Taken thirty years ago, this photo slipped and fluttered out of an old journal of mine last week. Not sure what to do with it, I’ve kept it sitting on my desk for the last ten days.
I’m seven years old here, during a family trip to Shaver Lake, where we stayed in a secluded cabin with another family. It was probably the last trip we took all together, as my parents separated later that year.
I remember the experience – the beauty of the woods and sunshine through trees in wide fields. Freedom in wandering dirt paths embedded with quartz crystals. An open meadow with tall grass and a zip line pulley we could hang from. At night, a brown sleeping bag with soft, lime green lining.
And puppies. Not ours. The other family had brought the little dogs that follow behind me in the photograph.
I kept this picture out because in it, I am the same age as Jeb. Jeb’s greatest wish (now that touching snow has been accomplished) is to have a dog. In Jeb’s world, I am the force of reason that stands as barricade to his canine companion. It’s not for my lack of love of furry friends. I love them so much, I want them to have the best upbringing possible, and for me right now, raising a dog is more than I can undertake.
So I wanted Jeb to see the proof that I, like him, had a love for dogs too. I understand his longing.
When I show him the picture I remember that the two puppies really didn’t get along. They would start to play but inevitably their fun would turn to attack. I tell Jeb about the time I was petting both of them in my lap. They suddenly lunged at each other and when I put my hand in the middle to stop them, I got bit.
Thirty years later, this memory I had forgotten comes flooding back with ease.
“Did you bleed?” Jeb asks, holding the picture in his hands while I make breakfast.
“Yeah, actually, I did.” I look down at the spot on my right hand that still holds a slight scar from the incident. Though I see my own hand every day, I hadn’t thought about the origin of the spot there in years.
“Did it hurt?”
“It did. Not horribly, but it surprised me, for sure.” I touch the scar on my 37-year-old hand and am amazed that there is still a faint, tender feeling in the fleshy layers below the surface. As if the cells and nerves still remember a distant story that my mind had long forgotten.
“What are you doing with your hand?” he asks.
“I’m just touching the spot where it happened.”
“No, in the picture, Mom. What are you doing with your hand?”
I walk over to him and glance again at the photo. Jeb sees what I hadn’t. I realize I’m holding my hand in the picture because I just got bit by the puppies. The moment forever captured when soft fur and innocence collided with a sharp, toothy snap.
“You’re right Jeb. That’s the hand I’m holding. It must have just happened when they took the picture.”
In this past week, a different aliment has had my focus. I’ve continued seeking opinions about alternative ways to dissolve this ovarian cyst. I’m surprised at the woo woo advice I receive from well-respected physicians. I’m looking for possible diet alterations, herbs, supplements. Something biological, scientifically proven. A prescription or formula.
But instead I’m told “Use your intuition. Your answers are within.” Or “Tune in to your 3-7 year old self. Give her a voice and let her express her feelings.”
I truly do not think the doctors that made these recommendations are incompetent (or crazy). Short of surgery (which hasn’t been deemed necessary at this point), the medical field says nothing else can be done. Three different doctors from three different areas of expertise have all turned it back to me. This strange and unusual cyst calls for strange and unusual measures. I guess I’ll take the hint. I’m willing to try woo woo.
As I’ve been digesting these suggestions, the photo sits on my desktop. I search for something in this picture. What does this girl have to say? How does she feel?
This purer version of myself was short on experience but closer to senses. Porous to forest sunlight, the smell of puppy breath and the shadow sides of love and play. Moving through grasses in a borrowed coat. Too young and full to put words to the depth of feeling, soaking every cell.