06 September 2009

Colds, kidneys and the cosmic dance

Apple tree
Days come no better than this: as perfect as they come — a hard, white frost melting under a warm sun; no trace of cloud in a flawless sky; no hint of wind stirring the still air; the kind of day one should do something active and outdoors — go tramping in the Ruahine, get on the road bike for an hour or two's cycling up the valley or the mountain bike for the slog up No. 1 Line and the delightful cruise back down, freewheeling most of the way, or maybe a wander up the river with the fly rod and polaroids, hoping to spot a trout but not minding if you don't because it's just so lovely to be out there in weather like this, as perfect as it gets.

But I'm at the peak of my cold. Slightly headachy, sinuses stuffed up, nose sore from constant blowing, a general feeling of exhaustion, weakness and lassitude, and regular bouts of sneezing. Once, I sneezed violently and thought I'd Kereru in plumruptured a kidney — a sudden, agonising shaft of pain knifing through the region where, I thought, the shattered remains of my right-side kidney now dangled, dripping and bloody. I suppose I'd just pulled a muscle, or maybe something had spasmed, but it still made me gasp and groan out loud. Even now, an hour or two later, it aches [1].

Then there's that weird feeling as if either the world's real or I'm real but not both. Am I somewhere else, looking at the world, or does the world go about its existence somewhere slightly removed from me, somehow independently of me? I knew viruses were strange, but never realised they could sever the connection between consciousness and reality.

Even time seems different. I listened to some favourite songs and they sounded far too fast; the pitch remained the same but the tempo had speeded up, as if the songs were late for a meeting. Had I slowed down, or had reality speeded up? If that makes any sense at all — which, given my state, it might not — could there be any difference, and if there is, could it be detectable even if principle?

A kereru [2] alights in the plum tree by the kennels and begins plucking buds as it sways on a branch seemingly too thin to support the big bird's bulk. A swallow [3] skims fast over the paddock in front of the verandah a few metres away; it loops and flits back, disappearing over the roof. The bird moves around its motionless wing, the world moves around the bird. Perhaps this is our mistake: we think the world revolves around us, but maybe we revolve around it, or — and this idea I like best — maybe we move around and with each other in an infinitely complex, eternally recurring cosmic dance.


1. Maybe I was right. Shortly after I wrote that, I discovered I was pissing blood. I rang the medical centre, and was transferred to the after hours service where I was told it would be good if I could come in and get checked. A trip into town: half an hour's driving each way, who knows how long sitting in a waiting room swapping my cold virus for someone else's swine 'flu, and then what could they do? Tell me, “Yes, you have blood in your piss?” I decided to wait, to see whether it would get better (as I suspected it would); to do what cats, those master healers, do — sleep in the sun and heal themselves. It worked, and my admiration for the wisdom of cats has further increased.
2. Kereru, Aotearoa/New Zealand's native pigeon, Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae.
3. The Welcome swallow, Hirundo tahitica neoxena.
Photos (click to enlarge them):
1. This could be several things. One is the wild old apple near the edge of the terrace. The weird colours are deliberate.
2. This is that kereru, plucking plum buds.
3. And this is Ming, one of the wise, 22 years old now and still owning the place. He kept me company yesterday afternoon in the sun on the verandah.

Photos and original text © 2009 Pete McGregor


Zhoen said...

I hope you beat back the virus soon. At least you had a perfect day to compensate.

Cats do have a way of being comfortable in odd positions.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
Glad the sleep in the sun worked. I too am sitting here with the windows open to the stunning day, listening to the resident chorous of Tui's while also sniffling and snuffling and having a terrible sore throat. Tara calls it the "Man Flu" and has taken the boys out to enjoy the day while I sit in misery. At least commiserating to you has made me smile a bit. Hope you feel better soon. Kia kaha.

KiwiSoupGirl said...

Sorry to hear you are bugged up Pete...! Not pleasant, these new modern day viruses that are living in their own cosmic world and fighting their own cosmic battles with our immune systems also. As for time feeling out of whack, sounds like a temperature threatening, or the 2012 Calendar soothsayers being proven right perhaps about our reality changing? :-) Gorgeous weather though, to be experiencing such things and glad to know you are finding enjoyment in that still, in spite of your illness. Take care, be well soon.

Anne-Marie said...

'Tis all wrong that you should be ill on a day like this. I went out to Landguard Bluff on a job and saw - seemingly close enough to touch - Ruapehu and Taranaki. Just stunning. I hope you managed to sit in the sun and enjoy. Keep an eye on that blood, won't you? And get better soon *hugs*

Maureen said...

Hope you get to feeling better soon, Pete.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Zhoen. We can learn so much from cats. I heard some years ago that vibrations with the same frequency as a cat's purr reputedly hasten the healing of broken bones. The research seemed sound (pardon the pun), but I must see if I can find it again. Fascinating if it's true.

Robb, thanks, and commiserations. I'm heaps better today; hope you are too. I was lucky and missed out on the sore throat, fortunately.

KSG, you might have been right about the temperature. I felt a bit feverish yesterday, and last night woke drenched in sweat; by morning I felt far better and I've continued to improve throughout the day. Should be back to my usual chirpy self very soon. Thanks :^)

Anne-Marie, as I suspected, the blood had cleared up completely by evening. If I hadn't realised it must have been related to the ubersneeze I'd have been worried, but after the initial "WTF!!?" moment, I calmed down enough to think sensibly about what to do — i.e. act like a cat. :^) Glad you got to enjoy some of the glorious weather too.

Thanks Maureen — I am. :^)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

When i sneeze these days i always tense too much and end up with a big pain right through the middle of my back

And lemonade becomes undrinkable (the fizzy kind)

Sorry to hear you're under the weather - but nice to see that you've been busy whilst i was away

Avus said...

Pissing blood can be frightening (I know!).Glad it has cleared up Pete and hope you are feeling much better.
Ming is one fantastic cat. My last old Ginger Tom lasted to 18 and I thought that was good, but 22....!

pohanginapete said...

Hungry pixies, I too have cricked my neck and back in the past by sneezing — fortunately, only rarely (it's usually caused by one of seemingly innumerable other things!). And I've also noticed the change in the way things taste, too, to the extent that sometimes I've realised I'm coming down with a bug because some foods and drinks suddenly taste odd. A real bummer when it's wine ;^)

Avus, I was lucky I mentally linked the sneeze with the blood so quickly. Still a bit scary, but if it had happened without any apparent cause, I'd have been far more worried. It certainly helped that it cleared up so quickly, too! The cold's pretty much gone completely now, and I'm looking forward to a bit of gentle exercise to clear out the cobwebs. And yes, Ming's amazing. He looks as if he has plenty more years left in him, too.

the watercats said...

I didn't think you could rupture a kidney sneezing!.. my lord!... I'll be paranoid every time I get a cold now! We have head colds at the moment, the joys of the kid's first week at school :-(
It was interesting about time and the cold. I've never really thought too deeply about it before, but you're right, everything seems too fast, difficult, tedious.. even breathing.
As for the cat, what a fantastic old soul he looks.. brilliant eyes!
get well soon!

pohanginapete said...

Watercats, I didn't think it was possible, either. Unfortunately, I think suppressing sneezes is potentially just as bad. Of course now your kid's at school, I guess you can look forward to contracting every lurg that's going round (sorry!).

And yes, Ming's an inspiration. We reckon that left eye of his is like the Eye of Sauron ;^)

Michael said...

Very artful piece of autobiography, Pete. Quite beautiful. I hope you're feeling better and getting out into that world that you capture so well here.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Michael. I'm pretty much back to normal (whatever that is). I find it satisfying to take something that's a bummer and turn it into something worthwhile. Like turning lemons into lemonade (that's the fizzy kind, Hungry Pixies ;^)).

PurestGreen said...

Last year I met an 84-year old woman who self-medicated by leaning her spine against trees that had been warmed by the afternoon sun. The next time I am unwell, I am going to lie in the sun. Glad you're on the mend.

pohanginapete said...

PurestGreen, something about the warmth of the sun seems to get deeper in than most other forms of heat. Maybe it's just psychological, but its warmth seems to get into the bones in a way quite unlike, say, heat from a fire or electric heater. Thanks for the good wishes :^)

Beth said...

Late here, but still wanting to wish you well, Pete. Hope the cold and its aftereffects are all gone by now.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Beth. All recovered now. The days are getting longer, the temperature's warming and I'm looking forward to a great summer :^)