Monday, February 4, 2008

Massage, books, etc.

What is helping these days? Massage, walking, my favorite authors, blue skies and spiritual direction. Being at home with David and Gregg. Avoiding the telephone. Writing --in my head, and here. This is subject to change, of course (notice that I said, "these days").

Massage is a gift that first came to me through my Nana Emilie (the one who lived to be 96+ years old). She gave herself the gift of a professional massage, every week of her adult life -- and toward the end of her life, she had two per week. WOW. She had live-in household help, too, so I'm not sure why she needed so much massage, but that's another subject. Anyway, she gave me the gift of a session with her massage therapist when I was in my 20s, and of course, there was no going back after that (except for the fact that my budget has never been like hers, so my massages have been occasional treats). Until now; now, it's a huge help, and it feels necessary.

Last year, when Katie was in the hospital, my mother and my sister treated me to massages in Seattle on some Saturdays, while Gregg was with the kids. Being able to get away, have a "girls' lunch" with them and be pampered for a bit was a wonderful, much-needed, temporary stress-reliever. (Gregg's not into massage, or I am sure they would have offered him the same treat.)

When we came home last spring, our dear neighbor, Joanne, made time for Katie, David and me to have massages. Joanne used to own a spa, and now works out of her beautiful cottage, right down the street from our home. She is trained in the Rolf Method of Structural Integration (if you are interested in learning more, go to or

After having had such a huge surgery, Katie had a scar running the length of her abdomen, from the hollow of her throat past her belly button, and from one side of her abdomen to the other; massage was good for the scar tissue, as well as relaxation. Katie loved her visits with Joanne, and used to sit on the couch afterward, enjoying the affection of Jo's two cats and Beamer, her Welsh Corgi. David exercises Beamer for Joanne nowadays, and has taught him some tricks.

I have always loved massage, and one of the recent benefits has been relief from the body-work of grieving. I walk and/or run every day, and that seems to help clear my head. However, since I am not frequently given to tears, I sometimes feel as if the tears get "stuck" inside. Having a skilled massage therapist work the knots out of my muscles helps to ease the physical tightness and pain of grief. It is comforting to have someone take good care of me for an hour and a half without wanting anything in return. I think most of you mothers know what I am talking about!

Richard Rohr is one of my favorite authors (his Center For Action and Contemplation's website is listed on the right side of my blog). He has written many books; for samples of his writing, you can go to the website and sign up for a daily devotional message that will be emailed to you. These are a light in my day.

I was, and still am, drawn to true stories of mountaineering, especially in the Himalaya and other extreme places. David Breashears' High Exposure, Ed Viesturs' No Shortcuts to the Top, John Roskelly's Nanda Devi, Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, Robert Roper's Fatal Mountaineer, Maria Coffey's Fragile Edge and Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow, are some of the books that I've read and enjoyed. For some reason, stories of survival in harsh conditions, under intense mental and physical stress strike a familiar chord in me. Though these people chose to enter dangerous landscapes, and we did not, they still work with some of the same emotions, human strengths and frailties that we faced in dealing with cancer. It's an interesting parallel.

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