The Pelindaba Lavender Farm stretched before me like a landscape canvas; foreground with rows of lavender, mid ground with a lake dotted by white triangular sails of small boats maneuvered by summer campers, and background of snow-covered Mt. Baker stretching majestically to the northeast. I walked the perimeter in the cool morning air that was fragrant with the sweet smell of lavender, a healing balm that reminded me, take care of yourself.
When I’d planned my Solo Journey to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State, I was excited that I’d be there during their Lavender Festival. My husband had a struggling pot of lavender on our patio back in North Carolina, but it didn’t appear to be winning the fight against the harsh July sun. Here in the cool, moist air on Puget Sound, the plants flourished. “David, you’d love this lavender,” I said, as I thought of my husband, wishing he could feast his eyes on the purple clumps in varying stages of growth. Some plants were partially open and others that received the most direct light, fully open and a brighter purple. I watched the sun cast a spotlight on alternating sections of the field as the clouds passed in front of its path.
What a glorious place to take my morning walk.
I thought of a line from a favorite hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
I remembered two years earlier when I was informed I needed treatment of the lymphedema in my left arm. It had been six years since my diagnosis of breast cancer and the lymph node removal that caused the swelling. I was angry that cancer was interfering with my life again. The initial lymphedema treatment involved daily massage and wrapping. I felt the treatment would take too much time out of my cherished summer break from my position as a school nurse.
The day after I heard about needing that treatment, I took my solo journey to a Catholic retreat center, Sea of Peace, on Edisto Island, South Carolina. There I had individual sessions with Sharon, the spiritual lay leader who operated the center. After I lamented to her about the issue with my arm, she posed the question to me, “Don’t you think you deserve care?”
After my week at Sea of Peace, I decided to go through with the treatment. I was assigned to Dorie, who had a calm manner and had special certification in Vodder massage used for the lymphatic system. She gently performed the manual drainage to reduce the bogged lymph and then bandaged my arm from my shoulder to my fingers, mummifying that arm. I became more aware of areas in my body where there was fluid build up. I noticed the ache in the back of my left shoulder disappeared after Dorie rerouted the trapped lymph to a working port.
I didn’t realize how much lymphedema had impacted me until I received the treatment.
Each morning before Dorie massaged my arm, she coated her hands in lavender lotion. It had just enough scent to be pleasing and not overwhelming. Every since that time, the fragrance of lavender had been a healing balm.
I traveled across the country to arrive in this field of lavender. From here I see the tender purple stalks, en masse, their essential oils providing soothing relief to people in many places. I’m grateful for the tender mercies of wise counsel from Sharon and Dorie’s therapeutic hands, both providing care and reminding me that I deserve it.
What about you?
In what ways do you need to take care of yourself?
How could you allow time for that?