usnea

It has been one of those really difficult weeks. A good friend of Tom’s has just died (an expected death, but very sad circumstances); I have been laid low with labyrinthitis (truly terrifying) and even poor Bruce is suffering (he’s been in the cone for four weeks now due to a horrible infection on his foot). And outside, it just keeps on raining. It has rained so much, and for so long, one runs out of adjectives to describe just how wet it is. Today I finally felt well enough to go outside (without falling over or vomiting) and really enjoyed a short walk (in the pouring rain, of course). As I was pottering about Loch Lomond, I noticed how all the bare birches were festooned with usnea – a lichen of luminous green that thrives in the clear air out here. This lichen brings colour to the woods even on the greyest of winter days, and it also called to my mind a poem I’ve loved for a very long time, by American poet Marc Hudson. I was introduced to this poem by an old friend who was taught by Marc at Wabash College. It is a beautiful poem that I find both consolatory and restorative. I hope it is ok to share it with you here.

A History of Rain
Marc Hudson

So you arrive in the old country of rain.
The road sign says Mist, Jewell,
Vernonia. Woodsmoke
is rising against the rain
so slowly, you wonder if time
is passing, and did the alders
have leaves this year? Walk on
through a covered bridge and the sun
pours through a thousand knotholes
in lasers of smoking light.
When you emerge it is raining
as it only rains in the first chapter of Genesis,
a rain without ambiguity and guile
a rain with pointed arches and high clerestories
where the aquiline features of saints
are smoothed away like a child’s
in sleep. You discover
your vocation: you will write
the history of rain, you will set down
on usnea and moss the lineage of mist,
the martyrdom of clouds. You will record
the resurrections rain accomplishes,
its infinite extension and seeming absence,
as if it fell to no purpose
but to elicit meditation,
the pause of the scribe before the window,
transparence of a mind
given over to rain

From Afterlight (1983)

96 thoughts on “A History of Rain

  1. Wishing you all a speedy recovery of body and spirit. From Vancouver, British Columbia Canada – a very wet place! Love your posts. And the poem. A peaceful healthy and happy new year.

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  2. Dear Kate,
    I hope you all recover soon. Thanks for this lovely poem. I wish you a merry Christmas and some peaceful days with your family. And thanks for all the knitting inspirations this year.

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  3. I have just stopped in a warm cafe for a coffee and read this poem, I feel strangely better and more prepared for heading off again. I hope it shares the same properties with you. Merry Christmas

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  4. Sometimes the weather matches your emotions and moods.

    With condolences to Tom, sympathy for Bruce and much dizzy empathy for you. Labyrinthitis is really horrible.

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  5. Dear Kate, just about to start the pastry for my second batch of Desmond’s mince pies, ready to welcome family visitors tomorrow. I am so sorrow to hear of your troubles. Do take it easy over Christmas, you must have been working your socks off over these past months.
    With all best wishes to you, Tom and Bruce.
    Pamela

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  6. So very odd, I was just driving down Scappoose-Vernonia Road yesterday. Such a long winding road criss-crossed by a creek and the Vernonia-Banks Rails to Trails and big drippy trees.
    Be well.

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  7. Sorry about your dizziness and sickness, Kate.
    You might like to have your teeth and gums checked thoroughly.
    It sounds strange, but my son’s father-in-law started with the same symptoms and was quite poorly for a year until the dentist found that some of his teeth were bad, causing bacteria to multiply and attack his system. Unfortunately it was too late and poor Klaus is in a wheel chair now.
    Get better soon
    X Jean

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  8. That poem captures so perfectly the pervasive weight of endless wetness. And as it happens just now, the weight of life. Reading it is a solace and a comfort akin to a heavy woolen blanket and a crackling peat fire in the midst of said same wetness. Thank you for sharing this poem, Kate!

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  9. Dear Kate,

    When life turns up side down my grandmother used to say “It never rains, it pours”, followed by “It will all come right in the end”.

    I am truly sorry to hear of the passing away, I never know what to say, because it hurts so much every time.

    And I am glad you are feeling better, it must have been extremely frightening.

    Hope Bruce recovers soon.

    Thinks are crazy here too right now!

    Joanne

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  10. As I read through the comments, I”m surprised how many of us are from the Pacific NW or Cascadia, as it’s sometimes called. It reminds me of a sports writer visiting Seattle for a big college basketball event and how he knew Seattle was famous for rain, but he’d never realized what a great variety of rain there could be. I’m just grateful that it’s cold enough here that the rain should fall as snow in the mountains and not flooding in the river valleys. Soon the days will start getting longer.

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  11. Absolutely gorgeous poem- and as an Oregonian I completely relate to this level of wet. You begin to wonder if even the ponds and herons will drown.
    I went through a bout of vertigo recently and it was perfectly horrifying and made me feel so very vulnerable. I hope your healing is swift. Bruce ‘s too- is there anything as pathetic and heart rending as
    an injured pet?

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  12. Gather up that lichen and stuff it in a pot with some rain water. Simmer, strain. Put some wool in the pot and barely simmer. Cool in the pot. No mordant needed.

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  13. Wishing you all some peace and healthy recovery from all events.

    Do you have a dog bootie for Bruce’s foot to help keep it covered and lick free? Dof mushing booies that are a heavey nylon but do breathe may help him out a lot.

    To good health! Go slowly!

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  14. Kate, two things:

    1. If you do not already have one and if your medical conditions permit, get a full-spectrum light (“Happy Light”) immediately and use as directed. I live in a place that gets fewer hours of sunlight per year than Seattle, and this gadget has been a lifesaver. I mean that literally.

    2. Although it won’t undo the pain of your friend’s death and the misery of being ill, I want you to know that I have made two Cochals, using Buachaille, as Christmas gifts for two relatives who have had excessively difficult years and who live in cold climates far away. The yarn and the pattern are so wonderful and cheery — thank you for making something that helps the rest of us make the world a little brighter.

    Thanks.

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  15. There have been certain times for me when the only positive thought possible was “it can only get better”! It always does too! I hope you’re still managing to enjoy Tom’s baking despite the spinning head and that you’re all back on your feet and feeling fine and braw soon!

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  16. I was raised in Oregon and have travelled the highway where the signposts for Mist, Jewell, and Vernonia are. Thank you for a beautiful reminder of my upbringing. I do hope you get a bit of clearing to do more walking as you are able.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous poem! It’s the sort of thing that makes me want to dedicate my life to writing poetry…

    I feel your pain re. the vertigo as I have struggled with it for years. I once arrived at the Frankfurt airport, all alone, with a newly-triggered attack. Not fun! I am also sorry to hear about Tom’s loss. Take care, all of you.

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  18. Kate, I hope you and Bruce are feeling well very soon. I’m so sorry to hear about Tom’s friend. It does indeed sound like a tough time for you. The poem is lovely, though. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. Kate,
    What a beautiful poem ! I grew up in Indiana where Wabash College is located.
    I hope you, tom and Bruce find the New Year kind to you and that it will bring much joy. catherine

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  20. Dear Kate, thank you for sharing this lovely poem – I will add it to my list of favorite poems! Wishing you and Bruce and Tom all the best in the coming new year!

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  21. I’m so sorry to hear that you are unwell, with everything else going on in your family too it sounds like a rough old week. I do so hope you improve quickly and are well enough to enjoy Christmas. The poem is lovely, thanks for sharing and as for the trees, I have never seen the like, beautiful. x

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  22. Thank you for your gift of the poem, I feel it is an early Christmas present, and so unexpected. Just lovely.

    Thinking of your household and holding warm thoughts for you all.

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  23. So sorry for your loss. I live in Adelaide, South Australia and we are expecting 44°C today, 4 days in a row over 40.
    Enjoy the xmas holidays

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  24. I received my lovely book yesterday all the way to Blenheim which is the top of the south island in New Zealand. Thank you its brilliant, sorry about all your rain, we have the opposite problem.Kindest regards and may 2016 be the best for you all.

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  25. I am sorry to hear of such a rough week. I think it’s been a rough one ’round the world. I have been feeling it too. Maybe it’s partly to do with the rain, here in Oregon we are on our 18th consecutive day of rain with no end in sight. In fact, I am sitting just a few miles from the Vernonia mentioned in the poem right now. Best wishes to you.

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  26. Thinking of you and Tom and Bruce, and hoping things get brighter for you all very soon. Your beautiful book came yesterday, and it makes me happy, you all did such a lovely job.

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  27. So sorry to hear about Tom’s friend passing and yours and Bruce’s trials. I hope you are starting to feel much better now. As soon as I saw the photograph of the lichen on the trees, above, I immediately thought how it would look lovely translated into an embroidery. There is something very heartening about that luminous green that lifts the spirits.

    I have received my copy of Buchaille and have devoured it eagerly. As with your other works it is an inspiring and interesting read and I keep checking your shop for the yarn but keep missing it :) I hope you will continue to produce this yarn as I am determined to make everything in the book.

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  28. Ah yes – the ottoliths (sp?) that funny manouver does work. Husband was struck down once and found it worked instantly. But he had to stop vomiting and spinning before he could log on and find the information on the blessed net.
    Get well soon dear friends – and thank you for the exquisite poem. B xxxxx

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  29. I’m sorry you are having such a bad week – hopefully things will improve soon. I do remember the constant rain when I lived in that area – and I also recall the lichen which festooned the trees. I still miss being there – rain or not.

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  30. I’m so sorry Tom’s friend has died. It’s always a tough thing to lose a friend, but maybe even more difficult at this time of the year. It’s hard to feel like celebrating when you’ve just suffered a loss. And the labyrinthitis sounds horrific. Hopefully Bruce and you both make speedy recoveries. The poem was lovely, and very fitting for the weather we’ve been experiencing here in southwest BC.

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  31. Another rain-knowing (U.S.) Pacfic Northwesterner sending sympathy to you and Tom. I hope the rain can be a comforting cloak in such hard times–and that the sun breaks through soon.

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  32. Thank you so much, Kate, for your generosity in sharing this lovely poem in a time of sickness and sadness in your household. I will look for more of Marc Hudson’s poetry, and wish you and yours all the best.

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  33. Oh yes, a second thought, when cat number one was being bashed every other day by a stranger cat, the vet recommended dabbling his hurt paws in salty water, our cat having lost three claws. Hope this helps.

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  34. I can sympathise with you. I was recently diagnosed with Meniere’s disease which has some overlap of symptoms and it is hard to imagine how horrible severe vertigo is if you have never experienced it. One of the most frustrating effects is that in between attacks I frequently find that I am unable to knit without risking triggering another attack so I regret to say that my seven skeins have remained untouched while I wait – hopefully – for this current phase to pass. I hope that this is an isolated incident for you and that you have a wonderful Christmas.

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  35. Here in the west of Ireland, I feel I could write the encyclopaedia of rain at times.. We have so many different t varieties, from soft drizzle to wet mist to downright Biblical inundation… Sorry to hear you’ve all three had your trials.. At times I have to confess to being very envious of your life of designing in the heart of beautiful Scottish scenery complete with Tom’s fab culinary skills… You have such a wonderful life ordinarily that it comes as a bit a shock that, just like everyone else, you have downs as well as ups… I really hope you recover completely as soon as possible and have lots of fun this festive season. Xx

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  36. après la pluie le beau temps … hope it will arrive soon for all of you. I had a sunshine, today, your book arrived in my mailbox. I’m considering opening it only at Christmas …

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  37. Kate, Tom, and Bruce,

    It saddens me to learn of your difficult time. I send my sympathies for your loss,
    Tom. It is so hard to lose a good friend. And Kate, labyrinthitis sounds awful — glad that it seems to be abating somewhat. Bruce, Bruce, I hope those terrible organisms in your foot will give it up and go away.

    I was startled a bit when I saw your photo of the lichens on the trees — just like what I see outside my back door in my stand of old lilac bushes. It really is pretty stuff and brightens the view a bit — at least what I can see through our Seattle rain curtain. I share that seemingly perpetual rain with you folks in Scotland! Thanks for sharing The History of Rain and introducing me to Marc Hudson. I send you healthy holiday wishes and may you all be fit as a fiddle very, very soon.

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  38. Lovely poem. I live “in the old country of rain” where the road signs actually say Mist, Jewell, and Vernonia — i.e., Oregon. The English may have invented rain, but the Pacific Northwest perfected it. We too have been inundated for weeks. Wishing you all improved health and mended hearts and sunnier times ahead.
    PS Thank you for the book, which arrived earlier this week!

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  39. Assuming there is a little stone floating around the semi-circular canals, the Eppley manouvre works instantly. Doesn’t require a visit to GP either…

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  40. How very difficult and sad life can be, and always catches one by surprise. Keep going, the ragged edges will soften a little with time. Seek the still point within us all and breathe. Bruce, bless him, is a lad of sterling stuff, he will come through. Don’t you just hate the scrape and clatter of those cones, though!

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  41. My heart goes out to all three of you – best wishes to you and B for swift recovery.

    Also, thank you for introducing me to Marc Hudson’s poetry and to this poem in particular. Here in California, I’ve been dreaming for the last few years of such rains. We’ve known them in the past; perhaps we’ll know them again.

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  42. My heart reaches out to you both across the miles…for healthier days and bluer skies sure to come. Sending “hope” your way, that which we cannot see at present but that we can believe with certainty to come, despite present circumstances. For feeling better and strength in body & heart and skies that will clear with the bluest of bluest, and for the green hills and flowing rivers that only rain can bring.

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  43. I live 30 miles from Mist, Jewell and Vernonia, Oregon – In the Pacific NW of the US. Marc Hudson must have been from this area. We are currently experiencing the rain he speaks of. Days and days of inches of rain, swelling the creeks and muddying the rivers. And yet, I saw a hummingbird yesterday, going about his business between the raindrops, finding food in the heather flowers in the garden. It made me smile, just as seeing the lichen in the trees brought you peace.
    Thank you for sharing the poem. I am glad you find joy in the natural life around you. It is a gift to see the world through that lens.
    Good health to you, Bruce and Tom in the New Year.

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  44. Make sure you stay hydrated Kate! My multiple bouts of labrynthitis were precipitated by low ‘water level’ in body and thus too middle ear was low in fluid making calcium crystals sticky. As above, Epply maneuver was helpful.
    Good vibes for you all coming your way from over the pond in Sheffield , Massachusetts.

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  45. And here I have the loveliest day planned. I am using you lovely knew wool to knit a toque to be added to those collected by a local shop for the Syrian refugees arriving in Canada. This afternoon I plan to try Tom’s recipe for lavender shortbread which, if I am successful, will make me hugely popular this season and then I saw your blog. I wish all three of a steady recovery hope you know how much you add to each of our lives.

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  46. We have had “Genesis” rains here in the Pacific Northwest of North America too. Sometimes it feels as if the rain reflects the mood–or that the mood affects the rain. Here in Washington State in the US and British Columbia, Canada, that type of moss-when it grows on fir trees- makes a lovely golden, amber colored natural dye that leaves a heavenly lasting fragrance on the wool. It wouldn’t grow but for the rain.

    Sincerest sympathy for the loss of your friend and the health challenges you and Bruce are enduring. Sending you the peace, comfort, love and peace of the season, and the thought of how wonderful Spring will be after the dreary dampness of this winter.

    Merry Christmas

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  47. It has rained a “Genesis” rain here in the Pacific Northwest, too.. Sometimes it feels as if the rain sets the mood, ( or perhaps it is the mood that sets the tone of the rain.) Sorry to hear of the loss of your friend and yours and Bruce’s health challenges.

    Of interest, here in our part of the world (Washington State in the US and British Columbia, that type of moss, when it grows on fir trees, makes a lovely golden, amber natural dye with a wonderful lingering fragrance that stays with the wool. It is one of the good things that comes of all the rain.

    Sending you the comfort, peace and love of the Christmas season–and the reminder that Spring will come, too.

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  48. Condolences to you both for losing a friend so suddenly, and wishes that you and Bruce are on the mend and feeling a bit better.

    What an ethereal poem, rooted in nostalgia and unsentimental pathos. I can see the clouds hugging the ground. Beautiful.

    Hugs to you.

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  49. The poem is indeed rich, beautiful. So glad you could find solace, a small bit of joy in a difficult time. May you all find peace in the season, with friends and family. Perhaps your sickness is simply an enforced slowing of your life that has been so very busy with the book, the beautiful yarn, the many patterns. Rest and recover. I received my book this past week – it is a work of art. Thank you

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  50. Kate,
    You, Tom and Bruce are in my thoughts and prayers. I am truly sorry for your loss.
    Thank you for the poem. I did not know this poet.
    Thank you for everything you have given me and all of us in the knitting world. We will gather together to send you our love and wishes for a full and speedy recovery.
    All the best!

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  51. Kate,
    While encouraged to read you were able to get out, I’m still sorry this awful condition has been in your body. Praying for your continued and total recovery. May your Christmas be symptom (and rain) free, but if I only get one wish, it’s for you, Tom and Bruce to take a refreshing walk on a glorious Christmas Day. Thank you for the friendship through your blog and all the wonderful gifts you present regularly. It has meant a lot to me this year–a very difficult one in mmy life. Bless you.
    Noelle Steele

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  52. Oh dear, I wish we had some of that rain here in California where we are living with water restrictions and waiting patiently for a bit of rain. Get well wishes to both you and Bruce. Those heavy plastic cones of shame are awful and nearly drove our old dog crazy.

    I loved the poem and have saved to re-read when we actually have some.
    Merry Christmas!

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  53. Dear Kate,
    I am so sorry to hear about your troubles, thank you for the poem. Have you read Niall Williams novel – History of the Rain – Thank you also for your lovely yarn and patterns, a brightness in the darkness of winter.
    My thoughts are with you and Tom, take good care of yourselves.
    Heather

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  54. Thank you for quoting this lovely poem. I am sorry for your vexing and sad times. I wondered if you knew that the poet was referring to Oregon Highway 47, called the Mist-Clatskanie Highway, where the little tiny towns of Mist, Jewell, and Vernonia are located in valleys and hills along it. It’s strewn with rain, and wonderful wildlife with lots of falcons. From the costal areas of Oregon up to BC Canada we are all in rain country also especially this season, and even the sticks I pick up on my daily dog walks in the middle of the city of Seattle are alive with moss and lichens.

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  55. What a lovely photo and poem. Usnea is one of my favorite lichens for the reasons you mention. Gray rainy weather can be so gloomy and feel to endless. I hope you are feeling much better soon. And poor Bruce too. My condolences for the loss of Tom’s friend. Meanwhile your book arrived and I have been enjoying looking through it and contemplating the patterns and recipes. The photography is lovely!

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  56. We’ve had rain like this for the past few weeks here in Vancouver, BC, Canada. So sorry to hear everyone’s been having a hard go of it – I hope Christmas brings you some comfort.

    Thank you for the poem. I think I’ll add it to the syllabus for my grade 12 English classes.

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  57. Sorry you & Bruce are under the weather & very sad about Tom’s friend. My mother had a terrifying inner ear infection once — so I’m glad to hear you’re on the mend. On a happy note, my Buachaille book arrived last week containing a little something for everyone in the family. My husband is intrigued by Tom’s recipes and whiskey pairings. Merry Christmas, I hope it stops raining soon and please give poor Bruce’s foot a kiss from across the wide Atlantic.

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  58. For many this is truly a hard time of the year. Lack of sunlight, cold rains and the pesky north wind are temporary, but allow time to reflect. Beautiful photo of the lichen. Didn’t realize they are more then just a low covering. Peace and well being to all of you.from northwest Indiana.

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  59. I especially like the line(s): You discover/ your vocation: you will write the history of rain…. Lovely poem. Here’s hoping every one is healthier for Christmas festivities.

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  60. Oh sorry to hear you are all feeling sad and low. This season does seem to be about endurance – everyone seems tired and a bit ill. Poetry and knitting are both good medicine :-)

    Hope you all have a healthy and happy new year.

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  61. My husband also suffers from Labyrinthities so I do know the dreadful impact it can have on ones ability to do even basic everyday tasks. Hope you are all feeling better soon – keep your chins up and all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.

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  62. That is a bad week. Not sure if anyone put you on to the Epley Manouver but I have found it very helpful when I have an attack. Google and see!

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  63. It has been pouring rain here for days/weeks in Oregon, USA. I love the poem, thank you. I understand the need for color in all this grayness. Need to plan a project in Usnea green and Branch/stone gray. Yaffle with Haar or Squall.

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    1. Yeah, Oregon, U.S.A., is a nightmare right now. I live outside Bandon in the woods in the middle of nowhere and it is a bog. Crazy rain.

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  64. That is beautiful! Glad to hear you are feeling better, sympathies on your friends passing. Poor Bruce, those cones are awful for the pets. Received my book yesterday, had a quick look and decided that there are some terms in the recipes that I will have to google. Very nice looking with just a quick flip thru. Merry Christmas to you, Tom and Bruce and a Happy and Healthy New Year.
    Kathy D in cloudy Michigan

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  65. Sorry to hear that this is a difficult week. I find this season I tend to keep my head down and forge on, and sometimes that’s all we can do. I hope the GP gave you meds for the vertigo and nausea, there are some great ones on the market, and I used to feel better knowing they were in my pocket when I was feeling anxious to go outside.

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  66. Hi Kate, so sorry to hear that you and Tom are facing some difficult challenges. Reside in the stillness within…this too shall pass. It has been very rainy here in New York too, which is in usual for this time of year. Thank you for the beautiful poem and many blessings for a peaceful holiday.

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  67. Hoping you and Bruce recover soon and can accompany Tom to find a walking solace in the world outside. (Even though the weather is soggier than anyone could ever imagine)

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    1. Kate I so love to read your blog. Prayers for strength to return and Bruce to heal to full health. Sorry for your sadness may you find comfort knowing he no longer will suffer ever again. Thanks for your creativity and heartfelt ways.

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