The Balm

As I’ve mentioned before, my subconscious doesn’t trust me to get the meaning of dreams. So my dreams are usually ‘hit-me-over-the-head’ obvious.

Here’s a prime example from a couple nights ago.

I was in an old car with a friend and she was driving. We were in the middle of a nasty swamp, with deep dark water flooding into the car. I knew we were going to sink, but she said we would be fine, even as we were going under. She kept her foot on the gas and the car continued moving, but when we got to the edge of the swamp, there was a high fence trapping us. She didn’t stop, and drove right through the wall, breaking it down and allowing us to get out to the other side.

Yeah, nothing subtle about my subconscious.

I’m going to see that friend in a couple days.

She is dealing with the two-year anniversary of the loss of her son.

My sister passed away in January.

I’m sure we’re going to share grief and probably tears. But knowing her, there will also be laughter and stories, and I’ll leave, having come out on the other side, at least temporarily.

She’s amazing that way.

I’m bringing her a couple jars of Balm of Gilead that I made this past weekend. It’s a salve made from cottonwood buds steeped for a long time in a carrier oil. Beeswax is then melted into it to the consistency you want for the salve.

Last year on a damp day in late fall/early spring, this friend and I went out into the trees and collected cottonwood buds. Being, at the time, the first-year anniversary of the loss of her son, we shared tears and laughter and stories out there in the woods. Those buds went into the salve I’m bringing her.

It’s almost time to go back for more buds to start the process for next year’s balm.

The dictionary defines ‘balm’ as something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect. ‘Balm’ is also defined as a fragrant ointment used to heal or soothe.

I see both definitions at play in my world at the moment.

The balm of a fragrant ointment sitting jars like little pots of spring sunshine.

The balm of friendship, also like little spots of sunshine in that dark swamp of grief.

Breaking down the wall and coming out the other side.

That’s us.

With the help of those who love us.


Blurry little pots of sunshine.

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.


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.


Sun dogs taken by my husband where he works.