Leaving our island on Thursday, a little girl on the ferry was making observations as she walked around with her family. When she passed me she said:  “Old ladies with sticks to help them walk.” I was in a wheelchair with crutches propped against it.

That’s me: an old lady with sticks. I don’t use them for great distances. Sarah wheels me around the ferry and I use the crutches in the washroom and to get into the car. We have a temporary pass for handicapped parking and on the ferry we get to park beside the elevator. My situation is temporary whereas others we see are disabled for the long term.

A man opposite our car reaches for his wheelchair in the back seat of his car and hoists it out beside the passenger side. He reaches back for each wheel and attaches them. He places his bag of belongings on the roof of his car until he settles himself in his chair. Then he attaches the bag to the back of his chair. The twisting and torqing and lifting he has to do must hurt or is he conditioned for it now? I can only imagine as I pull myself up out of a chair using only one leg to stand on or hop along with the walker. My right hip and knee aren’t liking doing all the work. I tell them it won’t be long now.

Leaving the house on Thursday and going down the two front steps felt easier. I’m putting a bit more weight on my left foot now and doing some exercises a physiotherapist showed me. The heel tendons are stretching back into position. Although it’s a big effort to go to Vancouver, I enjoy the drive through the city to the Diamond Centre beside Vancouver General Hospital to see the plastic surgeon. One little place off Nelson Street intrigues me. It’s called Cardero Bodega and looks charming in the midst of other West End dwellings. It’s probably a favourite refuge for people who live in the area or for others who walk a few blocks from their work stations in a high rise. Perhaps we’ll go inside on one of our trips over to Vancouver.

People on the street there walk so purposefully. Everyone has somewhere to be, something pressing to do. Or so it seems. I’m a former Torontonian but that was a long time ago. I’m an islander now. Of course even in Toronto I was slow. At one of my jobs there a co-worker said if there had been a fire I would have said, “Wait a minute until I get my coffee.” rhododendronnewblog

A nurse does most of the work at the follow-up appointment doing a dressing change and cleaning up the skin graft. The plastic surgeon takes a look with an expert eye. More pink that’s what we were pleased about on Thursday. Actual skin growing where the tumour was removed and the skin graft took place. It’s rather a miracle – although a stinging, burning sort of one.

Just a day or so before I thought I ought to stop saying my wound looks gruesome. That’s no way to encourage anything to do better. It’s a thing of beauty making progress all the time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I made flower essences in the garden, all the flowers I chose were pink: rhododendron, Rose of Sharon, butterfly bush and camellia.

Pink is a good colour to continue to visualize as well as the qualities of those flower essences: Self-Trust, Inner Teacher, Celebration of the Sacred Familiar, and Be Here Now.

Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in The Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditation for Achieving the Miracle of Mindfulness writes of taking refuge “in my own island.” It’s a meditation especially useful during a state of anxiety and agitation.

“It is a means of finding refuge through the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. When we practice this exercises, it takes us directly to a place of peace and stability to the most calm and stable place we can go. Buddha taught: ‘Be an island unto yourself. You should take refuge in yourself and not in anything else.’ This island is right mindfulness, the awakened nature, the foundation of stability and calm that resides in each of us. This island is right teaching, which shines light on the path we are treading and helps us to see what we need to do and what we should not do.”

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of “conscious breathing” to bring about evenness. “If we can become aware that we are doing what is most appropriate in our moment of need, we shall see that we no longer have any reason to be anxious or agitated.” There’s even a song to help memorize the gatha: “Being an Island unto Myself.” I don’t read music but I can make up a tune to sing as I stretch my foot or as the nurse tidies up the wound. She actually suggested I sing the other day when her tweezering felt like I was getting a tattoo – or what I imagine that feels like.

“As an island unto myself. Buddha is my mindfulness. Shining far, shining near. Dharma is my breathing, guarding body and mind. I am free. Being an island unto myself. As an island unto myself. Sangha is my skandhas, working in harmony. Taking refuge in myself. Coming back to myself. I am free, I am free, I am free.”

With thanks to all for your Goddess blessings, Christian (both Protestant and Catholic) prayers, Muslim prayers, and Buddhist metta.