edited: Thursday, January 01, 2004
By D.J. Ludlow
Posted: Thursday, January 01, 2004
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What is the secret to survival in a world in which you cannot survive?
Most people in the wider world know me as an aspiring poet and writer. Someone who has just published and released his first book of poetry Life Lines and who maintains a website called An Island Place. They might even know that I have only been able to do this because of a specially designed vented desk and the help of many people.
But a scant four years ago I led a vastly different life with its own set of goals, values and map of the future - but that life died from chemical exposure, and forever took with it many hopes, plans and dreams. So where did the person sitting here writing this come from?
Do you know my most favourite tree in the world is not the massive giant redwoods, the neatly regimented pine trees, the spreading oaks, chestnuts, etc., the delicate palms, or the lush green rainforest trees. It is the good old Aussie gum tree. It's hard to describe what a gum tree looks like - no two are ever the same. They do not bear the aesthetic symmetry of the pine or the geometric patterning of the palm. Though tall they are no match for the towering redwoods, and next to oaks, chestnuts and rainforest trees they look positively threadbare. They are apt to be somewhat lopsided, twisted, knobbly and a bit gnarled, and bear the scars of many a battle and bushfire (not to mention the odd koala, goanna, possum and whiteant). And yet they are clothed in beauty with a graceful strength.
You couldn't kill them with a box of gelegnite (dynamite for you non-Aussie readers). Chop them down and they'll be back in a couple of years - not quite the same but still clothed in beauty with a graceful strength. Stick 'em in the middle of a raging bushfire - they'll be back. I've seen one smashed clean through the base by a storm - but when it fell three of its branches speared into the ground. In a couple of years you didn't have a nice pile of seasoned firewood you had three, strongly growing trees joined together by a horizontal trunk. If you want to use them for fenceposts you have to leave them to dry out first for quite a few days otherwise your apt to end up with an avenue of gum trees rather than a fenceline.
You see the humble gum tree is a survivor. It has learnt a secret. It has learnt how to grow a new way. At the heart of every gum tree is a bundle of life and that life is determined to grow any which way it can. Chop it off one way and it'll grow another way. Does it mourn for its loss - possibly. Does it pine for the old way (no pun intended) - probably not, its concentrating too much on staying alive.
My message to those like me who suffer MCS is to learn from the humble gum tree the art of growing a new way. MCS effectively lops off large parts of your life. You simply can no longer go there. Ignore MCS and it will more than likely kill you. Fail to manage it and the result will probably be the same. It took me some time to realise the permanent and unforgiving nature of MCS. That many environments and activities will NEVER be SAFE for me anymore. But when it finally hit home I realised that I simply had to walk away from much of my old life. But it was more than that - I had to learn how to grow a new way.
I am in the process of growing a new way - a new life. One I can sustain and live within the constraints of MCS. It is not easy because the constraints of MCS are pretty severe and it's going to take a lot of trial and error to find one that is sustainable and compatible with MCS. But I'm like that bundle of life at the heart of the gum tree - pushing in all directions looking for new ways to grow.
I may or may not be able to make a living but I can - must - make a life.
D.J. Ludlow Copyright 2000
Web Site: An Island Place
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|Reviewed by Darlene Caban
|Excellent! I've learned how to survive the hard way, too-- I've been on dialysis for 13 years. It sounds like the gum tree would be a good 'totem tree' for dialysis patients, too! :)|