Reflection and Gratitude
In my part of the country, the leaves on bushes and trees are starting to change color, and the black walnut trees have already shed their blackened curled leaves and dropped their load of tannin-stained fruits. Most of these walnuts have been stored away by the gray squirrels that scurry in the tree canopy around the house. The red oaks will hang on to their leaves until winter gale force winds finally rip them loose. Monarchs are making their last passes through the flower beds before heading to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.
Most of the tomato plants in the garden have backed off their production as days are cooler. We are harvesting the beans, chard, beets, cucumbers, cabbage, thyme, sage, summer savory, and oregano from our own raised beds. Elsewhere folks are bringing in Hubbard, turban, delicata, and pumpkin squashes. Our neighbor has giant “killer” zucchini, after he over watered and over fertilized his garden. He gifted us with the smallest one he had, weighing in at five pounds. The last of the greens are being cut before the frost comes. Our gardens will be “finished” till Spring.
My friend’s father is a wheat farmer in Montana. This time of year, he wanders out on a Sunday morning to look at the wheat waving golden brown in the morning light, before it is cut. It is as close to serious meditation and prayer as he gets. His “church” is the land before him, and he breathes in with immense gratitude for the bounty of the upcoming harvest and breathes out in the pride he takes in being able to provide for his family.
This is a time of gathering in blessings, of bringing the bounty of summer to a fitting end, of dying and transition. The passing of seasons reminds all, too, of seasons of our lives.
Earlier this month I sat in vigil at the bedside of Rose, who was transitioning … slowly breathing seven breaths a minute, then four a minute, then a sigh … and cycling back again. She was on Hospice at 98 years of age. Two weeks earlier, she had decided that to live to 100 was just too long. She was born at the end of imperial China, known then as Cheng Man. She spent part of her early life as a Buddhist nun. After the Japanese occupation in World War II, after Chinese warlords rampaged through the countryside, and with the “promise” of a new life under Mao Tse Tung, she fled to the West. She worked with diaspora Chinese families in Peru and Viet Nam. Although quiet and often staying in the background, she knew her mind and was determined to chart her own path. She was drawn back to China and came 30 years later to Hong Kong where she studied acupuncture, and then worked in Macao, addressing the ailments of elderly in her neighborhood. She was ever a gentle compassionate soul, modeling a selflessness and desire to be of service in relieving the suffering of others.
Back in the United States and “retired,” she continued to care for others. My own personal experience of acupuncture was at her hands. I was more than curious how this approach to medicine worked. I wanted to be able to bring this to my own patients. She cheerfully pulled out her acupuncture books and body maps with points and text all written in Mandarin Chinese. I had no idea where to begin. She chuckled softly and assured me that if I went to Hong Kong to study a few years to learn Chinese, I could easily then study acupuncture, as well. While I did not take up that bit of advice, we would chat from time to time, her explaining basics of Chinese Medicine, the best approach to treating patients, how to put them at ease. After I completed my own training through the Helms Medical Institute, we would again compare notes, share stories of approaches to patients. She was always encouraging, and nodding approval when I assured her I was still using acupuncture to help others, and interested in new techniques I had learned from other physician acupuncturists. There are many other fine physicians who have helped me along the way. They have all been blessings along my journey as a physician doing medical acupuncture. I have been richly blessed.
These parallel tales of gratitude I hope inspire you to reflect on blessings you have experienced in this last year. I hope you take the time to offer thanks, in gratitude for your material needs being met, the health you enjoy, but more importantly for the intangible gifts of those who have mentored you along the way. Who inspired you to seek out the skill to become a medical acupuncturist? Who challenged you to embrace life-long curiosity about your world? Who was present to you with a kind word of encouragement, a thoughtful tip, a provocative question, a listening ear? Do take the time to thank them if not in deed, then in thought, and pass on the good you have been given too.
Montiel Rosenthal, MD, FAAMA
AAMA Board of Directors