In the Mind
The Maine island which had been my sea-girt home, grew mythic and far way. I had reached the American Southwest and the Rockies.
Among the true anecdotes in that book, I wrote about an impoverished and emaciated old woman, and my personal embarrassment at avoiding her desperate person in the campground.
She lived, and still lives, year-round in her ancient decrepit Volkswagen Bug, on a meager social security check and at the time, mostly canned beans and wheat chapatti.
Note the wheat; there's more.
I was appalled that an elder should be so lost; it tore at my heart. I at least was making camping kombucha and managed one decent meal a day.
All too observant of the manner in which she devoured people out of loneliness, frantic energy and despair, I was ashamed of myself as I side-stepped interaction. Nearly everyone avoided her.
Yesterday, I saw her at the big health food store, having already spotted the wretched VW Bug as I came in. Imagine: duct tape and bailing twine, putty in dents and cracks.
She used to startle and scream if approached from her blind side. So I came gently and spoke her name. She turned... and beamed at me. Though still frail, she stood there grinning, bright-eyed and grounded. She actually glowed.
She announced, "Oh it's YOU!" I nodded. "After you advised me that my anxiety and tummy pain were likely from gluten intolerance, I went gluten-free!"
I stood there gobsmacked for a minute, said WOWZA, and explained that now GMO's are causing even more gluten-intolerance, plus an obesity and auto-immune epidemic. Besides, uh, tumors.
Hard of hearing, she pushed back her head scarf. "What? Would you say that again?"
So I spoke next to her ear and the proximity did not cause her to cringe back, as it would have done those years ago.
"Listen to this," she said "I talk to people in the campgrounds now who describe how discouraged and rotten they feel.
"I tell them: Seven years ago, camping in a wild place by a river, a nutritionist was my tenting neighbor. She explained about gluten-intolerance, that it's wide-spread, almost never diagnosed, and the lab tests, if you can afford them, may not be reliable.
"Here's the deal: If you stop eating gluten, there's a change; if you eat it again, the old stuff comes back. I tell everyone who will listen!"
Her cart was full of interesting high-nutrient food, including gluten-free bread, aha, and blue corn tortillas. She was camping rent-free on private land off in the high country, and was, thus, richer, not having to pay campground fees.
She saw me admiring her wonderful shopping cart and enthused: "I buy only organic and non-GMO and eat no sugar! Will I get over the leaky gut?"
"Yes, you will. Candida lives as a macabre partner in a gut chewed up by gluten grains and antibiotics. Carry on. It just takes longer after many decades, a lifetime of not knowing what to do. I so wish you good journey, dear heart. You've given me such a gift today."
Hard to know when a smile or a kind word does any good at all.
Blind Milton, dictating Paradise Lost to his daughter, offered this: "They also serve, who only stand and wait."