along for the ride. I told him no, that I would take Mazel out to the Coyote Woods on a VERY slow stroll. While the outdoors offered no invitation to me and I was not enchanted at all with the idea of strolling along in damp gloomy pastures, I knew that the only thing I could count on to even begin to lift such a mood as I was in was to get myself outside for awhile.

Coyote Woods under dark skies.

Coyote Woods under dark skies.

Carter drove off after giving me a tender hug and telling me I’d feel better soon. I shrugged into my favorite flannel jacket and stepped out the door with yet another sigh. Mazel’s purple plastic ball flinger hangs right by our back door, and when I picked it up, my sweet-faced dog began his happy dance, hopping back and forth on his feet like a rocking horse. I grabbed the handle on my small garden cart and headed for the pastures out back. A large mound of old hay was piled up out beside the path we usually walked and I had been wanting to collect some for mulch for my front yard daffodil and periwinkle bed. No time like the present, I said to myself trudging along at a pace that would make a snail look like Parnelli Jones.

With each step, I said to myself, “Just look no further than this moment. Smell the air. What’s there? Listen. Breathe. If the world were to blow up in the next second, you would have had perfection in this last moment.” I feel pretty silly giving myself such pep talks, but sometimes, they are necessary.

More ball please? More? Please?

More ball please? More? Please?

Of course, I stayed out far longer than I would have expected. First, there was the hay to pile into the cart. Then, Mazel needed to have lots of balls thrown to make up for the lack of balls tossed the day before. I think he counts them, daily, and makes up for lost tosses the day after. To watch him run is a joy. He puts his entire, big heart into each dash. His young muscles ripple even in the low light of a gloomy day.

Sad looking daffodils under hay mulch.

Sad looking daffodils under hay mulch.

I had to sit down for a bit and watch all the bird activity in the branches above Coyote Woods. So many different feathered friends flying every which way! Then, on the way back to our yard, just at the edge where the pasture meets the line of deep, brown fir needles that marks the entrance to our property, a delicate garter snake the width of a pencil and painted as pretty as an Easter egg slipped past my feet. Behind the gray veil blanketing my mood I could feel my heart shiver in wonder.

Back in the yard, there was a decision to be made. Otis the frog has not been doing well. In his small pond, the water temperatures have remained too cold, and he as remained mostly comatose. He eats nothing. Somedays, he can swim a bit. Others, he sits like a small pond stone when I touch him. He is skinny and frail. There is a look to him that says “Uh-oh.” How many times can you thaw and refreeze? Late yesterday, I brought a glass bowl of pond water into the house and put it on a heating pad. It had not quite warmed by last night. This morning, it was finally tepid.

For days, I’ve had Otis on my mind, wondering whether to interfere with his small life anymore than I already have. This morning, I decided yes. I’d warm him up and see if it would help revive him and encourage him to eat. He’s currently sitting where my pipe usually rests, on the trunk by my bedside in a bowl of warmish water. He looks more alert already. Or perhaps I’m imagining things. Still, I feel more hopeful for him.

When I came back into the house to rest, Mazel was tired out, and I was feeling that I could survive the rest of the day. Sometimes, I can find myself in a mental place so crappy that I ¬†barely have the resources to do what needs to be done. Especially at these dark times, I need to remember that when all else fails, the “green treatment” always works.

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  1. Debby says:

    Thank you, Susan, for the very authentic ways in which you share your life’s journeys with us. I could certainly feel along with you as you lived out your blueness and then found a little hint of healing. I love that you found a way to reach out to another being as you helped Otis. I’m sending love and light your way, along with hopes for wellness, happiness, and the spring sunshine!

  2. Nancy Kelly says:

    I remember what tough winters they are in Coastal Washington, long dark winters and February definitely the toughest month. And yet it is so beautiful. I lasted 3 years there, then moved to Phoenix. I do NOT resonate with desert and miss the green beauty of Everett – but LOVE the sunshine, and I must admit my mood is sunnier too. I had SAD I’m sure.

    Hang in there, May will come!

  3. aletheia mystea says:

    Yer r s, aint that the truth!!! It’s all ways a great tonic for everything…hope you feel better soon!!!!

  4. wonderful post! i have noticed (similarly) that when i need to walk the dogs i often project forward to all the locations i know to be ahead of us, things we’ve all seen before. it’s deflating. but when i look only at the moment (wind especially centers and heals me) i’m inhabiting it’s like heaven. staying there as best i can makes everything better.

  5. Hope says:

    Yes, the green treatment always works for me, too! I especially like walking just before dusk. Last evening I listened to two barred owls doing a call and response, which I haven’t heard in a long while. Even if my walking path is the same, I see (or hear) something different every time, and come back inside feeling refreshed and blessed.

  6. Marie says:

    March is a difficult month because we are so much looking forward to Spring and then Spring comes and if somewhat we cannot be part or don’t have the energy to dive into all of what Spring offers but also all the energy Spring demands of us, it’s like we’re betraying an aspect of life and we feel guilty. Today, here, at my home, surrounded with fields and forest it’s terribly cold and windy and we got a foot of snow on Spring Equinox day and more snow in the next few days. Patience….

    Moving is hard on the system and you’ll be moving again soon I believe so it will be important for you to rest, eat well, do breathing exercises religiously, and take daily walks with your dog.

    I love this quote from George Macauley Trevelyan, an eminent English historian who was a prodigious walker:
    “I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.”

    Take care,


    • Susan McElroy says:

      Great quote, Marie! Walking is tonic. And Yes, yes, the energy of spring hauls us forward, and if our energy is not there, we are left feeling unsettled. We’ve been smacked with very cold, bitter weather lately—not at all springlike. The few daffodils that are up are looking pretty dismal, with their sweet heads hanging down. Our move may be quite delayed. Even canceled. An inspection has revealed many, many serious problems with the little house we were wanting to call ours. We’re not certain what to do, just like spring looks uncertain about when she wants to show up. An unsettled season, for sure, all around.

  7. Marie says:

    Well if that little yellow house has many serious problems, it would be very wise to pass. Could be a money pit and when we’re getting older we don’t want to get into major renovations because it’s a stress you can live without. There will be another house. There always is.


    • Susan McElroy says:

      It is hard to move on from this house. I’m just trying very hard to stay open to all possibilities and to make the right choices. At our ages, Carter and I can’t afford to make a big financial mistake anymore!

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