15 Minute Physician

An elderly woman goes to see her geriatric physician. She has multiple medical issues for which she is being treated and is on many medications, some of which make her throw up in the morning, but she can’t figure out on her own which medications are making her ill.

Her doctor, after giving her the news that he doesn’t know how to help her, abruptly opens the door to leave stating that she has already taken up too much of his time. She is left alone in the room with no plan for forward action other than “See another specialist.”

This woman worked hard until she retired at 62. She lives on a fixed income. Medicare barely covers the costs of her regular doctor visits and even less of the cost to see a specialist.

Almost all medical conditions are relegated to specialists today. Hardly any health concern is considered general care. She cannot afford to see another specialist.

To make matters worse, the physicians do not communicate well with one another, so the elderly woman’s care is fragmented and difficult for her to integrate into a cohesive plan.

Insurance won’t cover alternative medical health care. So the woman is left confused and worse off than she was before seeing a doctor.

This is health care in America. Land of the free, the brave and those left to suffer their old age poorly cared for by professionals too busy to offer the real medicine: hope.

Can we change this?

The Umbrella Tree

One of my best friends, when I was growing up, was an Umbrella tree. It’s leaves were large and spread into a green canopy on the top of a trunk that was like a giant lap. I could sit in it for hours and let my imagination go wild. But mostly I watched and listened. I watched the play of light on the leaves and branches, I watched the little ants that crawled in determined lines up and down the trunk. I listened to the rustle and whisper of the wind weaving in and out and through. I used to sing there too. It was my favorite thing to do.

I have a very personal and heart-felt connection to trees. I had my first spiritual awakening, as it is called, in that Umbrella tree; it was where I first became keenly aware that there was a benevolent force, bigger than everything that for some crazy reason, loved me. I knew it as surly as my next breath. I didn’t have words for the experience until years later when I wrote about it.

Listen, God is singing through the Elms, first as thunder, then as wind, then as trembling leaves and limb.

(I know I meantioned Elms instead of Umbrella tree in the poem; most of the trees around my house were Elm, and I felt connected to them all.)

The tree of life, as a symbol, appears in cultures all over the world. They are vital to our survival. Without trees we would not breathe clean air. Trees revitaize us and refresh our spirit.

The more we learn about trees the more they reveal how intricately they are all connected to each other and to the whole environment, including us.

They serve as a reminder that as people we are connected to one another and that each person is essential to the vitality of the whole. They remind us that we need strong, well nourished roots and that we need to stretch beyond ourselves to reach our highest potential. And they remind us that we are part of one glorious song that is being played out through the lives of every single one of us.

We listen, stretch, learn, grow and our own health is of benefit to those around us. And like trees, we support one another when one of us needs extra care. (It has been discovered that healthy trees will send vital nutrients through a fungal system to a tree that is injured or sick.)

Trees are a celebration of the life force coursing through them. We can be that too.

Strawberry Soup

I must stop listening exclusively to Mourning Doves.

All they do in May is chant about Strawberry Soup.

And they are louder than the other birds.

Or their song is so engaging all I can do is listen from the first note to the last, over and over.

As pleasant as strawberry soup must be, why would they all sing about it day in, day out, from every tree?

“Straw-berry-soup. Straw-berry-soup.”

Facing the Unknown

For Lewis

Hondo is a place in New Mexico where apples grow in crisp mountain air and yellow and gold Aspen coruscate in the clean, bright light of early Fall.

At the end of summer we would all pile into grandpa’s Chevy Nova and head to a cabin in Hondo. It had a tin roof that made music when it rained.

I rode in the back, on the floor with my head tucked down because I was worried that there would be nothing but air on the other side when we travelled to the top of a hill. In the pit of my stomach I just knew that we would all plunge to our deaths from the pinnacled summit.

Eventually I found the courage to stand up and peer over grandpa’s shoulder as he drove. (I was little enough to do that and car seats had not been invented.)

Over one hill after another, the road always rose up to meet us and the car never dropped off the edge of the world.

I’m trying to muster that same courage to look ahead when I face the unknown to this day.

There is no guarantee that I won’t fall, but experience has proved over and over that what is on the other side can be sweeter than I ever imagined.

It’s ok if I have to hunker down until I’m brave enough to look, but I’ve always been rewarded when I do.