King Lear + Rabbit Holes + Today’s Birthday: Thomas Geoffrey Wilkinson

I spent most of a chilly Sunday diving into an increasingly deeper series of rabbit holes. A theater friend and I were talking about seeing plays in London, and I mentioned that the greatest performance I’d ever seen was a production of King Lear. Interested, my friend asked if I recalled who had directed, who played Lear, which theater I saw it at,

I told him it might have been the Royal Shakespeare Company, maybe in the Barbican Theater? And then I completely blanked on who was in the cast. It was at least twenty years ago, after all. I realized how fuzzy my memories were.

from my edition of A.L. Rowse’s The Annotated Shakespeare

Those memories wouldn’t stop teasing me, so a couple days later I dove down the Internet rabbit hole to see what I could retrieve….

“My wits begin to turn.
Come on, my boy: how dost, my boy? art cold?
I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange,
That can make vile things precious. Come,
your hovel.
Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
That’s sorry yet for thee.” – King Lear (Act III, Scene ii)

I began with the Royal Shakespeare Company website and none of the actors from their King Lear productions in the early 90s looked at all familiar from the show I’d seen with my sister, nor did the staging… where to look next?

An illustration of King Lear in the old book Shakespeare, by N. Kozhevnikov, 1894, Moscow
King Lear with his daughter Cordelia

The only detail I remembered clearly is that not long after I was in London a film about the Troubles came out, it had a wild plot, I’ve certainly never forgotten that plot, and I’d recognized the actor who’d played Edmund, who (in my opinion) had been the weakest actor in the King Lear cast. But I couldn’t recall the name of the film, so I googled films released in the 1990s about the Troubles in Ireland and there it was, The Crying Game, of course, and I clicked on the link to the movie’s website and tracked down the name of the actor again, then googled him for playing in King Lear, and leapfrogging across websites I finally landed on the Royal Court Theater, and the English Stage Company, and their 1993 King Lear. Not at all the RSC or the Barbican, but with a jolt I recognized several names from the cast, male actors who have gone on to have illustrious acting careers, Tom Wilkinson as King Lear, I remember being electrified by the anguished resonance of Lear’s speeches on the heath and how I’d believed every word he spoke. And of all people portraying The Fool it was Andy Serkis, now wildly successful and better known to audiences as Gollum. As The Fool his character was a shaved head cross-dresser in heels, the play was staged with Lear as a retiring general/leader, in Eastern Europe maybe, and at the end The Fool was dead, hanging in the air from the end of a noose for an entire scene, it was horrifying, my sister and I talked a lot after the show about how uncomfortable it must have been for the actor playing The Fool to remain motionless for so long. The next day I traveled down yet another rabbit hole for the other members in the cast, and discovered Edgar had been played by none less than a young Ian Glen –  yes, him – Ser Jorah Mormont of Game of Thrones.

After these revelations I had long phone calls with both my sister and my best friend about how incredible and wonderful, magical, mind-bendingly great those performances were, and my God it wasn’t twenty years ago, it was thirty years ago,

and I am quite sure I’ll never see a production to match that one ever again, ever, and I shall die a lucky and changed human being, a better person for having watched and listened to Tom Wilkinson, Andy Serkis, and Ian Glen in what is possibly the greatest play ever written by the greatest writer who ever lived.

This post is especially dedicated to Thomas Geoffrey Wilkinson, born on this day 5 February 1948 in Wharfedale, Yorkshire, England. Mr. Wilkinson has been nominated twice for the Academy Award and has won the British Academy Film Award, Primetime Emmy Award, and a Golden Globe. But for me he is forever King Lear, baying on the heath. -Jadi

NOTES: I even tracked down some photos! Andy Sirkis as The Fool: www.photostage.co.uk, King Lear, The Fool, Edmund and Kent: www.photostage.co.uk ©Jadi Campbell 2022. Image of Lear and Cordelia courtesy of Dreamstime.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

When Places Vanish

One of the strangest experiences as a traveler is to visit a place that later vanishes. I’ve visited two countries that no longer exist: West Germany and Czechoslovakia.

Uwe and I once stood on a part of the summit at Mount Etna on Sicily. A few months later a flow of erupting lava buried the very spot where we’d stood. It’s in the nature of Nature to be transitory. Nothing lasts forever.

Maybe that’s why Sicilians pray when they drive by spots where the lava flow stopped just short of towns. Every single time an Italian car passes, the driver makes the sign of the Cross. I laughed – but they sure know something about life’s fragility.

Some changes are somber. In 2009, before Myanmar briefly opened up to the world, Uwe and I spent a month exploring the country. Once known as Burma, Myanmar was closed off to the outside. We needed special permits to be allowed into several places.

We explored spots that seemed to have sprung out of fairy tales, like this market in Sittwe.

Market, Sittwe

We took off our shoes to enter temples.

Those areas of Myanmar are shut tight again. It feels like a book of fairy tales that has been closed and locked away. All the mysterious creatures can’t be seen anymore. But the ogres and demons and the special people with their magic remain…

Pa-O guide to Kakku Pagoda Complex, Taunggyi in the heart of Shan State
Inle Lake
U-Bein Bridge
Mrauk U
Chin village elder

When places vanish from our consciousness, they aren’t really gone. Sometimes, they are simply hidden.

As you drive past the spot where they were once visible, be sure to make a sign to ward off bad fortune. And make sure you acknowledge the spirits now unseen…. but very much still there.

Bagan

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s photos from our trips go to viewpics.de. GO TO MY BLOG jadicampbell.com TO READ MORE POSTS.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Staying Connected at the Holidays

NOTE: For more posts go to jadicampbell.com

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with electronic media. It has dumbed us down (and as climate change proves, we probably weren’t all that bright to begin with). It’s created a world populated by people who spend their time chasing ‘likes’.

But…. it helps me stay connected to my family. We’re scattered across three continents and four countries. It’s cool when we get to share our various parts of the world with each other. These days, being so far apart is a big-time bummer. The COVID crisis prevented us from reuniting, and I feel farther away than ever from my sisters and nephew.

So we talk twice a week, at an hour when across the globe Niko is getting home from the bar he owns, I’ve finished dinner, and Pam and Barb are eating breakfast or getting up. We always appreciate the calls when Niko checks in at two in the morning his time….

I don’t know how the rest of you manage to keep in touch with the people who matter to you. I only know that it DOES matter, perhaps more than ever before. Our world is fragile, and our lives have meaning because of who we allow into them. Go ahead: make that phone call or Zoom call or visit in person if you can. I am really, really looking forward to hugging my family members once again.

In the meantime, we chat.

Merry Christmas to you and your families, wherever you are!

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #10 A Golden Retriever

NOTE: For more posts go to jadicampbell.com

He was the world’s coolest dog. Our family pet Sam was a really, really smart golden retriever with a sense of humor. When we were kids, in the winter time he loved to track my youngest sister Barb. He’d go looking for her and then freeze so she couldn’t spot him sneaking up from behind. Sam got a running start, charged up from behind across the snow – and once he reached her, he’d ever so delicately stand up on his hind legs to put his front paws on her shoulders, very gently tap, and drop back to all fours and watch her tip forward.

Barb would do a face plant in the snow and come up crying, covered in so much snow that she looked like the Abominable Snowchild. Meanwhile, lined up in the living room at the sliding glass doors to watch (because Sam loved an audience), Barb’s sisters and parents would be crying too… with laughter.

Sam walked us to the corner each morning where we waited for the school bus. Kids on the bus  would already be lined up at the windows on the left hand side. Once the driver closed the doors and headed down the road, Sam raced him. He ran alongside the bus, all us kids cheering him on, until the driver turned at a street lined with hedges. Sam sailed through the air in an incredibly high, graceful jump over the hedge. I’d swear he was showing off…. and then, his display of doggie dynamism finished, he turned and headed back home.

The greatest dog in the world. When it was time to imagine a dog as the companion for Coreen, my traumatized survivor of an end of the world cult in Tsunami Cowboys, he had to be a golden retriever. – Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition

Prepare to meet Todd, a hero with dangerous fantasies. Coreen, trapped in a cult. Ronnie, dreaming other people’s futures. Guy, waiting for disaster at a Christmas Market. And Lynn, the connecting thread, taking a train with a seductive stranger. By turns terrifying and funny, this is the story of people riding life’s waves… the tsunami cowboys.

This link will get you there.

Books make great gifts! My other books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out.

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Mark Kurlansky + NaCl

NOTE: For more posts go to jadicampbell.com

Author and journalist Mark Kurlansky was born December 7, 1948 in Hartford, Connecticut. He has written about oysters, cod, salt, salmon, milk and paper – among other topics. His writing is engaging and informative. I have copies of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (an international bestseller translated into more than 15 languages) and Salt: A World History. His book Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea was awarded the 2007 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited a saltworks in Laos. – Jadi

When we talk about salt, we talk most often of sodium chloride. This is NaCl, consisting of the elements sodium and chlorine.

There is a charming tradition in Germany of bringing a loaf of bread and salt to friends when they move into a new home. The saying is that if you have those two items in your house you’ll always survive. Bread and salt are still ceremoniously served to guests in parts of northern and eastern Europe.

Mark Kurlansky writes, “Loyalty and friendship are sealed with salt because its essence does not change. In both Islam and Judaism, salt seals a bargain because it is immutable… In Christianity, salt is associated not only with longevity and permanence but, by extension, with truth and wisdom. The Catholic Church dispenses not only holy water but holy salt, Sal Sapientia, the salt of wisdom.” [1]

Seeing the hard way salt is won from pits changed forever the way I think about this simple condiment.

We were staying for only a few days in Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, and spent a day with a guide and a driver to see a bit of the area. One of the spots we toured was a traditional salt harvesting town. A little settlement lives at and from the pits – and has burned down numerous times. Each time, they rebuild right next to the pits.

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Salty waters are brought up from deep underground

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and then boiled in open metal pans. Their burning fires glowed and sent off intense heat. The briny steam that rose felt like being in some strange circle of Dante’s Purgatory.

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Once the water has boiled away the salt is gathered in baskets, weighed, and stored in a barn.

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Workers then bag and tag the salt, preparing it for market.

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Salt is a serious business. The salt from this mine is sent to the north where people still suffer endemic goiters.

I thought of the pits of hell, of work so demanding and hot that it left scars. Just being tied to a spot like this must bake you and make you hard. Or so I thought. Instead, I met workers doing their jobs in neatly ironed clothing. The women all had on jewelry. A group of little children trailed us everywhere, laughing and mugging as children do.

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Since that day salt has tasted both sweeter and bitterer, or herber as the Germans say. And in that small word I hear the echo of the coming season, Herbst, Autumn. The summer is burning away and fall is coming. May your harvest tables everywhere include bread and salt.

NOTES: [1] Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History (Vintage Books, 2002), p. 7. © 2014 & 2021 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as The Salt Pits.  More of Uwe’s pictures from Laos and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and is currently a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

….And Broken In: A Novel in Stories is a FInalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Best Book of the Year Award





I can’t believe I get to write this…

The Trail Back Out was named 2021 IAN Book of the Year Finalist (Short Story Collection) by the Independent Author Network.  As if that wasn’t enough, I get to write this: a week later I was listed for another award! My first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories is now a finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Two awards in one week, I am in the kind of time continuum writers dream of! I keep crying with joy and laughing in disbelief. I’m I shock.

Eyelands 2021 Book of the Year Awards

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2021. For more posts go to jadicampbell.com

My books are Grounded, The Trail Back Out, Broken In: A Novel in Stories and Tsunami Cowboys.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Along with being named 2021 IAN Book of the Year Finalist, The Trail Back Out was named a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist in Fiction: Anthologies for the American Book Fest. And, in addition, the title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was also a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more and purchase my books.

Here is what readers will find: The chapters are casual but carefully arranged spokes, radiating out from a rainy evening. At first glance it’s the story of an accident near JJ’s Bistro involving a drunk driver and some parked cars. With each chapter, the picture grows more complex. Each character faces the challenge of being broken in, one way or another…. Gabe is the mixed-race bartender with a sore heart. Lisa is about to confront the hyper-sexual reality of Bangkok. Rob died, because ambulance and police were all racing to the scene. A burglar schemes to steal Jeff’s sanity. A star chef knows it’s her fault that a man is dead. Jeremy should tell his wife he has an incurable disease. Sally mourns her missing children. What seemed so clear cut (a rainy night, bistro patrons, an accident) is an event with layers, and consequences, and after-effects. The circles will go on rippling long after the reader finishes the book.

Robert Porter McKimson Senior, Foghorn Leghorn + The Year of the Rooster

To my readers: Welcome to the first post in my new blog thread: A Person + Place/Time/Thing. Head over to jadicampbell.com for even more posts.

Robert McKimson was born October 13, 1910 in Denver, Colorado. He worked for Disney for a while, but is best known for animating and directing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Bros. Cartoons. He was a contemporary of Chuck Jones.

According to his son in the wonderful short documentary Drawn to Life: The Art of Robert McKimson, McKimson suffered a concussion in an accident. When he recovered, the concussion had improved his powers of visualization, and he became an even faster and better animator.

Robert McKimson created and/or  directed shorts with a stellar list of cartoon stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Bugs Bunny. He also created the Tasmanian Devil. He also created Speedy Gonzales. And, if they weren’t enough, he also created the indomitable Foghorn Leghorn, an oversized rooster with an oversized voice and accent.

As a kid I got such a kick out of Foghorn Leghorn. He was loud, blustering, and incredibly funny (I admit that I still think all these things as an adult, too!).

A few years ago I went to check out the Wong Tai Sin Temple in China’s New Territories. It’s dedicated to the gods of medicine, but upon entering the temple grounds I was met by statues that were oversized animals of the Chinese zodiac including – you guessed it – Foghorn Leghorn’s Asian brother.

In honor of Robert McKimson and his larger-than-life rooster, (“Well I say there, boy! I say!”) I am reprinting the post I wrote describing the statues. – Jadi

I spent a few weeks north of Hong Kong in the New Territories. The transportation system is easy and each day I went exploring. I’d read up, select yet another fascinating place to discover, and off I’d go.

Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin
Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin

As a massage therapist I went to pay my respects to Sun Si-miao Zhen Ren, Perfected Master and god of Chinese Medicine. Taoists honor him as a god of healing. Even today, the ill and infirm (or people wishing to stay healthy) visit his temple to make offerings.

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So I headed to Wong Tai Sin Temple. Inside, I was met by wonderful bronze statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac!

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I managed to photograph all but the ox and dog.

Horse
Horse
Rat
Rat
Rabbit
Rabbit
Snake
Snake
Goat
Goat
Monkey
Monkey
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Tiger
Pig

Pig

Dragon
Dragon
And there he was: Foghorn Leghorn!!
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The temple is just outside a metro stop, smack dab in an urban area. Who would have suspected that Foghorn Leghorn resides there?

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In memory of Robert McKimson, 13 October 1910 – 29 September 1977

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia

NOTES: © 2015 & 2021 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine. Photos © Jadi Campbell or Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s images from our earlier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Next Public Reading

December 25, 2015. It’s time to upgrade: I’m moving. As of today, you’ll find me (and all of my previous posts) at my new address jadicampbell.com.

 

To learn about the Writers in Stuttgart and our public reading on Friday, March 18, visit this link :

NEAT Recommends the Writers in Stuttgart.

PS: For your added amusement, click on the bottom left photo to the right of the link’s screen under Dark Monday in February. That’s me on stage, in our first performance of The Vagina Monologues!

# 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 #

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve moved. You’ll find me (and all of my previous posts) at my new address jadicampbell.com.

I always feel a little strange when I recognize it’s time to mark milestones and I have several to announce.

This is my 99th blog post.

I’ve posted in these virtual pages twice a month since I began way back in September of 2012. It all started with my husband’s suggestion that I establish an Internet presence….

My published books are fiction, and this blog serves as a good place to present excerpts. Potential readers of my books might want a sample of my writing and a glimpse of the human being behind the words. It’s also a place for non-fiction essays. I get to explore ideas and topics that don’t need to be transformed for novels. Posting every other week is great writerly discipline. I’ve never missed a bi-monthly posting date!

My topics bounce all over the place like gleeful ping pong balls. I’ve written about current events like The Death of Robin Williams, Helping Refugees: Part 1 and Tunisia Without Terrorism, to the World Cup in The Year the World Came to Party.

I occasionally write about historic events, too. Several are 8:15 A.M.Amsterdam, and Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones.

I riff on artists in Meet the One-Tracks and art, like the sacred sublime in Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres or sacred sexual in The Erotic Architecture of Khajuraho. I profile art made by human hands Wine and Sculpture, Wildly Creative in Upstate NY: The Ferros of Little York, Egypt 1: We had the entire Valley of the Kings to Ourselves or found in Nature: The Music of the Heavenly Spheres, Steamy Rotorua! and It Was a Bitterly Cold -22°.

Art can serve as reminders to bring us together, as in Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy’s Stumbling Stones and The United Buddy Bears.

Of course, I write about writers: My Sister & Maurice Sendak and Baum, Bats, and Monkeys. I quote my beloved Shakespeare with Egypt 2: Along the Nile. Even Colleen McCullough gets a mention in The Outback!

And I write about writing itself: The Gift of Gab, Someone Burned My Book.

Food has been a topic: My Mother-In-Law’s Cookies, Despair Is An Exotic Ingredient, Adventures in China’s New Territories 3: The 100-Pound Fish, Deep Fried and Served with Sweet & Sour Sauce, The Fork is Mightier Than the Sword. A Post in Which I Eat Paris, The Salt Pits and A Visit to the Food Bank, Part 1 &  2.

Holidays have been fun, from You Rang? (the worst/best Valentine’s Day in history) to Happy Halloween!

My day job is as massage therapist, and sometimes I write about healing and medicine. Helping Refugees: Part 1,  Massage in Indonesia: Lombok, Adventures in China’s New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine, A Massage at Wat Pho are a few of the posts.

…. and this all began simply as a way to introduce my two novels Tsunami Cowboys and Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Both are available at amazon.com in book and eBook form.

It’s been a fun journey these last three years! Thanks to all of you for visiting these pages. I wish everyone the happiest of holidays. I’ll be back in the new year with an announcement. Milestone #2 is on the way!!!

# 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99

PTSD. Helping Refugees: Part 3

I go one afternoon a week to where refugees are housed and provide therapy for a woman I will call M. [1]

When I decided to take the plunge and volunteer, I had no idea what that would look like or what I’d be doing. For the last thirty years I’ve worked as a massage therapist. I’ve treated people across the health spectrum: Pregnant. Disabled. Patients during chemo and radiation therapy. Triathletes to couch potatoes. People seeking relaxation, to a man in need of pain relief years after a helicopter crash. My abilities as a therapist deepen with each person I attempt to help.

I’m licensed in both Europe and America. I kept my US credentials current by doing periodic workshops. I did this for decades, until the weekend seminars felt like I was reinventing the wheel.

I briefly considered doing massage with the aged after we put my mother-in-law in a nursing home near us. But my grief as I accompany Mama in the twilight of her life makes it too personal. When I learned a refugee needed massage, it seemed like the perfect way to stretch myself as a therapist and as a human being.

M. and her family fled from an earlier war zone; they’ve been in my village for over a year. M. is severely traumatized. She existed in a catatonic state for many months. Loud or sudden noises trigger panic attacks and migraines and a voice moaning in her head. Her entire body is a field of pain. Most movement is agony.

Within minutes of beginning our initial massage, M. began sobbing. She cries through every single session. It’s ‘just’ nerves.

No one in her family will tell me her story. I have bits and pieces, cobbled together from talking with her doctor and the volunteer organization. She discovered a dead body.  Was it suicide, or murder? Was it a family member? She was raped more than once. Twice, ten times, one hundred? One man or many? Someone known to her? Looters? Soldiers?

Like I say: I have bits and pieces.

I first met the German liaison when she took me to the refugees. She gave me the barest of details, less than five minutes before I met M. I’d be working right away, without any volunteer training or medical protocols in place. For me the single most important question was: Who had requested the massage therapy?

It was M.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of those involved I have changed names and identifying details, and use initials only. Part 4 to follow.