Midwinter in the Land of the Dead

Photo by Jacques Descloitres of a low-pressure system swirling off the southeastern coast of Greenland, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC, 9/4/2003


January 4, it's single digits,
never mind the windchill
Arriving home at dark, 
knees stiff, feet numb, I contemplate
frostbite, burrow under thrift store
comforters lined with flannel sheets,
wait for the brittle waning moon to rise,
muse refusing to shed bed linens until 
Persephone surfaces.

Outside my window, winds barrel like
semis on the interstate.  I tell myself these gusts
could only pick up a hundred pound person
and I weigh far more,
could only snap small limbs off the maples.
It's not like forests will be flattened.
It's not like falling out of an airplane.
or racing NASCAR without a windshield.
It's not even like that winter in Beckley:
thirty-nine inches of snow overnight
power out, we countrd down the cupboard's contents
four wheel drive pointless until
a medevac humvie flattens a trail.
Keeping to its tread, we escaped to
the plowed road and Kroger,
only to find the roof stove in,
corrugated steel walls burst at the seams, shedding
bags of loaf bread forlorn, not even looted:
West Virginia, Bob Henry once wrote,  where
"the roads are crooked
 and the people are straight."

Yesterday, forecasters called for the barometer to fall so fast
low pressure would loose a bomb cyclone
off the coast of New England. On NPR,
a Vermonter complained she'd already
burned through a quarter of her cord wood
with no new dry to be had.

Here, in Blacksburg, there's no snow and we still have power.  
At midnight, I get up and steep hibiscus tea, 
crack open a pomegranate, loose its ruby arils.  
Tell myself there're dishes to wash, soup to simmer. 
Tell myself I've grown sturdy: 
when temperatures rise to the fifties next week, 
I'll almost regret it. 


Cranberry Salsa

Photo from Cassy Joy Garcia's blog, Fed and Fit.


I got a version of this recipe from my friend Martha Biggar of Kelley Family Farm, a vender at the Blacksburg Farmers' Market and adapted it for the Friendsgiving celebration for Glade Road Growing and Rising Silo Brewery in 2017.  It was so popular that I continued to make it for potlucks through New Year's Eve.


12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup of demerara sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh green poblano pepper from Glade Road Growing while in season (they're hotter than those at the grocery store) or substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of red Anaheim pepper flakes


As you chop the cranberries, layer in a dish with a sprinkling of the sugar.  Stir in the other chopped ingredients, cover and refrigerate until serving.


Integrative Therapy Shows Promising Alternative for Opioid Overprescription

The photo of fentanyl (a synthetic opioid as much as 100 times stronger than heroin) by Joe Amon accompanied Jesse Paul's November 30 story for the The Denver Post. 


In June 2016, in the face of wide use of opioids, American Physical Therapy Association launched a campaign to promote physical therapy as an alternative pain treatment.

A year earlier, the insurer Kaiser Permanente started offering a "alternative pain treatments, medications, pain management classes and counseling, and at-home options" for chronic pain. According to a November 9, 2017 story by Colorado Public Radio's health reporter, John Daley, Colorado members can take an eight-week course for $100, which aims to educate high-risk opioid patients about pain management.

Daily writes that big systems like Kaiser can afford to run programs like this [and  have the desire to do so.]  Barriers besides size include insurers which won't pay for alternative treatments and those who demand separate payment streams for different kinds of care. 

In California, in addition to Kaiser's programs, those insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (which operates there as a non-profit) and Med-Cal  have options.


Would such program also help those who get addicted because they like the high or are in psychological pain? It seems like the programs could lower the number of scripts and thus meds available illicitly.

And, maybe, the integrated approach might help such folks, since, for instance the Colorado team includes not only a physical therapist, but a doctor, a clinical pharmacist, two mental health therapists, and a nurse, all in one facility.  There is also access to exercise, meditation, acupuncture and mindfulness, in addition to a chemical dependency unit for medication-assisted treatment.