Wonder 45

4501

Early mornings are my favorite time. That mockingbird sings. The air smells like salt, or if it’s a low tide, it smells like sulfur and seaweed, which, strange enough, is a scent I’ve come to love.

When I wake, my thoughts are slow and clear. Things make sense to me–later in the day, I might review these same thoughts, and I won’t see the meaning I found before the dawn, but in the early morning, my insights resonate within me.

Because of this, this is my writing time. When I’m lucky, I can draft a chapter or two before I catch the morning ferry.

4502

The research project manager was already analyzing test results when I arrived. I was assigned to help him.

4503

“See if you can isolate the acidic proteinbound polysaccharide from this reishi, alright, Cups?” he directed me.

“Right. APBP. Are we trying it on herpes simplex virus?”

“No,” he said. “Been done. We’re looking to see if it’s effective against varicella zoster.”

4504

“A cure for shingles?”

“We don’t call it a cure yet,” he said. “We’re just looking for possible causality between reduction in viral colony and presence of ABPB. Don’t jump ahead. Don’t go spreading rumors. Everything in its time.”

4505

Still, to think this might reduce suffering from shingles. Meu avô had shingles outbursts in his later years. I would give almost anything to spare others from that pain.

Thank you, I whispered.

4506

On my afternoon rounds, I visited clients with the usual cases of common colds and flu. I still feel amazed at how quickly they recover once they take the dose of remedy.

4508

The red-headed waitress I’d met at the diner a few days ago was there.

As she was leaving, she said, “You know, nice doctor like you. We should get together some time!”

“I’m not a doctor yet,” I told her.

“Well, if you want to pretend, anytime,” she said, “you’ve got my number.”

I’m still trying to figure out what she meant by that. But it was good to see that she felt well enough to joke.

4507

When I got back to the island, I jogged out to the bluff, just in time for sunset.

4509

Somewhere growing up, I heard that life is tough.

But how can that be? We live on a planet that gives us all we need: air, food, water, beauty, medicine.

4510

It isn’t life that’s tough. People are tough, maybe, when they fight with what life’s offering. But life? Life is a gift that never stops giving.

4511

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Wonder 44

4401

I woke early. I love the predawn hours. A mockingbird sings from the pine at the edge of the meadow, and my thoughts feel as clear as the tones of his song.

This morning, I decided to finally write my acceptance speech for the Edgar Evans Award. Pay it forward, right? Then it doesn’t feel so awkward to accept.

4403

I had so many people I wanted to nominate. I finally settled on Rose Hatcher, a widow who moved through grief by adopting a kitten that needed a home. She’s been a big inspiration for Tia Berry and me. It’s hard to think of grief as being part of my life–death is still something very abstract to me. But I’ve lost meus avós and Pai‘s roommate/whatever Marcus Fletch. Tia Berry’s getting older. So’s Pai. And, in my career as a doctor, I’m sure I’m going to have plenty of experiences with mortality, even though, right now, I still feel that death can’t touch us. We’re immortal, every one.

Nonetheless, nominating Rose serves as a reminder to me: when grief comes, you can move through it. And you can move through it with kindness.

4402

I felt like a huge responsibility had been lifted when I submitted my acceptance and nomination. Oh, man. I hope I didn’t go overboard. Sometimes, I’ve noticed, when I express myself genuinely, other people look at me like I’m a nut.

Oh, well. I guess I am a bit of a nut! At least, I’m a cracked, happy nut!

4404

My boss greeted me with good news when I arrived at the clinic.

“The Medical Board is impressed,” he said. “Full speed ahead.”

I checked the email they’d sent us. We not only had clearance to administer the remedy to adults but also to children. And they had sponsored a research grant for the project.

4407

The news came just in time for my first client of the day. Oscar complained of sore throat and chills.

I explained that we had just the thing for him, and that it used mushroom power.

“Mushroom power?” he said. “Like toadstools?”

“Not toadstools. These are edible mushrooms. The real power comes from the mycelium, which is the thready network of roots below the soil surface.”

“Whatever.”

4405

I gave him a small dose. We still haven’t figured out the best dosages, for children or adults, but I remember how much I took when I was little kid. Three fingers full.

“I wanna go play!” Oscar said when I went back to check on him an hour later.

“All well?”

“Radically!”

4406

The day passed quickly. Not every client needed the remedy, but those who did reported that their symptoms improved within an hour.

“What’s in this stuff?” asked my last client.

“Mushroom compounds,” I said.

“Ick,” she replied.

“But it works, right?”

She couldn’t argue with that.

4408

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Wonder 43

4301

I’m hoping we receive clearance to administer Tia Berry’s Herbal Remedy to children. We had a boy come in the other morning, and I’m sure that the mycelium in the tincture would have knocked out the virus.

We can give the remedy to adults, but since it’s in an alcohol base, we can’t let kids have it, even though the dosage is so low that they’d take the equivalent of a teaspoon of whiskey. I’m checking to see if we can use glycerin to make an alcohol-free recipe, but so far it seems like there’s a counter-action between the mushroom compounds and the glycerin.

I told this boy to rest up and drink plenty of orange juice.

“Ask your mom to come back and talk to me,” I told him. I planned to give her a bottle of the remedy so she could administer it to her son when they got home.

4302

I hoped I was doing the right thing. It’s an odd feeling to be torn between doing what seems best for a sick person and doing what the laws require. Turns out, I didn’t have to make that choice, for his mom didn’t come back.

4303

Instead, mine did!

Mãe!” I said. “You look awful!”

“I feel awful,” she replied.

4304

She was worried about her heart.

“I have zero energy,” she said.

I suspected a virus. We decided to do a few tests on her heart, just so we could rule that out.

4305

“The good news is your heart is super strong,” I told her. “And the bad news is, you’ve got that flu that’s been going around. But I’ve got good news for that, too.”

4306

“You’re seriously giving me Berry’s herbal brew?” she asked, as I handed her the cup of the tincture mixed into some green tea.

“Yup,” I replied. “It’s the real deal.”

I felt grateful that we were within regulations to provide it to adults.

4307

Within half an hour, she felt great, just like I had the other day when I took a dose to beat that virus I’d caught.

She laughed. “To think I could’ve just stayed home and done what we always do!”

“Sometimes the old ways are the best!” I reminded her.

4308

The next patient wasn’t so sure about the wisdom of folk ways.

“You’re telling me it’s the mushrooms in here that make it work?” he asked, worriedly.

“That and the echinacea and goldenseal. I’m working on a paper about this. You’ll see! When you read about it in the medical journals, then you can gloat that you used it first!”

4309

He, too, felt better in under an hour, and walked out, virus-free.

This is why I wanted to go into the medical field, to help find cures for common ailments. It’s almost like it’s fate! Heck, maybe it is fate! Maybe the Universe had me born to Tia Berry’s sister just so that I could introduce her very own herbal medicine into standard practice, helping millions of people cure flues and viruses, and maybe even cancer, if we can discover the right enzymes in the mycelium!

Ok. That’s a little grandiose. I scaled back my thoughts a bit and just felt grateful. Making people feel better was what it was all about! And if it wasn’t me, it would be somebody else.

4310

When the clinic administrators heard about the tests we were running on the mushroom compounds, they hired two new physicians to help with the project, one who would have medical oversight, and the other to oversee the research component.

The top physician joined me at lunch.

“So you’re the famous Charlie Rocca Cup,” he said. “Grandchild of the opera star. Son of the soccer star. Wonder child. And now you’re some kind of medical genius.”

4311

“It’s all luck,” I said.

“You’re darn right it’s luck,” he yelled back. “If it were experience, or even simple intelligence, you’d know enough not to administer the herbal medication to patients prior to written permission from the Medical Board! What kind of dufus gives patients herbs in a clinic! Cease and desist, buddy. And get your butt over to the computer and fill out form X52276 on the board’s website asking them to formally grant permission for us to precede.”

4312

So. Not the best first impression to make on my new boss and the doctor who would be playing a significant role in the future of the widespread adoption of Tia Berry’s Herbal Remedy as the first line of cure for viruses. Eva and I had checked the regulations, and we were well within rights to use herbal tinctures with adults. I hadn’t even thought that we’d have to check with the Medical Board, when the regulations clearly state that herbal mixtures can be freely given to adults. I’m guessing Eva hadn’t considered the board, either.

The form was a bear to complete, but I felt contrite enough to consider the task of filling it out to be my penance. You know, I got a lot of benefits from my easy-free upbringing, but following rules and filling out forms were not part of them! I guess some things, I need to learn as an adult.

4313

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Wonder 42

I think I don’t understand women.

Having grown up with Tia Berry and Mãe, I always assumed that I knew all there was to know about women: how they think, what they feel, what makes them happy.

But what I learned from my aunt and mother doesn’t seem transferable to others.

I invited Sofia over Sunday morning.

“What do you want, Charlie?” she asked when she arrived. I felt confused: she looked sad, disappointed, a little hurt, and a little angry. In fact, her face reminded me of the way that Yuki looked when I met her at the restaurant the night before.

Was there some secret handshake I was missing? All these beautiful young women, and when I look in their faces, they’re looking at me like I forgot their birthday or something.

4201

I tried the honest approach. “I just wanted to hang out with you!” I said. “I hadn’t seen you since that first day when I moved in, and I thought it might be fun to spend some time together.”

She stayed for about five minutes, and then she “had stuff to do.”

I changed out of my pjs and started working on a new novel. This one was about a lone traveler.

4202

I’d finished the first draft of the first chapter when Pai called.

“Bring the ferry across the waters,” he said. “It is the night for the rapazes.”

That sounded like just what a needed: hanging out with the guys. As soon as I got there, Pai texted me: Hung up. Eva. Jade. No can make it.

Ah, well. I made a few new friends. After my recent social awkwardness with Yuki and Sofia, it felt great to be able to relax–no expectations!

4203

While I was chatting at the bar with my new friends, a young woman stepped up to ask me if I wanted to join her in a game of darts. I haven’t played much darts, but it seemed like a fun idea.

“You’re really good at this. I can tell,” she said.

“Oh, I’ve hardly ever played!” I answered.

“No. I don’t believe it. You’ve got the moves.”

4204

Darts turns out to be a lot of fun. I got engrossed measuring the angles and calculating the best trajectories.

I looked over at my new companion, and I noticed that she seemed to be favoring her right leg. She was holding her shoulders up stiffly, too.

4205

“Is your back OK?” I asked. “Sciatica? Stiff lower back? Tight shoulders? You know, yoga’s really good for that. Downward facing dog, maybe a few sun salutations, and you can work out all that tension so you don’t have to favor your right leg so much.”

And then, she got that look. I still don’t know what it means or what I do to bring it on, but I’m getting pretty good at recognizing it.

4206

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Wonder 41

4101

Saturday started normal enough. Fruitcake for breakfast. It’s a favorite.

I’d finished the novel about meus avós the night before, so I sent it off to a prospective publisher.

4102

Went for a quick dip.

4103

And then, the day got weird.

Pai called to invite me to a club outing. I’ve been an honorary member of Partihaus since I was a kid, but I’d never actually been to any of the gatherings.

“I don’t  want you going while you’re a kid,” Mãe told me, on one of the few occasions when she lay down the law. And then when I was in high school, I was so busy with Paint! and working out and composing that I never seemed to have time for extra activities.

When Pai called on Saturday morning, I really didn’t have a reason to stay home. It felt like a rite of passage to meet Pai at his club.

“It is the club of me,” Pai said. “You are the son of me. Come! I will show you how the Rocca men have the good time! I have arranged for the special DJ to attend. She is like the sparkle on the ocean sea!”

4104

I was surprised to see Mãe there when I arrived at the Narwhal Arms.

“I didn’t know you rejoined the club” I said.

“I didn’t,” she replied. “I just came here for the music. I hear this DJ is really something.”

4105

I had so much to tell Mãe. She was really interested in the discoveries about the mushroom compounds, and she seemed so pleased to hear about the award.

“Of course you deserve it,” she told me. “The thing about awards is that they recognize qualities within a person. You don’t see it, Charlie, but you’ve got some pretty remarkable gifts and talents. Plus, you’ve got a good heart.”

While Mãe was talking, things suddenly got really awkward for me. On the other side of the dance floor, Pai and Eva were flirting–it wasn’t even subtle. It was right out there in front of everybody. I felt weird on about five accounts. First, Mãe was right there. Second, what was Pai doing? Third, Eva is my boss! Fourth, Mãe was right there! Fifth, everybody could see, including me!

Mãe noticed what was going on.

“Relax, spud,” she said. “This is Partihaus. I’m not oblivious. I knew the score when I joined the club twenty-one years ago, and I never asked your dad to change or to quit. I did tell you how you were conceived, didn’t I?”

4106

It was too much. I thought about the novel I’d just sent to the publisher’s that morning, a sweet and traditional love story. Then I thought about where I came from. Which one was the lie? I was standing smack in the middle of cognitive dissonance.

I always knew that Pai‘s roommates–all three of them–were more than roommates to him. But I also knew that he and minha mãe were loving with each other, and he and I were best friends. We’d always been family, when he stopped by our house. I’d never seen this side of him before.

I didn’t even have the presence of mind to talk with the DJ when she finished her set.

4107

I felt relieved when Yuki called to give me an excuse to bail.

“Hey, Chaz!” she said. “I heard you got a promo! Let’s go have dinner! Meet me at that new Llama place!”

Her voice sounded like she was laughing, so I figured she was teasing. My promotion wasn’t much, after all. I stopped back home to change, and I decided I’d wear something that showed I didn’t take myself too seriously.

“Charlie?” Yuki said when she saw me. “What’s with the glasses?”

4108

She sounded a little sad, maybe a little disappointed–was she hurt?–when she said that.

I headed inside to get us a table.

4109

When Yuki joined me, she’d changed into a little black dress. Oh, boy. I’d blown it, hadn’t I?

4110

“You look really nice!” I told her. “I’ve never seen you dressed like a girl before.”

4111

She started feeling like my good-friend Yuki while we were eating. I told her all about the mushroom discoveries I was making.

“They seriously devour virus cells?” she asked.

“They do!”

4112

The food was interesting. Yuki didn’t eat her little chocolate tofu cubes. But she drank her wine. I ate whatever it was I ordered. It tasted unusual–not that great, actually, but I enjoyed the inventiveness of the dish.

I stopped by the kitchen on the way out to thank the chef for having prepared it.

“Interesting dish!” I said. “Thanks! I think I learned something new about food!”

“Seriously?” she replied. “No one’s ever thanked me for my creations before! And you seriously learned something? That’s exactly what we hope to achieve! Dining’s about so much more than just, you know, taste.”

4113

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Wonder 40

4001

I woke before the sun, still feeling flushed and excited, so I channeled my extra energy into doing some more work on a novel that I’d started in my free time. It was based on the story of meus avós and how they met. The story of the opera singer and the furniture maker had always seemed so romantic to me. Minha avó gave up dreams to be with Avô, and then, in her life with him, she found her real dreams.

4002

I reread a passage I’d written:

The aria caught in her throat. How could she sing, “Se come voi piccina io fossi, o vaghi fior/ sempre sempre vicina potrei stare al mio amor” with heart, with her soul, if she were not willing to move with him to the village so that she could always be close to him?

4003

I suddenly felt flushed again. Was my prose that bad? Was the romance that corny?

4004

Oh! I had a fever! I must have caught a virus the day before yesterday, when I was making the rounds at the clinic.

At least this would give me a chance to try Tia Berry’s remedy myself.

4005

The remedy doesn’t taste that bad–Tia Berry adds cinnamon, anise, and cloves, so they tend to dominate the more bitter flavors of the echinacea and goldenseal. And the mycelium and other mushrooms didn’t have much flavor at all–at least not that could be tasted above the whiskey that forms the base.

Half an hour after drinking the remedy, I felt better. My fever was gone, my muscles no longer ached–all the symptoms were relieved. I couldn’t feel any of that heaviness that we feel when we’ve got a viral infection. My whole system felt pure.

Just to be on the safe side, though, I decided to call in to work. Eva suggested I stay home. “Policy,” she said. “You got a fever, you can’t come in for 24 hours.”

“I think I’m OK, though!” I said. “I took the remedy, and the mushrooms did their job.”

“Policy.” She hung up.

4006

So, I had another day off. By then, I was feeling great. I swam. I played the guitar. It felt like I’d been given a box of free time, wrapped up with a big bow.

4007

In the afternoon, I started feeling hungry, and the fridge was pretty bare, save for a slice or two of fruitcake. I felt completely well now–no fever, no symptoms, and not the slightest sensation of having rogue virus cells roaming through my tissues and veins. I felt safe to be in public, and I was getting famished.

I rode the ferry across to the high speed rail station, and within an hour I was sitting in a restaurant in Newcrest. Gunther Munch had been on the train, too. He wouldn’t tell me who he was meeting, and he and his friend seemed to be enjoying a heart-to-heart, so I kept my attention focused on the menu.

4008

“That’s a great choice, hun,” said the waitress when I ordered a quiche. “We’re fresh out, though, so we’ve got  make another batch. You up for waiting?”

I didn’t mind. Fresh quiche with caramelized onions seemed worth the wait.

4009

The waitress swung by with crayons, markers, and a blank placemat.

“I know who you are,” she said. “I love your paintings. Maybe this’ll help the time go more quickly–you know, just in case you’re feeling creative.”

I had to admit it was so fun to draw like a kid again. I signed the work and left it there, for the waitress. I hope she liked it.

4010

“Best quiche I’ve had in my life!” I told her, as I was finishing up my meal.

“Really, hun?” she asked.

“For sure!” I said. “It’s my first quiche!”

4011

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Wonder 39

Charlie

3902

“Charlie!” Luna pounced as soon as I arrived at the clinic. “Come! I need to talk with you!”

Immediately, I started running through everything that might have gone wrong. Was it the tests? I was sure that I’d left the incubator at the correct setting. Had I left it unplugged? Maybe I’d entered the records wrong yesterday. Oh, I bet I forgot to log out of the computer. It was the tests, I was sure of it. Something had gone horribly wrong with the samples.

“I’ll do better next time!” I said.

“What?”

“The tests?”

“The tests are perfect–revolutionary. But that’s not what I wanted to talk with you about. Well, I do. Just not first thing. First thing is: Congratulations!”

Congratulations? Turns out I’d won an award, and the person who nominated me had called the clinic to notify them. The Edgar Evans Community Service award is given to those who are helping to make the world a better place.

“But why do I get it?” I asked Luna. “I mean, I’m grateful. I’m just not sure I’m worthy!”

3901

If anyone at the clinic should get the award, Luna or Eva should. They’re the ones who’ve been serving as doctors in this community for years.

“Now about the results of your experiments,” Luna began.

Luna freed my schedule from doing rounds. She said it was more important for me to work on my tests. She’d looked at the results briefly during her break, and what she noticed was remarkable:  Agaricon, a very rare polypore, was wiping out the poxviruses. Not only that, Lentinan, PSK, and possibly a few of the other active mushroom compounds seemed to be hindering the adherence of viruses to host cells.

“This is important work, Charlie,” she said. “You stick with this, and you’re going to be earning a whole lot of other awards, too. Not to mention, preventing illnesses!”

I checked the samples. She was right! The mushroom complexes had slowed the growth of the viruses, and in some cases, completely eradicated them!

This was exciting stuff.

3903

Before I knew it, the day was over. I wanted to stay and keep working on my report, but the last ferry waits for no one, not even a scientist hot on the trail of the antiviral fungus!

As I was leaving, the receptionist called me over. “Dr. Capricciosa left this for you,” she said. It was a typed letter. I read it quickly–I’d been promoted!

I was feeling pretty good when I got home–tired, but happy-tired. So many good things: the award, the promotion, and most of all, the exciting results from the lab.

3904

I could hardly wait to share the lab results with Tia Berry. I wondered if she knew that it wasn’t just the echinacea and goldenseal but also the mushrooms in her remedies that had the power to knock out illness.

I wondered if I needed to tell Mãe, Tia Berry, and Pai about the award. For some reason, I felt bashful about having received it. I didn’t really feel like I’d done anything to deserve it.

3905

I mean, I’ve got faith in myself and my abilities–especially after the results of the test. But I just don’t feel that I’ve proved myself yet. In twenty years, after I’ve had a chance to make some changes–give me an award then!

I’d looked over my nominator’s acceptance speech, which included his reasons for nominating me. He mentioned my involvement in the Wonder Child program, as well as having founded Paint! and my decision to become a doctor.

None of these things seem special. I was in the program because Mãe needed health insurance. I formed Paint! so I could meet with other artists and kindred spirits. I want to be a doctor because I don’t like for other people to feel sick. It’s none of it rocket science, which is how the award originated, recognizing an astronaut’s contributions to his community. In fact, my nominator, the famous Daddy Bear, was an astronaut, too.

“Don’t look a gift horse,” I thought, with gratitude. I’d have to write an acceptance speech and nominate the next recipient. In doing so, I could turn this fluke into something good, if I can find the right words for my speech, and if I select a recipient who’s working for a cause that needs more attention.

3906

It’s a good thing, after all, and it came on a day that was full of good things. I crawled into bed, feeling tired and a little flushed. Unexpected success, especially when it comes in threes, can really wear a guy out!

3907

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Wonder 38

Charlie

3801

After my two-day vacation, I woke up ready for the clinic.

When I arrived, Luna was just finishing up her shift.

“Dr. Villareal?” I asked. “Have you got a few minutes?”

She chuckled. “Charlie! Why so formal all of a sudden?”

I’d been thinking, over my break, about how much went in to becoming a doctor–all that study. All that experience. It only seemed right to acknowledge that.

3802

We sat together in the lobby.

I felt hesitant at first to bring up the topic of integrative medicine. From what I’d heard, Luna was the most respected physician at the clinic, but she lit up with enthusiasm when I mentioned Tia Berry’s herbs.

“I’ve long wanted to introduce organic herbal remedies,” she said. “My nana used to keep us well with old balms and bitters handed down from her grandparents.”

3803

She encouraged me to keep researching to discover the scientific principles behind the successful remedies.

I spent the morning analyzing the effects of various organic compounds on viruses, comparing them with the effects of analogous synthetic compounds.

3804

In the afternoon, the doctor on duty called me to accompany him on his rounds.

“You’ve got a good bedside manner,” he whispered to me as we were leaving one of the patients’ rooms.

I chuckled–it seemed like such an old-fashioned observation. Hadn’t we established generations ago that genuine friendliness facilitates the healing relationship between physician and client?

3805

But I guess I shouldn’t object to valuing the old-fashioned common sense practices, seeing as much of what I’m hoping to integrate into my practice are the old folk remedies.

So, I kept my smile through the afternoon. I didn’t have the answer to all the patients’ questions, though.

“I’m not sure what’s causing your symptoms,” I told one man, who was worried by his headaches. “We’ll run tests on these samples, and I’ll refer your case to one of the physicians.”

3806

I wanted to tell him not to worry, but since I didn’t know what was wrong, I didn’t want to be inauthentic, either. “We’ll let you know what we discover,” I said, doubting my bedside manner for a second there. “You can trust your doctor to do his best.”

I realized while I was checking the results of my morning tests that what I wanted to say was, “You can trust your body and the healing power of nature. This is just an imbalance. And whatever’s happened to cause this imbalance, your body’s own natural healing abilities can cure, once they get the assistance they need to re-establish that balance.”

3807

That’s what I believe, at least. I’m hoping this belief proves right, even with tough cases.

3808

Keep the balance of health, as a preventive measure. Then, if imbalance occurs, restore it. Think of the complexity of the body: white blood cells, fevers, lymph nodes–all geared up to fight infection. Think of the myriad processes that occur in this miraculous system that is our body, every moment of every day of our lives. That’s the power of healing we want to leverage.

3809

As I was finishing up my shift, I got a call from Jake the Gardener. “We’re heading out to the bluffs to watch the sunset! Meet us there!”

Soon as I got off the ferry, I jogged over the bluffs. There was minha linda mãe.

3810

Jake grabbed me in a big hug, too.

“I’m really proud of you, Charlie,” he said.

3811

It got me, that Jake would be proud of me. Ever since I was a little kid, and I met him on my big adventure day, he’s been like a tio to me. I’ve never really tried to make him proud, but hearing him say he felt that way, it sort of choked me up a bit.

3812

We talked while the sun went down. Being a gardener, Jake knows all kinds of things about plants and their natural healing abilities. He’s going to be a good resource, I can tell.

As dusk fell, a DJ started playing tunes over in the clearing. We danced while the fog rolled in. The music was still playing, and the women were still dancing, when I left. I wanted to get to bed early. I had a full day at the clinic to wake up for in the morning.

3813

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Wonder 37

Charlie

3701

I had one more personal day before I had to return to the clinic. I decided to spend it alone. Time to think and time to be.

While I was painting after breakfast, I realized that this was the first day alone I’d ever spent. Growing up, somebody was always around. I wondered what I’d discover.

3702

I heard the ten o’clock ferry blow its horn, and I realized I had the whole island to myself. All my neighbors spent the day on the mainland. I was completely alone on an island in the middle of the bay.

I took a dip in the pool and went for a jog. I didn’t even bother putting on clothes–why, if there was no one to see?

3703

Running in my bare skin on my bare feet through the wild island meadows brought a strange feeling, both powerful and vulnerable.

3704

Blood raced through my veins, my muscles were pumped, my lungs filled with air and emptied again–this was vitality and the strength of being alive.

At the same time, here I was an insignificant dot of sinew and flesh on this tiny island in the middle of the bay.

I was the center of my experience, and at the same time a speck of no-notice in the grand scheme of things, mighty and tiny all at once.

3705

This seemed like a profound realization to me–something that might be significant for a healer to understand.

What are we? We are both the center of our experience and part of the whole.

I wondered if each cell in our bodies had that same type of doubleness: imagine each cell being the center of its system, its awareness, while also being a tiny part of the whole.

Health must be related to this: bring integrity to the small unit, and health is achieved in the whole. Provide health to the whole, and integrity will be brought to the tiny unit.

The family is like this, too, I thought later in the day.

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Even now that I’m living on my own, I’m still part of them–they’re still part of me. We share an inter-being which connects us always.

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Solitude felt rich when I contemplated it from this perspective. Solitude isn’t the same as separate or alone. I’m still connected to everyone and everything, just one more cell in the big scheme of the Universe.

3708

I spent the evening researching. I was surprised to see how many clinics incorporate holistic healing into their practices. Not only that, but the financials for these clinics are head and shoulders above the traditional medicine clinics. I’ll follow Tia Berry’s advice and learn the profession first, but when I’m ready to start incorporating new approaches, I can see there’ll be a market for it!

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I began to feel eager to return to the clinic the next day. Insight and inspiration were with me now. I was ready.

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Wonder 36

Charlie

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I got a call from the gallery. They’d received requests for my artwork.

“We want to buy up all the canvases that the members of your club create, too,” said the gallery owner.

“You want Paint’s’ work?” I asked.

“Absolutely!”

It turns out that a critic wrote a review of my work, “Wonder Child, Wonder Artist.” Somehow, the name recognition of Rocca, thanks to the fame of Pai and meu avô, generated excitement about my artwork, and through me and Tia Berry, the work of our club.

At the same time, I was ready for a day off from the health clinic. Even though I’d just started, I felt like I needed to sort things out. How did I feel about Western medicine, actually? Was working in the medical field really what I wanted? Maybe Tia Berry was right. And Mãe was definitely right that I’d been rushing things.

I called up Eva at the clinic and explained that I needed a few personal days to get situated.

I was hoping, too, to maybe get some furniture, especially if I could sell some paintings.

I called up the club members. “Come hang out at my place on the island!” I said. “Bring your yoga mats! Bring easels!”

3601

It felt great to see my old friends at the cottage.

I cornered Tia Berry the first chance I got.

“You know that herbal remedy you make?” I asked her. “What do you put in it?”

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“What’s with the sudden interest?” she replied.

I explained about how when Mãe had come to the clinic sick, I hadn’t been able to figure out what medicine could cure her, but we both knew that Berry’s herbal remedy would bring healing fast.

“I’m into healing,” I said. “I don’t want to fight or battle disease through synthetic chemicals. I want to heal through natural means.”

“You know,” Tia Berry said, “you’ve started the path of becoming a traditional doctor. You should follow through with it before veering off to other approaches.”

She headed downstairs, and I was left thinking over her words.

3603

We painted all morning. I called the gallery owner back and let him know that it looked like we’d have about six or seven works to deliver that afternoon.

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“Great!” he said. “I’ve got buyers already lined up!”

I found Tia Berry again.

“Ok,” I said. “I think I know what you mean. Learn the standard practices first, and then start introducing the alternative methods, right?”

3605

“That’s what I’m thinking,” Tia Berry said. “How do you know what works best if you don’t know what all the options are? Learn your field, first, and then you can start introducing or developing other approaches.”

After everyone left, I ran the canvases over to the island gallery, used my share of the profits to pick up a few cheap items of furniture from the second-hand store, and paid a fisherman to haul the  pieces in his truck back to the cottage.

In the soft evening light, I set up another canvas. I was painting this one to hang in the health clinic. As I painted I focused all my feelings into the canvas–I want to be able to look at this painting and remember the resolve I felt that evening.

3608

It’s a long path I’m on. I’m just at the beginning stages of learning how to be a doctor. I’ve got so much to learn. And then, once I learn that, I want to learn more, finding ways to integrate other more natural and holistic approaches to healing.

I think my life would have been more simple if I’d become a professional musician, or if I’d let my painting career be my main focus.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to settle for simple. I’ve cared more about doing what helps most. I just hope I’ve got what it takes to succeed in a field that I might not have much aptitude for. Desire, I was learning, doesn’t make talent.

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