by Maria Theresa Maggi on December 7, 2018

"Moon and Kite Over Ocean," pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Moon and Kite Over Ocean,” pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

When I first moved to the little park mobile home at the coast in September of 2016, I began a rough draft of what may someday be a memoir arising out of this blog. When I got as far with a beginning as I could get, I decided to begin the process of rereading all my blog posts in chronological order, making an index and taking notes as I go. Memoir or not, it’s turning out to be quite a meaningful adventure.

A few days ago I was rereading a post from January 7, 2015 called “Vegan Versions: PB2, Cranberry-Fruit Sauce and Other Tasty Odds and Ends.” What stayed with me about this post was not the products I had tried out from my “new” grocery store or the sugarless cranberry sauce I liked to put in a sandwich with PB2, but how I wrote about making it a practice to learn the new grocery store by exploring a new aisle every time I went there:

“Since I moved about a mile or more northeast, the shortest distance to a grocery store puts me at a market that has surprised me with its abundance of great organic produce and a section called “Huckleberries” within it that duplicates much of what I can get at the co-op. On icy days or second walks in the early almost dark of winter, it’s often the destination Romeo and I choose to stretch our legs, warm up for a few minutes and pick up some extra greens or sweet potatoes. It’s bigger than the co-op, so I’ve made it my new “job” to try and discover new things in it each time I go.”

And here is the note I made to myself last week after rereading the post:

“What stands out to me in this post is the narration of my commitment to get to know the inside of Rosauer’s after moving to Van Buren Street, and that that is how I found the products I write about. Juxtaposed as something new with the almost 450 miles I have moved, and the now ever changing ocean and beach I live next to, it seems so different in scale, and yet I can still feel my determination to become familiar. I had no idea my world would literally explode in scale; back then I talked about that house on Van Buren Street as my “nest” for the next 20 years. I had no clue I would be leaving it in a year. And now, even though I am in the same place everyday I never know what it will be like, what potential beauty or danger is in store. My task is how to discern that in the moment and live in it. Also how uninterested in these products I am now. Too salty and too sugary (for my teeth) and how that’s fine. Little experiments. Different experiments now.”

In fact the scale of experimentation has gone from trying out a new product from a new aisle in a not completely familiar grocery store to deciding to move to Portland and then to the coast, first to the park model and then to my house at the coast, at a pace so “fast” it made my head spin, except for the fact I trusted it was right.

If I had to pick one thing the change to low fat whole plant foods has brought me in the last ten years that I value the most, it’s clarity. Of course I also love that I can walk, talk, chew and swallow more easily than when I began, that I’ve been able to write poetry and this blog, and do art again, and enjoy the support and love of my service dogs, Romeo and Cotton. But all of those improvements and many others, like the ability to bounce back when things do get out of hand, all boil down to more ready access to clarity.

First of all, there’s clarity at the cellular level, which in point of fact facilitates the change to more ease in movement and physiological function. Last summer when I met the couple on the beach who are both doctors I described in the post Magical MeetUps, this term “cellular clarity” is the phrase I used when they asked me to describe how the diet had changed things for me. I said that lowering the inflammatory response had given me a clarity that started at the cellular level, if that made any sense to them.

Much to my surprise, it DID make scientific sense to them. The metaphor I often used back at the beginning of this transformation in 2008 is that it felt as if I’d been in a fever and all of a sudden it broke; something had been eating away at me and suddenly it just stopped. That made space for a kind of clarity to feel what goes on my body, my mind and my emotions and how they are all connected without the static interference of constant and acute inflammatory processes. That makes way for deep listening to the self on all these levels and an engagement with that listening, which comes in so much more clearly that at times I forget it wasn’t always this way, or that others don’t see it that way, or see the way I eat as being able to have that kind of influence.

I was reminded of this last weekend when an artist friend of mine let me tag along with her to a gallery close to our neighborhood where she was showing two of her layered glass pieces. I had only seen her work in photos and had asked if I could come while she signed the papers so I could see them first hand, and also take a look at the show they were part of, which my neighbor had described as beautiful.

She was right. The new gallery space was lovely and the show had many intriguing paintings, sculptures and blown glass in it. After introducing me to the gallery owner and a friend of hers, Cotton and I wandered away purposefully to take a closer look at things and give my neighbor and the gallery owner a chance to finish up paperwork. As I went beyond a partition to look at some pieces I heard whispering and since my neighbor had once suggested taking me down the coast in another direction to meet a gallery owner in Yahats, I briefly wondered if my neighbor was telling the gallery owner I was also an artist.

But I don’t think that’s what my neighbor whispered about, because when I got back the gallery owner smiled and her friend asked me if I’d like to sit down in the single chair, which I accepted, since I’d already been on a long walk, and we were at the gallery at my nap time, on a hard cement floor. The gallery owner said something like “animals can be such a help when you’re a shut-in,” and then peppered me with questions about Cotton’s breed and told her own story about a dearly loved dog.

She was very kind, but it also meant I had to process that my neighbor must have said something about me like “she has MS, and doesn’t drive or get out much,” which somehow translated into “shut-in” to the gallery owner. I’d never thought of myself as a shut-in. A bit of a hermit, maybe, often by choice, but not a shut-in. Didn’t I take two walks a day? Wasn’t I sitting there with them instead of being shut up at home?

Maybe I should have been upset but the implication somehow amused me. And this is one of the things I mean by clarity. I know who I am, even when others don’t. I know when it’s worth my while to challenge how they see me, and when it’s not. This wasn’t a time to do anything with my energy but model who I was in that moment.  Convincing people is highly overrated and defensive efforts to do so rarely work anyway. For instance, I remember standing in a clothing store with Romeo looking right at two women who came up to me and asked me if I was blind, I guess because I had a service dog with me. The fact that I was looking right at them, making eye contact as they asked me, seemed to be completely lost on them, so I just said, “no, I’m not,” and tried not to laugh out loud.

A couple of days after this encounter at the gallery I got a message on social media from a young man who used  to look up to my son when they both were growing up. I’ll call him Dan. The older boys were good to him, as the older skateboarders had once been good to them, and I remember fondly Mike’s 16th birthday when they all came in from skating and said “we need to vacuum Dan,” who was maybe 10 or 11 at the time and had fallen into a mess of pebbles, sticks and leaves. He stood there while Mike and another teenager carefully cleaned him up so he could sit down and enjoy some birthday cake.

When Dan got older, he spent a summer or two working for the city helping with the farmer’s market and he would sometimes come over and help me in the garden, perhaps remembering that his Dad had brought him over to help with raking my leaves when I was far too weak to do much of anything. We would talk about what was going on in his life and I would give him my astrological perspective when he asked for it.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I got a message a couple of days ago asking how I was enjoying the change of season. I told him it had been a beautiful day at the beach. He responded by saying, “That is wonderful. I was just speaking about you with a friend, Debra, who apparently knows you too. I want to say that seeing you come from being nearly bedridden when I was a child to selling two homes and moving to Oregon in one year is amazing. You are one of my superheroes!”

In the space of less than a week I had been labeled both a shut-in and a super hero. What’s funny to me about that is that so many years ago people who could effortlessly carry in a box of wood for my fire when I could barely get down on my knees to make it did seem like super heroes to me, and I would sometimes joke about that when I thanked them for helping me. Indeed there was a period of time when I couldn’t even get down on my knees to lift the logs into the firebox or sit in front of it while it burned, I was so weak and unable to regulate my body temperature effectively. And here was Dan, calling me what I had often called my friends,  as they split my wood, shoveled my walk, lifted something for me I couldn’t lift, or even helped me button my coat. Now was the superhero in Dan’s eyes.

The clarity I enjoy in my slow miracle life allows me to take both the label of “shut-in” and “superhero” in stride. I see there is partial truth in each description, depending on perspective. From the gallery owner and the neighbor’s perspective, perhaps driving and going out and about to see and be seen is the measure of health or social success. But to someone who once knew how incapacitated I once was a lot of the time, my efforts to get myself where I live now make me a super hero.

It’s true I don’t go many places. Maybe I’ve slowed down a bit. That’s largely because I do not have to run on adrenalin to push through the most ordinary tasks. I know how to rest if I’m tired, and wait until I’m not.  And in that process of awareness, I have made the long  unprecedented journey to end up here, in this wild, quiet place, so I could use my clarity to reflect on all that’s happened, all I’ve written about it, here and elsewhere, and what that might mean. When Dan was little I never would have dreamed I’d be on the Oregon coast now. I had to work extremely hard to cross the street. There’d be times I was not able to leave the house for weeks. I could not look at a computer screen for more than a couple of minutes without becoming dizzy. I could not hold my head up without pillows. I could not hold the phone to my ear without also supporting my arm on pillows. Sometimes I could not write a check or lift the frying pan. Now, though I don’t  walk to the store here, or for several miles on the beach, I do walk every day, on the beach when it’s safe to be there, up and down stairs to get there, on sand, on pine needles, on grass, gravel and asphalt, and I learn how to be next to a very wild and unpredictable and achingly beautiful shoreline safely. I play with the dogs out there, which means I sometimes even run a very little. I rake some of my own leaves now, but most of them I let compost.

When I think of what this clarity means to me, it finally occurs to me, too, who my audience for all of these stories is: those who strive to listen to their bodies, to give themselves what helps them heal, even when others might see something different and not believe in what the person engaged in self-healing behavior sees as self-evident.

When I think of encouraging people to listen to themselves at the cell level and believe what they “hear,” I think of the pastel at the top of this post I did last summer: the sliver of moon over the ocean on a bright windy morning, with a kite aloft against those great blue expanses of sky and water. It’s not huge, or abstract, like the art in the gallery, and the photograph here doesn’t quite do it justice, but every time I look at it  I feel the gratitude I felt to be able to look out over the ocean and be captivated by the kite ruffling in the wind with the moon out behind it. I got lost in the sight of it so completely at the time that the conversation around me faded and I knew I would go home and try to draw it. In that moment I was clear; in the moment I drew it I was clear about what it felt like to look at it. That clarity came through like an act of grace in my hand–the same hand that once could barely lift the phone or write a check. And it’s largely all predicated on the way I’ve been eating for the last ten years, no matter who believes it or who doesn’t know that or understand it. And that, to be “clear,” is what living a slow miracle is all about.

Maria (moonwatcher)

Leave a Comment

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peggy Bean December 8, 2018 at 9:30 am

Wonderful perspective. So glad to hear how well you are doing.


2 Maria Theresa Maggi December 8, 2018 at 7:43 pm

Thank you so much, Peggy! xoxo


3 Gloria December 8, 2018 at 11:22 am

I love this post. I have been reading them for a few years now, and I almost always gain new knowledge or insight from them. I am ready to commit to a healthy lifestyle so that I can regain some of what is just naturally lost by laziness as I have aged. I think that I will go back to some of your earliest posts to see what I can gather from them. Thank you for your encouragement.


4 Maria Theresa Maggi December 8, 2018 at 7:45 pm

Thank you Gloria! I so appreciate your long time readership and am happy you find the blog a good resource. It’s meant to be something you can come back to and revisit for inspiration, and it’s always nice when I learn someone is using it like that. 🙂


5 carol December 14, 2018 at 10:30 am

What a wonderful post! Clarity. Nice. It reminds me of how it has felt after years of meditation… clarity of mind. I can see with years of clean eating there would be clarity that lives and comes from the body. It is helpful frame to support cleaner eating. Thanks!


6 Maria Theresa Maggi December 14, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Thanks so much, Carol! Yes, it IS a kind of meditation practice all its own. I love the comparison. xoxo


7 AmyLu December 14, 2018 at 6:28 pm

I am so glad to hear how well you are doing. Your word pictures are always a pleasure to read.
Peace and blessings to you.


8 Maria Theresa Maggi December 14, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Thank you so much, AmyLu! Peace and blessings back to you 🙂


9 Gena December 16, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Dearest Maria,

What a wonderful testament this post is to clarity, which you’ve explained and presented in a way that’s new to me, but also rings deeply true. I’m impressed that you were able to cross paths with outside perceptions without taking thing personally or allowing yourself to be thrown off your true path, or have your sense of self compromised. That’s a sign of healing and clarity if ever I’ve heard one.

And this: “Convincing people is highly overrated and defensive efforts to do so rarely work anyway.” Oh man. It’s so true, and the older I get, the more I realize it in all sorts of ways.

Lately, on dates, I’ve been getting a question I dread, which is “what do you do for fun?” I think I get asked because on first blush I must strike people as very serious, professionally focused, and it gets compounded by the fact that I don’t drink, go to bed and wake up early, don’t really care for bars or NYC nightlife. How to explain that “fun,” for me, is often a day of cooking or reading or taking a walk in the neighborhood I’ve lived in for 36 years, but in which I discover tiny new sights and sounds all the time?

I’ve come to feel at peace with the fact that I experience “fun” my own way. Some people will get it, some won’t, but what matters is that I know it and see it—with clarity.

Thanks for this post. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who’s glad that you’re re-reading chronologically; it’s creating some wonderful realizations and very clear, strong articulations about who you are and what this space is all about.



10 Maria Theresa Maggi December 17, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Thanks so much Gena! I’m honored to introduce you to a way of looking at clarity you hadn’t thought of but that resonates well with you. I so appreciate reading your own processes mirrored in your response to mine. I have to say I laughed out loud at you dreading the question on a date “what do you do for fun?–mostly because I can TOTALLY relate to what you consider fun as fun, rather than some extreme sport, club hopping or whatever. Glad you’re at peace with it!And finally thank you for your words about the value of my rereading chronologically–I really appreciate that very much. xoxo


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