Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Migraine madness

The plan was to get out of town, take Sunday and Monday off and head to Port Townsend, spend time with Cousin Carl, walk the beach and then revisit the beautiful Elwha River unleashed by the removal of 2 dams in 2014.  After weeks of work on writing projects and a difficult, headachy month, we were both ready for a break. 

Sunday morning, and I'm moving slow, in a fowl mood with a foggy brain.  It feels like a monumental effort to pull myself and all my medical needs together to pack for a couple of days away.  We pull out of the driveway in our electric Nissan Leaf at about 11:00 am.  Heading south out of town, I remember too late that neither of us has thought to make a Keystone ferry reservation, a serious oversight in the summer, on a weekend, with one of two ferries out of commission.  We decide to hope for the best, knowing that if we're willing to hang on the beach for a couple of hours, we'll eventually get on.  Loaded with all kinds of snack and lunch food, we can eat our way through the wait time.

We arrive at the ferry, buy our tickets and wander through the campground down to the beach.  I'm still cranky and low.  Sitting on the rocky beach of Admiralty Bay, I begin to idly pick through the stones, running my thumb over the surface of each one, selecting for flat and smooth.  As I start building a tower, I wonder about the meditative practice of stacking rocks.  I recall making trail markers long ago, in my Girl Scout days.  I remember sitting on the river bank constructing small rock and stick houses with my mother on family camping trips while my father and sister were fly fishing down stream.  Looking carefully, I see symbols and images in the irregular patterns and colors on the surface of each rock.  I think it would be an interesting practice to sketch what I'm seeing in each hard, smooth piece of mother earth.

The inbound ferry rounds the point, and we wander back to the car.  Suddenly I am struck with the sure knowledge that I have forgotten to pack my preventative meds.  My heart sinks as I share this bleak omission with my husband, knowing we will have to turn around and head home.  He is sympathetic and understanding, but I am embarrassed, ashamed and disappointed.  I am a careful planner, and I know that my slip of mind is due to cloudy thinking that comes with migraines, but negative self blame still sticks to me like glue.

We pull out of line and head toward home facing yet another miscalculation.  We have only 11 miles left before we need to recharge the car, and the next charge point is 10 miles north, a nerve-rackingly skinny margin of error.  We are so relieved when we arrive at the Penn Cove plug-in, that high-volume hydroplane races taking place nearby become a joke rather than yet another fowl play.


Feeling better the next morning, I begin to bake my husband a long-overdue birthday cake.  The sun is shinning through the kitchen window, and I'm enjoying this simple, methodical process and the taste of chocolate batter as I lick it my fingers.  It is August 21st, the day of a total solar eclipse if you happen to be in just the right location in Oregon or Washington State.  We will see the sun about 93% eclipsed by the shadow of the moon.  We made no special preparations, but as the hour arrives, about 9:30 am, and the sky turns dusky, we wander outside with a hastily-made, pin-hole camera.  We hold our paper up to the wall across the street, and there it is, the sun turned into a half-moon reflection on the garage door.  I return to my cake making with a smile on my face.  Looking down on the kitchen counter, I see a tiny refraction of the eclipse as the image passes through the window pane.  With a thrill of wonder, I call my husband in to look.  I want to take a picture, but it's gone before I can grab my camera.  After a hard, painful yesterday, the cake and the eclipse are redemptive.  They arrive as gifts that help me regain my equilibrium and make my day.


Lately, the migraines have been an unrelenting, daily occurrence.  The SpringTMS keeps the head-pain level down but doesn't eliminate the muscle spasms in my shoulders and back nor reduce the accompanying mood dips, lethargy or foggy thinking.  Finally facing my slump, I'm taking the afternoon off.  On our small deck in the sun, I sit reading and listening to bird calls in our park-like back yard.  I sit for a long time, soaking in the colors and patterns of the trees and the movement of the leaves, and slowly, I begin feeling better.  Hearing an unmistakable bird call, I look up from my book to see a hummingbird hovering 18 inches from my face, his beak pointing right at me.  His tiny wings whir as he pauses in place for 10 seconds, then moves to my left a couple of inches and hovers again.  He moves left yet again and hovers one more time before a quick dash off into the big, old, transparent apple tree.  I am entranced with this little interspecies communication and know, without a doubt, I'm being upbraided for neglecting the hummingbird feeder, which has lain empty and dirty for months immediately behind the chair I'm sitting in.  I get up, collect the feeder and go inside to wash and fill it.  Delighted and renewed by my encounter, I gather my gear and put on my shorty wetsuit for what may be my last salt-water swim of the season.  The migraine waxes and wanes all day long and into the evening, but my mood has lifted, and by the time I hit the sack, I can relax into sleep.