Thursday, February 25, 2021

Message Received

In July of 2019, I was bitten by a spider, likely a brown recluse. The venom itched at first and quickly blossomed into a hot, stabbing ring of pain that wrecked my already-compromised ability to think. Strong antibiotics were not enough; super-strong antibiotics were only slightly helpful. The skin was necrotic, puffy, red with black streaks. And it was spreading. 

Tonya, the amazing nurse practitioner at the practice I see, sent me to the wound care clinic where a friendly doctor explained that we needed to aggressively excise the damaged tissue. The result was a gaping circle of absent flesh, nearly two inches in circumference and almost as deep. The poisoned skin was heading towards my hip bone as if on a mission.

After I got home from the clinic, I had to change the dressing and repack the wound twice a day: a silver strip had to be stuffed down into the wound as far as possible to help the healthy tissue regrow and to prevent infection. The site needed to be cleaned with sterile water, patted dry, and then kept moist by adding some manuca honey before covering it all with a bandage.

Twice a day, I went through this ritual that left my skin dewy with fear, anxiety, and pain. The opiates they gave me only made me sick and I gave them back, unused and unwanted; twice a day I took Tylenol more as a ritual for setting my mind to the task, a touchstone reminder that I would live through the coming ten minutes. I felt like a failure each time, so wracked with pain-avoidance and cowardice that I wondered if I would simply quit, give up and walk away. I called my friend Amy in tears, confessing that I was a terrible at this. She's a nurse, and came to watch one time, inspecting the wound and telling me I was doing a great job. Her words helped, but I still collapsed after every dressing change, limp and crying, letting the panic have its way with me once the chore was done.

After four weeks, the wound was healing well enough that I didn't need to pack it with silver strips any more; only the cleaning and redressing were required. By September, the beginning of my personal annual cycle, the whole thing was regrown with new skin though still tender and fresh. Sometimes it would itch with activity, but all in all, it was done. I had lived to tell the tale and had a baby-pink moon-scar to show for it.
Over a year and a half later, I barely think about it; the spider bite came five months after the traumatic head injury which rattled my brain and left me dizzy and unable to think or speak. 2018-2019 was a year that tried to kill me; 2019-2020 was a year that left me for dead.
This past weekend, I sat telling a friend about the spider bite, almost as an afterthought to the events of that 2019-2020. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, that was the summer of the spider. As I talked I made a mental note to think more about the potent imagery of spiders. 

The weekend moved on to other topics, Philosophy events, and dog walks. Troop Zero is just amazing. Monday after I started to journal about the totem of the spider, writing what I remember before turning to AlGore'sInternet to add to my knowledge of lore.
The spider represents mystery, growth, and power, just like the seal spirit animal. Deeply feminine. It symbolizes the shadow of yourself, or the dark aspect of your personality.  What the spider symbolism wants you to know is that you weave your own destiny. No matter which stage you are in your life right now, figure out your own puzzles to gain a meaningful perspective.  Like the praying-mantis, the meaning of the spider encourages you to make use of your creativity to create intricate, delicate, and beautiful things. Transformation.

And then it happened. I was almost done with what I could remember, and the ink started to skip on the page, the usually smooth green strokes going choppy. I unscrewed the fountain pen to refill it. The chamber came loose from its threads to the nib, a clean break. There I was, thinking about spiders and holding three pieces of a broken pen, the pen I've been using since 1987.

At first, I didn't think it was so huge a moment. There are plenty of pens, and it's not as though I can't write with a ballpoint. 

And yet.

And yet two days later, I can't seem to find my voice. Ballpoints are for check writing and grocery lists. I stared at the journal pages, feeling muted.

2020-2021 is the year I welcomed orange into my life, or more specifically coral. When a gardening friend came over in December, she remarked on my burnt-orange sofa, which I said reminded me of a terra cotta coral. She told me about how perfect coral is for me, energetically, in general for who I am and in particular for this spot in my journey.
Coral represents diplomacy and concurrence.  It quiets the emotions and brings peace to within the self.  Facilitates intuition, imagination and visualisation.  Coral expedites and accelerates the transfer of knowledge. 
♥ Absorbs negative energy ♥ Platonic love ♥ Friendship ♥ Community ♥ Creativity ♥ Passion ♥ Romantic love ♥ Wisdom ♥ Optimism ♥ Enthusiasm ♥ Balance ♥ Relaxation ♥ Protection ♥ Safe travel on water Coral stimulates the energetic pursuit of pre-determined goals.  It protects from depression and despondency.  
This seemed a delightful, if random, bit of lore to discover, and I tucked it away with a smile and promptly paid it no more mind.
This evening I suffered through a third session of feeling gagged and bound when staring at a blank page in my journal, an activity I usually experience as a warm invitation from a friend. I gave up and closed the journal with a sigh, absently typing "maybe the Universe wants you to have a new fountain pen" into the Google search box.

The top two results were a coral fountain pen with a spider emblem. Ah, yes, Universe. Now I see.