Re-learning rheuma

Yesterday was sort of rough. Achy hands were a little achy-er and, just to toss in something new, my right knee flared mildly. It wasn’t enough to slow me down, but each step on that leg came with a low, mean twinge that I couldn’t ignore, try as I might.

After a good night’s sleep (in spite of Finny and PIB, who have decided not to bug each other at bedtime and who sleep mere inches apart while tucked up close against me, making each of my turn-overs during the night a sort of gymnastic work of art, as neither of them moves), my hands are back to normal (mildly sore) and that ominous twinge in my knee is gone entirely. I’m relieved.

I’m re-learning rheuma, re-learning how to react when one of my joints decides to flare. Unlike the past, when a twinge in a knee was a warning of imminent agony and disablement that could last for half a day to a week, these days those twinges just seem to peter out. I hope that means the cocktail of drugs I’m taking are doing their jobs, even if imperfectly, at stopping the inflammation before it gets out of hand. And I’m grateful. My memories of the flares I went through during the first 10 years after I was diagnosed with RA are nightmarish. But it’s a different beast now.

Spring 2009's straw-bale garden before planting.

The storm that brought a couple of inches of snow, hail, sleet, grauppel and rain has gone, flying over the mountains to the east. Today the sun is out and everything is sparkling with wet diamonds. There are still patches of glistening, crusty white snow in the shady areas, and it’s cold enough that my breath steams, but it looks like a fine day to get out in the garden and start cleaning up and prepping it for spring planting. I have dreams of roma tomato vines and pretty green-and-purple aubergine plants, of colorful bell peppers, leafy heads of romaine and butter and oak-leaf lettuce. And beans — I want to plant beans this season — fava beans, green beans, black beans.

There’s a lot of pleasant, calorie-burning, muscle-stretching work to be done out there on our little 1/3-acre garden. I’m looking forward to being out there, soaking up the warmth and Vitamin D from the sun. Already the clematis plants are sending out their long, delicate vines, which brush my face when I pass beneath them. They need to be trained to the trellises. And of course, there’s a winter’s worth of clean up to do. Each storm left more leaves and pine needles on the ground; it all needs to be neatened up in celebration of the sweet weather ahead.

Inside, windows need washed and thrown open to the fresh, clean air, cobwebs in the corners need swept away, and the ever-present ash, dirt and wood particles around the wood stove and the firewood ring need cleaned up. The sunshine offers up dust on surfaces I couldn’t see when the daylight was dark and gray. There’s so much to be done.

Today, after a long weekend spent mainly indoors, watching the wild, last-of-winter weather wreak havoc, the world outdoors beckons me. That’s where I’ll start, tackling one bright chore at a time. I’ll do my best to be mindful of my energy and my joints — rheuma is always in the wings — but I’ll enjoy each thing I accomplish today. Spring is here. Summer is on the way. Today is a celebration.

10 thoughts on “Re-learning rheuma

  1. Happy Spring!

    “I’m re-learning rheuma, re-learning how to react when one of my joints decides to flare.” I’ve never thought of it this way, but I like it…just as the pain and inflammation never ends, neither does the learning…and as long as we look at it that way, is sound so much nicer.

    The garden sounds lovely! On a totally different scale, a few days ago I was walking in the middle of some field on the shores of Lake Titicaca, as the sun set. We were picking up some freshly harvested potatoes, onions, and fava beans (which are so good eaten directly from the plant). Getting in direct contact with the place where food is grown is always a wonderful experience. Your ability to do so in your own home is a true gift.


  2. You know, I’ve only tried fava beans once, just a few years back. A local farmers market was selling them, and I decided to buy some. Of course, my only experience of them was from Anthony Hopkins’ famous line about “fava beans and a nice chiante” in Silence of the Lambs. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover how big and tasty they were (without the … ergh… main course he was referring to in the movie).

    I’m looking forward to growing my own this season. And yes, RA is a continuing learning experience, as it’s so very changeable. Might as well learn to roll with the punches, eh?


  3. I enjoy hard work and it sounds like you have plenty. I am not a gardener YET, but I have big plans for someday. Maybe you can share pictures along the way to keep motivating me.


  4. Wow, Wren. Your garden sounds wonderful. I’ll admit, though, that I am exhausted just reading your list of jobs that need to be tackled. It was a relief to read that you’ll pace yourself and tackle those things one at a time! I’m looking forward to photos of your garden.


  5. Finny and PIB sound like our 2 dogs who insist on snuggling up against you. We had storms last night but still have wind today from 26-40 mph. If it’s not nailed down on the front porch, I have brought it inside. Thats a huge garden. I have a small one, not all that I would like to have, but it helps out and tastes better than most stuff you buy at the store. I like the way you work, one thing at a time. Take care of yourself.


  6. Yes, Spring is here! I’m so glad you’re ready to enjoy it.

    Your garden sounds beautiful. Last year I had a small, reasonably successful container garden on my balcony. I’m hoping with the lessons I learned last summer I can make it even better this year. I can’t wait for fresh tomatoes.

    Enjoy all the green things around you.


  7. Hurrah for spring and feeling not so bad – but what on earth is grauppel?

    It is amazing what a difference a good night’s sleep can make, isn’t it? And I sympathise on the immobile animals front! Middle-Sized Cat is extremely obliging, and after a few kicks, punches and piles of bed-clothes thrown over him during hot flushes, he tends to shuffle off to the other side of the bed, but if Enormous Cat deigns to grace me with his company he likes to sleep on my feet and NOTHING will shift him. I can roll over, kick (a bit, as I can’t move much with a rhino on my feet), shove, whatever, he’s still there, like a big fury lead blanket!


    • Grauppel is a wet, clumped, pellet of snow, not frozen as solid as hail. It’s a German word; I saw a lot of it in Northern Germany, and was surprised when I saw it here in the Northern California mountains. I’ve never heard any other word for it, either … hmmm.


      • Aaah, not sure I can ever remember seeing snow like that, which may be why we don’t have a name for it. ;o) We get enormous snowflakes sometimes, but definitely not pellets unless they’re really hard hail, as far as I can remember. Hard to remember now that spring is here though. ;o)


  8. Wren, thought I would drop you message on the snakes comment you left me. The picture is actually of our “pet” Ratsnake. He stays out to the north side of our house most of the time but we haven’t seen a mouse or rat in 2 or 3 years. They are non-aggressive and he stays out of our way most of the time.

    Now to the comment about the poisonous snakes that we have. Actually, I missed one, we have 7 in Oklahoma. But 5 of them are Rattlesnakes. I have probably ridden by all of them, but have only seen a Timber Rattlesnake out of the 5 different species. I have also had close encounters with Water Moccasins and Copperheads. I actually stepped into a den of Water Moccasins about 25 years ago (didn’t get hit one time) and I once had a Copperhead in my bedroom. I had been racing at Oklahoma City the day before in late October, and best we can figure out, he crawled into my gear bag and I carried him home with me in my truck. They really aren’t that bad, … you just stay away from the sharp end!! lol


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