This fevers me, this sun on green, On grass glowing, this young spring. The secret hallowing is come, Regenerate sudden incarnation, Mystery made visible In growth, yet subtly veiled in all, Ununderstandable in grass, In flowers, and in the human heart, This lyric mortal loveliness, The earth breathing, and the sun. ~Richard Eberhart from “This Fevers Me”
I understand so little
of the mystery that surrounds me
yet I see it made visible,
like the raindrop tears from above
rousing me from my slumber.
I breathe deeply,
letting the loveliness, like oxygen,
find its way deep
filling my heart.
Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys. ~Madeleine L’Engle
It was another day of a virus with fever that kept me down and atypically quiet on a summer day. There are peas to harvest in the garden, a barn to clean, a new puppy to train, flower gardens to water–not to mention the usual needs at work. I could do none of it, not even the requisite two hours at the Dept of Motor Vehicles to get my drivers’ license renewed before my birthday next week. It all must wait for another healthier day.
Amid my own chills and aches, and with just a little dose of self-pity, tonight I witnessed an expanding fever rise across the horizon in the western sky, exploding in intense red-orange light, coloring and covering everything. Then, having reached its peak, it backed off. as a fever will do, gradually fading to gray, all once again returned to normal.
And so my fever will relent at some point and fade in my memory.
Tonight, the fever in the sky, like faith that touches and colors everything in the rough times, was the sudden startling joy that has made everything bearable.
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
It is not supposed to happen while taking vacation days from work. I’m supposed to be well-rested, eager to return to work and ready for the next challenge. Instead, some viral crud has collided with my immune system and won; I’ve spent the last 24 hours with chills, fever, muscle aches and no appetite. I was thinking my strange dreams and overwhelming laziness over the previous two days was just the real “me” coming out while on vacation, but now I know it was the real virus instead.
I try to go at 100 miles per hour in my professional and personal life to get everything done, rarely taking breaks as I feel I’ll never regain the momentum needed. I’m finding that approach to life can’t be sustained, either because my body can’t do it any longer, or more likely, my brain doesn’t easily stretch that thin any longer. I’m realizing there may a steady pace that is sustainable and I need to find it. Right now that pace is from bed to bathroom to computer and back to bed. I hope to aim for a little more adventure tomorrow.
When I am stretched too thin–when tears flow easy–it is time to slow down and taste the bread and not worry about buttering it.
It is time for the body to be restored by the Body.
Flu viruses rank up there with mosquitoes, rats, and slugs as creatures of questionable value to the Planet Earth. I realize there is a reason for all things at all times, but how I managed to invite one of these little RNA stuffed darlings into my nasopharynx is a mystery. I was washing my hands to the point of being red and raw and wearing a N100 mask when in contact with hundreds of coughing feverish patients. It still happened. It outsmarted sanitizer, respiratory barriers, and social distancing. So now on day three of fever and general misery, I bow in homage to the virus that lays millions low. Misery does not love company.
Viruses do tend to have an equalizing effect on society. They are no respecters of social status –one nose and set of lungs is as good as another. However, the fact that thousands of deaths occur annually due to these little creatures is significant. You’d think a virus would know better than to kill its own host, but some hosts can’t take the onslaught of cytokines and inflammatory response. It is still pre-H1N1 vaccine in most parts of the world, and some of the antiviral medications have little effect, so it becomes an outright virus vs. host battle. That’s what it feels like: a Lord of the Rings-Orks against the Elves and the Dwarves-onslaught happening in every muscle of my body. I’d forgotten about some of those muscles. Some haven’t made themselves known for decades, probably not since my last influenza, or when I tried taking a yoga class in my twenties.
So my only physiological response is fever. This isn’t necessarily a bad response, as some studies suggest that a hot host is not a hospitable host to many viruses. We’re not nearly as tolerant of fevers as we used to be. A recent study has shown that giving a dose of Tylenol to children before or after their routine immunizations, to help decrease pain and fever, actually blunts the immune response so they don’t make as much antibody, which is the whole point of the vaccination to begin with. So there may actually be need for fever in certain circumstances. In my lovely 50’s era baby book, my mother noted in 1955 that my 6 month shot was a “good take” because I spiked a 104 degree fever, signaling a good immune response to the vaccine. That was one way the doctors calmed down nervous mothers about brand new vaccines. Fever is a “good” sign. Nowadays, that kind of fever after a vaccination would be enough for a trip to the ER and potentially a law suit.
If there is anything I’ve learned in 30 years of doctoring, it’s that the pathogens continue to be smarter than modern medicine no matter what weapons, chemical or otherwise, we come up with next to arm ourselves. Thankfully, we have immune systems that are remarkably effective for most things, but the fight required to win the war with a virus is not for the faint hearted. It is a down and dirty trench and barbed wire battle field.
Just right now, it feels like time for a ceasefire…