Holistic Coach and Consultant
Copyright © 2019
Sunny with temperature in the fifties, dressed in a pair of wrist-warmers, a hand-knit red wool hat and a long sweater, I am able to comfortably play my fiddle outside.
I didn’t realize how loud a fiddle is, when I bought it a year and a half ago. I used to play guitar, and one can softly play the guitar—not so easy with a fiddle. I seek out parks and roadside pullouts to play in—places where I’m anonymous, which provides a sense of freedom and lack of self-consciousness.
When I first began playing, I had forests to hide in, so others could hear but not see me. Forests aren’t always an option. Now I usually stand at the side door of my van; I’ve grown more comfortable with people approaching, often interested in how I live in a van, others wanting to be near live music.
Some conversations lead to how I ended up living in a van, which occasionally leads to the topic of one of my books titled, Guilty By Degree—the story of an adventure with the Feds—which leads to sometimes rummaging on the passenger seat for some of my books, and then sometimes I’m asked, “Can I buy one?”
These occurrences have inspired me, on this particular day, to prop up some books on my windshield. Why not just put them out in plain sight?
Already having been approached by a young man who just bought a used Sprinter and longingly looked at my hand-built interior that he could view with the side door open, a woman close to my age who just started playing the violin six months ago, and I responded, “Go home and get your violin, we could play together!” but she had lunch guests arriving soon, darn, a woman walking her dog who commented, “Sammy led me here, he wanted to be closer to the music,” now, a mature man approaches, dressed for walking with a brimmed hat and comfortable shoes.
“Hi, I’m Roger.” I say my name, we shake hands, and Roger says, “Mind if I ask you about your Sprinter? I see you’ve got the Freightliner model.”
“Yeah, it’s identical to the Mercedes; they’re both Daimler, the logo’s the only difference—it’s reverse snobbism on my part.”
Laughing, this friendly stranger replied, “I have a Sprinter like this, but it’s one of the professionally-built models. I’m embarrassed sometimes by the Mercedes logo, too.”
We chat about our mutual love of Sprinters, then he moves over to the books propped on the windshield. “If I buy only one of these, which one would you recommend?”
I give him one-liners of each book’s content, and he picks out Lovely Medicine. He comments, “I had vague symptoms, mostly GI that could not be diagnosed by doctors; they just kept doing more and more tests, and then I found a functional medicine doctor who helped me completely restore my health. Then three months ago, I had a profound stroke, was unconscious for two days, was told I may live in a wheelchair. Now I’m completely recovered, and I feel better than I ever have. Like the stroke was a clearing out of something.”
“You’ve chosen well, then, you’ll find yourself in Lovely Medicine.”
We chat more, he hands me his card, and we wish each other a wonderful day.
Roger’s story sticks with me; I want to hear more of his stroke story. Would he be open to an interview?
By default, I’m becoming a journalist. Living on the road, spontaneous concerts in small parks and these chance encounters, often get me thinking about writing articles or more books—about Walmart parking lots, personal stories I hear everywhere I go about climate change, and the myriad benefits of living on the fringe of society. These impulses not yet acted on, culminate in this moment; Roger’s story could be the first of many that will nudge me out of pure memoir, and into giving voice to others’ stories.
Roger is agreeable, and we meet in his nearby tiny house, his getaway place that has a wood stove the size of a shoebox. He sits next to the stove for easy stoking with more mini-logs. I sit across from him in a rocking chair, and he dives in to his story.
Two-and-a-half years ago was when I resolved my gut issue—I’ve been in great health since then, consider myself in good shape; I go anywhere, and do what I want.
So I wake up one morning, my wife fixes us scrambled eggs and bacon, and I’m eating the scrambled eggs, and they’re like, hard to chew; and I get into the bacon, and I can’t chew it and think, there’s really something wrong with the bacon, and I spit it out. My wife comes in and later she tells me that she saw drool coming out of my mouth, and I was tapping the table, which I didn’t realize. She asks me a question and I can’t get my words out, and I think, no problem, they’ll come out. So she gets me into the car and takes me to an urgent care place, and the doctor asks me a couple of questions and I can’t really say anything, and I keep thinking, well, they’ll come out, no big deal. Then the doctor uses the phrase, “global aphasia,” which really resonates with my wife and me—that got my attention, because my dad had a stroke; he died about ten years ago, and he lived thirteen years in a nursing home, paralyzed on one side of the body, global aphasia, couldn’t say anything—that was very traumatic for my family; he was seventy-eight, I’m sixty-six. It was terribly tragic for my family, and had to be terrible for him, living inside himself with a lot of his brain function still going.
They call an ambulance and get me to the emergency room. There they inject something in me that’s supposed to clear the stroke out, and that didn’t work. So then they call up another hospital, and back in the ambulance, they get me there.
I wake up two days later, and my wife was pretty distraught. The surgeon had cut open a place here (he points to his inner thigh), and goes here (pointing to his carotid artery), and there’s an obstruction and they clear that and they put a stent in, and then they go up (pointing to his skull), and there’s been blood pooling and a clot, and they clear that. And when I woke up, my wife was saying, “You’ve had a major stroke, this is a really big deal.” The surgeon had to go in twice; he told my wife I may end up in a wheelchair, and I may die.
After my wife’s experience with my dad’s stroke, she was obviously very upset. But I didn’t know any of this. She told me all this and I thought they just blew it all out of proportion.
I was seen by several neurologists over the next week and a half, was told, this was a very serious stroke; fortunately, your wife got you here very quickly, and I thought, oh really? I didn’t realize any of that.
The occupational therapist came and put belt on me and we walked around slowly. As we were walking back, the neurologist came up to me and said, “You are a miracle.”
I kept saying no big deal.
I was set up to see an occupational therapist. I went through an extensive exam, and he says, “You’re okay, you don’t need anything.” So right after that I go to a speech therapist, and she says, “Well, you’ve got some issues with your grabbing words,” which we’d already noticed, and she kept me for four sessions, and then she said we were done.
That pretty much sums up the medical part of the story, except that the neuorologist put me on a statin and a daily baby aspirin. I don’t like the statin and want to go off it—we’ll see.
Two other parts to the story. Everybody in my family is very cognizant of my dad’s situation, they knew what this could mean. My brother lives in South Carolina, lives two and a half hours away. I’ve got a nephew in his forties who lives there; now, everybody in my family is devout southern baptist—devout; my sister’s married to a retired baptist minister, he’s got a PhD in bible theology or something like that; my wife and I left that about twenty years ago. So my nephew drove two-and-a-half hours to here, the day after the stroke happened. I was out of it, I didn’t know any of this—and he sat at my bed for ten minutes and prayed with me, then got back in his car and drove back home, and went to work.
That really got to me, the amount of faith, the amount of action in faith. Another part of this is I did some work around here with a Buddhist shaman, did a long-term shaman course with her. She is now in Ireland; I found out later that one of my friends contacted her and let her know that I’d had a stroke and was in bad shape, and so she did whatever she did; I don’t know what she did.
So I began to think about this Baptist approach to consciousness and God, and this shaman’s approach to consciousness. Here was the interesting part to me. I was in the intensive care for three or four days, and then they got me into a regular room. It was about ten-thirty at night; one wall was dark green; as soon as I closed my eyes, I’d go into a vision, trance, whatever you want to call it. When I opened my eyes, I’d come out of it. I close my eyes, I’m right back in it. Back and forth, back and forth. I can see some trees, some vegetation. And then I see this woman crawling around on feet and hands, it’s kind of like a low crawl, creepy looking, like a panther walking around. I’m thinking, this is quite odd. And the next thought is I might be in danger. But I think about it, and well, I don’t really feel like I’m in danger. But it’s odd, it’s pretty creepy.
So this goes on for awhile, and then other animals come along, and they’re doing the same kind of thing, low crawl close to the ground. So I’m thinking, well, maybe this hospital is on Cherokee land, maybe I’m channelling the Cherokees who used to live here.
I end up going to sleep, and I go through dreams that are very vivid. Two of them are that same type of thing where there’s someone slinking around close to the ground. Then I move out of that, into being in the woods. I wake up the next morning, and I bet there was a Cherokee graveyard right there.
The next night, nothing happened, and I thought, no big deal.
It didn’t hit me until just a week ago, that it might have been the shaman doing her process, and that was what was all around me.
So then I was thinking—this is my basic religious philosophy, is that we’re all one consciousness. Let’s just say we’re all in this one consciousness, and here’s my nephew who’s praying to God who is my consciousness, your consciousness, all of our consciousness —and here is this shaman who is dealing with her consciousness through her three different worlds, dealing with animals and all that, and I’m thinking about, let’s just picture there’s a God. I don’t think there’s a God, but there’s some force, and that force is sittin’ up there, and let’s say I am this God, and I’ve got this southern baptist guy and he’s really entreating me (God), and then I’ve got this shaman woman and she’s really cranky and entreating me for you, and I’ve got both of them entreating me to do something for you. So that was my spirituality bringing all of this together and doing this healing, of whatever was going on.
Then when I got out (of the hospital), I felt great. My wife was saying, I’m not going to let you out of my sight. I’m going to drive you everywhere. We’ve been married forty-six years, no big deal being together, we get along very very well, but that’s where she was coming from. I’d asked the doctor when I left the hospital, she said yeah, you can drive. My wife immediately said—you can’t drive!
So for the next week and a half, she drove me everywhere, and then she was tired of it.
The Carl Sandburg National Park, it’s a nice place to walk, normally I don’t go that far because it’s hard on my knees, especially back when I had the immune system issue with my intestines; but I decided I was going to go there. I didn’t tell my wife I was going—it was probably forty degrees, it was raining, it was a miserable day, and I drove there, and I had it all to myself, it was perfect. I decided maybe I would go up the trail probably a quarter of the way, and come back home. And then I thought, well, I can go a bit further, and I got half-way up. And then I end up going all the way to the top without stopping; I would stop and rest a little bit, and I went all the way up. This was a few weeks after the stroke.
When I got home, she blew a gasket.
I went back there every day for a week, and I kept getting better and better.
I’ve just been drawn to the woods, hopefully by myself, not always. I’m leaving soon to go down to Alabama to go to this old growth forest. I’ve been doing that—walking in the woods when I can, eating it up, this place (he gestures around him to his tiny house) is a great place for me.
My diet used to be totally atrocious until almost three years ago, when I did no sugar, no dairy, no grains, no legumes—and I thought when I started that, I’m going to die. Then I did it, I physically did it. My wife is a really good cook, she’s been making really good meals for me. I lost thirty-five pounds within about four months on that diet; that got my attention. I was pre-diabetic before then, and that all went away. When I left the hospital, I was down maybe three more pounds. After I got home, I lost five more pounds.
Was it a spontaneous weight-loss after the event?
I think I ate less, and also have been cutting back. My functional doctor told me no sugar, no xylitol, nothing like that, but you can have honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, so I had a lot of those. But since the stroke, I’ve cut back more on those—I think that’s what happened, is cutting out more of those things.
Those are the physical symptoms that I’ve gone through, and I just feel great. When the functional doctor got through with me, I felt like I was ten years younger. Now I feel five years younger than that, that’s what it’s done to me. I feel younger, more energetic, more everything, but at the same time, you’re familiar with the enneagram?
I nod yes.
I’m a five; we can be a pain in the butt, we really like collecting data, like to pull it all together; I seem to have lost that compulsion during the stroke. I’ve lost a lot of those traits that I would say are enneagram five, I’ve pulled back from that. I feel like the universe has told me, go sit in the corner, keep your mouth shut, and go get out in nature all you want. That’s what it feels like, that’s what I’ve been told. That’s what I’ve been doing.
So those are parts of the spiritual side of all of this.
I’d love to hear your response to any or all of that.
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