alexis orgera

poet + writer + maker

Isolation & Plant Life

Illness is isolating—even if it's not your own. When Aaron fell and hurt his head / neck / spine early in the summer, his injury catalyzed a series of strange neurological occurrences that we're still trying to understand. He'd wake up trembling in his limbs; he was extremely fatigued and sensitive to heat; he was in crazy pain from muscle cramps all over his body; acute neck pain some days, acute knee and ankle pain the next. I don't know why I'm using the past tense. We're still in it. At least we know now that his spine is very healthy and that it's likely not MS.

I haven't been able to bare seeing him suffering, so I got into research mode. How to ease the symptoms without a diagnosis? In herbal medicine, there are nervine herbs, things like milky oats, that ease nerves. There are herbs like evening primrose that are known to rebuild the myelin sheaths that protect nerve endings. High doses of antioxidants. Potent teas. I've started making nettle and celery seed tea, both being good for easing joint pain and inflammation. California Poppy works like an opiate, except mildly so. Aaron's muscles respond really well to comfrey, and I wish comfrey didn't contain potentially dangerous liver toxins. I'd have him drinking comfrey tea every day. That said, anything a doctor prescribes (of which we have several) is also proven to be dangerous to the liver, and we take those without freaking out. Herbal medicine isn't like popping an oxy. It's whole body, long game sort of work. Sometimes you need the damn muscle relaxer. 

Avena Sativa, or oats. Great for anxiety, nervousness, and nerve calming.

Avena Sativa, or oats. Great for anxiety, nervousness, and nerve calming.

My point is that I've been all-consumed, and I love being all-consumed by healing work. I love getting to know the plants I'm learning to grow. I have oats, lemongrass, basil, oregano (oregano has some wonderful antibacterial qualities, but it can bother your tummy in high doses, like pill concentrates), parsley. I've always spoken to trees (yep), but now I'm learning how to listen to the plants around me. We're overhauling our diet, too, because Aaron's soy and peanut allergies may require more attention than we imagined. I had no idea how many ingredients in processed foods are actually soy, when the word isn't even used. Our smoothies are packed with fresh ginger (a wonderful, warming anti-inflammatory), turmeric root (anti-inflammatory), cilantro (cleansing), fruits and veggies. One day last week, I asked Aaron to take Benedryl on a weird guess when his pain was super-charged. It worked! And then it backfired a few days later, because it'll go too far and get you strung out. So we started a daily quercetin regimen, quercetin being a natural antihistamine. Oh, don't get me started on histamine responses!

See? Consumed. This happened to my mom when my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She was, come hell or high water, going to find the cure. She told me recently that she remembers the day, sitting at her desk at my parents' shop, that she tallied up how much she'd spent on natural supplements. Thousands and thousands. And the hopelessness she felt when she finally realized she couldn't cure his disease. This is a story for another post, but I'll just say that I felt overwhelming empathy for her when she told me that story, how she put her head down on the desk and cried. Mom had family around her, thankfully, but not many friends who could endure the awkwardness of hanging out with an Alzheimer's patient. My dad's childhood friends, though, rallied, even from far away. They didn't shy away from the pain of watching their friend lose his shit. I'll be forever grateful to that handful of men. 

I've spent the summer isolated in my studies, and in part I'm super excited by it. I love the learning and exploring. But then there's the feelings of hopelessness that arise when Aaron is down for the day because the pain's so bad he can't even think. It's not like I can cozy up and read a good book and forget that he's lying in the dark in agony. I've had migraines my whole life. I know what it's like to be in such isolating pain. For it to be chronic, unrelenting? Breaks my heart. 

Then there's the isolation of frantic money-making. I'm proud and don't like to admit this, but it's scary! We both took a leap of faith that we could start businesses at the same time. Aaron hasn't been able to work much of the summer, and I've taken on the burden of paying the bills. I haven't been wholly successful, honestly, and had to ask for help (how grateful I am to have family that can and wants to help). But I'm working so hard, and this is isolating as well. I can't find time between editing, teaching, and starting a publishing company to be social, to keep up with my yoga life. I literally have to find the money to pay rent. This is new to me, or this level of worry is new. It's another moment of seeing from a new perspective that, eventually, I'll be grateful for. Right now it plain sucks—but I can literally see how both businesses are going to be successful! I'm grateful as hell for that tiny nugget of faith.

Part of this isolation, too, is 1. being naturally happy as a bit of a hermit / loner and 2. still being fairly new in a place. I've been thinking a lot about community this summer. When you wander the way I have, you don't develop the friendships that are more familial than cordial. You have lots of acquaintances, but not a lot of people who actually want to be a support system. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple. One, in particular, whom I cherish, who has become like family. I've developed a particular loathing of lip service this summer. Then there's the flip side: I can't be a good friend to many people right now. Hell, I haven't been a good friend to myself! Last week told me so in no uncertain terms: flu, migraine with vomiting, and a stye that swelled my eye and made me look like I'd been punched in the face. This is the body talking! Stop, stop, stop, it says. 



Enter the Dragon

The dragon, in this instance, is my dog, Pikey, and he just entered the room, looking all forlorn and dragon-like (and by dragon I mean yard dragon, which is shorthand for Falkor, the Luck Dragon, from The NeverEnding Story). He's forlorn because he didn't get a walk today, and it's 3:41 pm. He didn't get a walk today because of a long-awaited doctor's appointment, which we almost missed because someone rear ended our car on the way. We weren't hurt, I don't think (I am a little sore), and the car wasn't badly hurt. But then there was the appointment itself, during which the doctor asked, "Well, why are you here? You're in the wrong place." Um, because the GP referred us? In the end, he helped, this wrong doctor. He told us a few things it wasn't. I'm being vague here because, well, I'm starting up my blog again, and I haven't asked my lovely husband if it's okay to use his name or his story. Which, needless to say, has become my story. It's been a long and trying summer—and not just because of the oppressive coastal Georgia swamp heat. 

Did I mention that I got married while wading through this muck of mystery illness and unhelpful doctors? I did, and to one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest, most badass humans I've ever known. 

I'm starting up my blog again for a few reasons. One, last time I was blogging, I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown. As I recovered, I became embarrassed, at some point, by my public outcries and buried all the posts somewhere under password protection. Maybe going underground wasn't the right answer. I lost a little poetry along the way. I lost connection to my writer-self. I don't know quite how to find her; I'm hoping a regular blog schedule will help. 

Which brings me to reason number two for blogging again. I don't want to lose my connection to other writers and readers! The spirit of community--well, it's a real salve, even in the imaginary rooms of the internet. And speaking of salves, I've re-ignited my herbal studies. Honestly, it started mostly out of a panicked need to "fix" what's wrong, but it's grown again into a full-blown joy of learning about plant medicine. 

There are a few subjects and experiences, too, that I think a lot about and want to share, as an artist in the world. Empathy is a big one. Lessons about empathy that I've learned from people and in places I wasn't expecting--sometimes from not-so-good experiences with people. Also the nature of empathy, and why I'm not so sure it's always good, particularly for a self who feels things bodily and responds in kind. 

Also my temper and how it relates to being silenced! I'll be writing about that.

Also my publishing company! Well, mine and my great biz partner's. But I won't mix too much business and pleasure. 

I'll continue to post when I have readings or publications happening, too. The new issue of Copper Nickel has a poem of mine in it, and three poems are upcoming in The Carolina Quarterly. A big ole smattering of poems will be out this fall in the anthology Dismantled Almosts. Gratitude, always, to the editors for including me.




Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home Lecture

Join me on Oct. 18 at 4pm for a lecture inspired by Flannery O'Connor's obituary, written by Elizabeth Bishop and Elizabeth Hardwick. I'll be exploring the tension between home and travel. Or in the words of The Clash, "Should I stay or should I go?" Lectures take place in the parlor of the home at 207 E. Charlton St.