The Balm of Time

I’m waiting for snow to melt so I can go foraging for cottonwood buds with a friend. The plan is to then let them steep for eight-to-twelve months, to make Balm of Gilead. Yep, almost a year. There’s a faster way where a crock pot can be used, but I like the idea of letting time do its thing.

Kind of like I write. Year three and just finishing revising the first draft.

I’m not normally slow in all things. But some things need time. Or at least patience.

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Time flows like a river…with a big happy dog splashing in it

It took me thirty years to make it back to Scotland, to friends I love and places I also love. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but hey, those thirty years actually went pretty fast. Twenty-three of them were spent completely enamored watching a little lump of baby grow to a nice young man.

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A rose between two thorns? My husband’s sister took this photo which is why he’s sticking his tongue out…somethings you never outgrow.

I’ve spent ten years messing around with a couple little cancer bouts, taking my time to radiate and barf and then recuperate. The oncologist last week was thrilled with the latest blood work but not so thrilled, apparently, with other things we talked about.

Like grief.

You know, one of those things that people mistakenly say ‘takes time’ when in reality it’s there forever. She suggested I see a counselor and said that people who have been through cancer can have PTSD, and that maybe current grief is a trigger for deeper grief from those angry, sad, post-radiation years.

No thanks. Cancer treatments weren’t that bad, didn’t take that long, and were probably harder on my family than on me. I can see how they might have PTSD from putting up with me slamming doors and joyfully learning how to cuss.

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She used to think her name was G*d-d*mn-it and would happily come running whenever I said it.

Think I’ll try acupuncture instead. I’ve done that before and it’s wonderful. And it takes time. And it’s something that’s been around a long, long, long time. When I did it before, I had time to step away from the rush of the day, to float with stories, to let go.

But in the meantime, here we are, watching life fly by way too fast. Trees were just dropping their leaves yesterday and now they are budding. Where did winter go? Now we move into spring and growing and renewing. Until tomorrow when it will be hot summer days, and the next day when it will be cool fall. That’s what it seems like anyway.

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Time flies, even when it moves slowly.

And so many things never change. When you realize how fast years have gone, you wonder what you’ve done to fill all that time. You wonder if you’ve wasted time. You wonder how to slow it down. You wonder how to fill the time left with meaning.

And then you realize time has flown while you ponder those things.

So you heave a big sigh, get your basket, and wander out into the woods for cottonwood buds.

And for that moment at least, life will slow down until it becomes just you and the tiny buds of a new spring in your hands.

Time between your fingers.

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Sun dogs taken by my husband where he works.

17 thoughts on “The Balm of Time

    • Thank you. Now that all the snow is finally starting to melt we can get outside in the woods more, and that is always the best for healing. For me, anyway. Appreciate your kind words.

    • Thank you for all those healing thoughts. I appreciate it. Hopefully a year from now I’ll have photos of little pots of Balm of Gilead to post here. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at making it.

  1. Sending a message of hope and healing. Time may change us, but we cannot change time. Life is a meandering journey. I felt that as I was reading your beautiful post.

    • Thank you. And there are so many good things we stumble across on that meandering journey, isn’t there? As m son says, much more interesting than the straight and narrow. Though somehow I don’t think we were talking about the same thing when he said that…

  2. Dear Friend – Your journey inspires me. You never ask for prayer but I know by your words you believe in Him, our Messiah. I will pray for you because it is the only thing worthwhile. Looking forward to your next adventure. P.S. LOVE the puppy pics-“God spelled backward…”

  3. Grief takes time, not to heal, like they say, but I think it needs time to learn how to live with it, or to live without the loved one. Over time other things will take priority to the pain and hopefully happy things will push the pain further back, but yes, it will never go away! You will never be okay with not having that person in your life. But over time the overshadowing fog of pain will lift to let you remember the good things, lets you notice beauty again, lets you connect with others again… and with time some realize that the person that died would not want you to stop living and so you try to rejoin the rest of the world to live a life of purpose. You try to remember their words and try to live by them. I always feel like they are my guardian angels. They are right there with me in everything I do. Close to my heart.
    I always think it took me 3 years to finally “wake up” from the grief and feel like I could go on, join the rest of the world that never stopped in the first place.
    I believe you know for yourself if you are ready if and when you take time to listen to yourself. Be by yourself, listen inward to the little soul inside of you and hear what she wants. Be kind to her, she needs a big hug!
    Give it time, be patient, there is no recipe to follow.

    I also think it really sucks that time flies when you want to slow it down and it seems like slow motion when we are doing something we don’t want to do.

    Its about 10 years this year when you first sent me an email. I am so glad you did! ๐Ÿ’™

  4. oh yes, time is a wet fish. hard to catch. sometimes it’s a rusty cog, and it just grinds on. I do believe there is healing in time but you are right. the memory never goes away, and the memory triggers those feelings when it bubbles to the top. Love your writing. Enjoy holding your time between your fingers when you get it. ๐Ÿ™‚ so, Balm of Gilead is a tea made from cotton wood buds?

    • It’s a salve, actually. You steep the buds in olive oil for several months, then strain and heat it and shave in beeswax to get the consistency you want. The salve is good for cuts and bruises, sore joints, etc. You can google it and find other variations on the recipe. Some people use honey or other types of oil. Some leave the jars to steep on windowsills and others use a crockpot method to speed the process. But it makes a good salve with a lot of uses. And I love the analogy of time as a wet fish!

  5. I’m glad you’re getting good test results. That’s always good news. I agree with you though, nature and walking in the woods is the best therapy for me and also for me of course painting. I remember a woman came by house once unannounced. Of course I hid and watched her from cover – I’m not that social. But she was so persistent that I finally came out of hiding to ask if she needed help, she had kids with her. Long (and crazy) story short, she triggered my grief and to my horror I began to cry in front of her and her kids. Anyway she told me I should be over that by now. Well that flew all over me as you can imagine. No one has the right to tell you how long you should grieve. I myself, know I will mourn the rest of my years.

    Sending hugs and good vibes.

    A favorite quote of mine:

    There are some griefs so loudย 
    They could bring down the sky,ย 
    And there are griefs so stillย 
    No one knows how deep they lie.ย 
    โ€” May Sarton

    • I had this said to me by my stepdad and his new girlfriend about 2-3 years after my mom had died. Just because he moved on or is hiding his pain, doesnt mean I have to “be done” with it. Grief will always be there, its never gone.
      I like your quote. ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Oh, I love that quote. I also love the image of you hiding. Done that myself. No one has the right to tell you that you ‘should’ be over something.

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