Watermelon Pickles and Records for the Blind

The ticking of a hand-wound clock and the voice of my father’s aunt were what I first noticed as I tried to sit quietly on a Victorian chair with curved wooden legs and a not-very-soft needlepointed seat. I wasn’t able to sit still for long. “Go into the kitchen and get a watermelon pickle,” my great-aunt said merrily. Legally blind due to glaucoma, she could see only shadows and silhouettes. I was an avid reader as a child, so blindness terrified me. Although she applied drops to her cloudy eyes, there were limited treatments and no cure in 1965.

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Apocalyptic Ping-Pong

So tired of wildfire smoke and pandemic and stress.

So grateful for clearer skies this weekend, my son’s team winning their soccer tournament, the brief moment of clean-enough air yesterday evening that allowed me to ride my horse and feel a moment of balance before diving into a new week.

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Where Faith and Public Health Meet

Today I participated in a vaccination effort that was conducted at a church. Over the past few weeks, I have been reading about the faith community’s varied responses to the pandemic. While disappointed with the responses of some religious leaders, I was encouraged by others.

Today’s event brought me a sense of hope. It felt like a true meeting point of the faith and public health communities.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, I managed to ask some of the patients we saw about their everyday lives. A young woman told me she was working and schooling

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This winter, it seemed to me that silver linings were popping up everywhere, like starbursts cast as fairy dust from Tinkerbell’s wand. Everyone seemed to be finding them, but few had any meaning for me. When the vaccine first became available in the new year, I was desperate to get it. Newly diagnosed with cancer, I wanted all the extra protection I could get. I have now received both vaccines and do, indeed, feel safer.

But I’m still not seeing any silver leaking from the sky. Like a horse with blinders, I can see only straight ahead,

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I’ll Trade You

I will say you can have your silver linings. Keep them. Save them for when you need them and then see how wonderful they don’t feel. 

Understand what the price of one really is. Yes, I have learned to be grateful for the small, everyday mercies. And I really am, on most days. Yes, I know others have it much worse. Yes, maybe I am stronger, wiser, kinder. But actually I won’t ever know, will I?  Because there isn’t another me to compare it to. Yes, character, courage, all those things. But what if I would have been okay–and I

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Many Happy Returns

As we mark one year of COVID-19, I am reminded of my uncomfortable relationship with anniversaries. Cyclic completion may warrant celebration, but also self-monitoring: How many of my goals have I met this year? What have I missed? What can I do better next year? Under this lens of surveillance, any repetition can start to look like regression. Circular time, for all its recurrences and renewals, chafes against the idea of linear time, which prizes productivity, trackable progress toward an aim, a forward-looking mindset.

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Who Will Buy the King Cake?

I have anxiety. I can freely admit it and even laugh at myself now that years and years separate my terror from my present. I can acknowledge that it is better for me to stay on an SSRI consistently after several starts and false stops over the past two decades.

I have always gone to work and cared for the children and put one foot in front of the other and put on a brave face. But I have been nearly convinced at different times over the years that I had congenital heart disease, lymphoma, esophageal/ovarian/breast/brain/pancreatic cancer, hemochromatosis,

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À Cause de la Guerre

It was the winter of 1991. We were a group of 25 or so Dartmouth College students on a language study abroad (LSA) program in Lyon, France. A few days after our arrival, the United States led a multinational coalition in an intensive bombing campaign against Iraq. This made Americans quite unpopular in Lyon.

When we’d enrolled in the LSA, we’d envisioned train-hopping through Europe during our free time, notre temps libre. We’d imagined bonding together over cheap French wine, chocolate croissants, and buttery baguettes. Instead, we had the war. La guerre.

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The Gift of Friendship

Even before COVID, I tended to live an isolated life. I interacted with my colleagues and students at the Writing Center where I worked, and I chatted with other ushers at cultural events—but once I was at home, I welcomed the silence and aloneness that my apartment offered. COVID, however, has made me more cognizant of the value of people—of how friends have provided a silver lining to the darkness of this pandemic.

I wonder what I would have done if the parents of the children I tutor had not reached out to me during these past twelve months. They

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An Editor’s Invitation: Silver Linings

Dear Pulse readers,

I’d like to think that every cloud has a silver lining, and every unfortunate occurrence brings moments of grace.

That’s sometimes true with illness.

When my Belgian mother became ill with Alzheimer’s, it brought headaches and heartaches. After every fall or episode of getting lost, we’d try to talk with her about the future. Her answer was always the same: “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

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