Hope for the best
Expect the worst, but hope for the best…watchwords of life?
Brought up in a household that was beset by illness from the time I was very young, the worse was always present. My sister contracted polio, my Dad was sent away to a TB sanitorium, I was felled with a life-threatening pneumonia and we all had what were then expected childhood diseases.
Mumps, measles, chicken pox…even the dreaded German Measles…mostly all at the same time. My mother, plagued by arthritic knees and horrible varicose veins, did her best as the family caregiver, aided only her mother, my grandmother, for help.
I’ve often thought that they both should be considered for canonization.
Money was exceptionally tight.
Despite all of this, there was always the magnificent sense that things would get better; there was hope.
Probably the most important generator of that sentiment was the desire to learn new things. If you think about it, there are countless worlds of knowledge waiting for you to enter, perhaps through books, through experience, through direct education…countless ways to rekindle the spark of hope that lies within delight and knowledge.
The neatest part about this hope thing is that it is free. No one charges you for the gratitude for what you do have and, similarly, no one charges you for the things that you don’t have but want. Both are resources for more or better times.
My Dad, forced into a tuberculosis sanitarium three hours away from our home and treated with what, by today’s standards, with barbaric nostrums and protocols, learned to make goods from discarded leathers while he was confined at Otisville..
I treasure to this day a small drawstring purse that he made for me. It wasn’t a way to make a living, but a way to make his way through very hard times, times where he watched some of his fellow patients perish.
He filled other hours reading a series of books on becoming a successful salesman. He was proud of his ability to do something, anything while waiting almost a year for remission. These things were as significant a part of his treatment, probably more so, as the requirement that the patients sleep with the windows open in the winter.
Today, I, with great anticipation, took a brief but wonderful, meaning, full of wonder, lesson in salve making at Baltimore Woods.
Fran Lawlor, the land manager, assisted by Sterling Cousins, a part time educator and volunteer, took nine of us through the almost mystical process of making our own salves, slathers and balms.
Using natural ingredients, including beeswax from Fran’s own hives, we watched Fran and Sterling concoct lip balm, body butters and salves.
Fran’s long experience and preference for in New York state trees and the lovely scents that can be extracted from them lead us into choosing the subtle fragrances of Balsam Fir and Balsam Popular for the emollients that we took home with us.
We learned how to process the simple ingredients of oil, wax and fragrance, where to obtain both ingredients and materials for packaging, where we can learn more about the many ways that salves are used and how to be cautious about their use.
I brought a bag of Balsam Fir home to make an infused oil, a listing of recipes for the various ways that you can produce slaves of different consistencies, recommendations from other participants about sources with which they were familiar and a series of books that feature salves as healing remedies along with my own lip balm, body butter and salves.
I also brought home a sense of the possible, that I can produce similar items, crafted specifically for those I care about.
I am thinking about my youngest grandson and is dry lips, softening butter for my daughter’s hands, a salve infused with capsacin for my son’s post marathon aches and my post-surgical ouches.
Of course I can also produce lovely smelling lavender sachet balms, create Christmas scented hand creams…a world of wonder and promise….
OK, so it cost $6 for the lesson. Well worth it.
As I try to reinvent how I will walk through a world with a cane and pain, I need as my Dad did, that new spark of knowledge to help define who I am capable of being.