The Ocean Within – Part Two.

This is the second in a three part series of posts on the lymph system. See Part One- Yin Magic here. 

The slack water at the turning of the tide requires effort of rowing to get anywhere on the river.
Slack water at the turning of the tide on the Lower Columbia.

Part Two – Watershed

Way back in 1996 when Joe and I moved to Astoria, my daily walk to work took me along the railroad tracks on the waterfront. Through a still active cannery, with huge boxes of silvery fish, piles of crushed ice, conveyer belts and busy workers. We both waited tables at the Cannery Cafe for Corrine Riccardi at the time. The cafe rested over the water on pilings, a part of the old bumblebee complex. (Which sadly burned in its entirety several years ago under mysterious circumstances.) It was during those walks that I first experienced the upwelling of deep love that I feel for the Columbia River estuary. To feel a spiritual connection to the waters with such constant presence in my life.

The ocean tide surges up the Columbia, turning the anchored ships several times every day.   From the surges of winter floods, to the stinky mud of a summer minus tide, the river has many moods.   It is the medium for so much life- from eagles and herons to the otter we recently watched playing on the surface. Biologically speaking, estuaries are essential to the health of the oceans, and in turn the nutrients of the oceans return with the salmon to ensure the health of the forests in the mountains.  The ocean nurturing the land much as our lymphatic system nurtures our body.

This give and take between land and sea is necessary to life.  When that flow is disrupted, say by the building of a hydroelectric dam, clearcuts, or a massive landslide – both the terrestrial ecosystem and the vast ocean suffers.  Even an overabundance of nutrients, say from agricultural run off, can cause algae blooms that undermine the balance of the oceanic ecosystems.  There can be too much of a good thing.

The Columbia River Basin

The Columbia River Basin –  image complements of Wikipedia

If you look at a map of the Columba basin- with all the many rivers that feed the flow past my door, it is awe inspiring to imagine the salmon bringing the nutrient gifts from the ocean all the way to Alberta and Wyoming. How do the Salmon sense which turns to take? To go to just the right place to play homage to their ancestors? What happens to the lands cut off by catastrophic events?  Like after the eruption of Mount St Helens? What happens to the salmon when they return, and there are no trees to shade the creek water to just the right coolness?

I like to imagine my body is the Columbia Basin. The “watersheds” of my lymphatic system merging to one purpose.  Our human body actually has two lymphatic watersheds – one primary, located on the left side of the body and head, and including the lower belly and both legs.  The right side lymphatic watershed is smaller, comprised only of the right arm and head, and upper right quadrant of the torso. If the Left lymphatic watershed is like the Columbia basin, the Right is like the Snake river, merging with its dominant watershed.

Like the Snake River my right side has been disrupted too. Mastectomy as catastrophic event. But all that lymph still has to go somewhere- it needs to find a way back to the sea.  Lately I have noticed a certain resiliency has returned to my body, as the little lymph channels regrow into some new configuration.  My swelling is less these days, as the intelligence of the lymphatic system somehow finds its way, like the salmon.

At times all that has happened to me seems like a reflection of what has happened to the land and sea around me. If we are a reflection of the land that holds us,  perhaps my healing lymph is being helped along by the same mysterious force that brought the nitrogen fixing lupine flowers to heal the devastation after Mount St. Helens. Perhaps the force that brings back the salmon after the dam breaks is working on my behalf too?

Just as I fiercely hold the idea that the land will heal from the hubris of humanity, I hold firmly to the idea that I will continue to heal. That the altered landscape that is my body will grow into a new surprising beauty- like returning frog song after a volcano blast.

Sending Blessings of full moons, frog song and calling geese from the lower Columbia –     xo iris




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