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Message robert wolff
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Itching to me is torture. I have psoriasis. Have had it all my life, it seems. It's not all over, itching spots move around. Sometimes my arms, then my back, my ankles. I've studied this condition. There are regular times that it is worse, and those do not change much, only the where. I think of them as the itching hours. One is 10pm. It starts a little before, and lasts no more than half an hour. These days I try to be asleep by then. Most evenings I can sleep through that itching hour, but when I am half awake at ten, I scratch, one side, then the other (psoriasis is symmetrical), until I bleed. Have to get out of bed, put anti-itch cream on, clean what I can of sheets or clothes. In short, waking up and taking care of a mess. Torture I have not yet gotten used to.

Yesterday, New Year's Eve, it rained all day. Not hard, but steady. Maybe two inches for the whole day. Oh, I'm not complaining. The year 2010 was unusually dry here. We had significantly less rain than normal. On this island, here, that is serious because the ground is fairly "young' lava. That means only a shallow layer of soil with here and there a few deeper pockets. No ground water, Trees and plants must rely on rain. This is the rainy side of the island, an area known for its frequent rains practically all through the year. Plants and animals are adapted to that water pattern; a dry year takes its toll. There were times this past year without rain for two, three weeks and then a torrential downpour. That does not do much good; it washes dry soil away. But yesterday was perfect: a soft rain almost all day. Now and then some sun peeking through the wet air. Trees and plants are happy. That pattern of very dry alternating with big rains is what scientists say Climate Change will be for these islands in the middle of the Pacific.

This morning, the first day of a new month, a new decennium, it is sunny and calm. Quite cool but pleasant. I noticed that all the animals sat in the sun, grooming. The chickens, the ducks, even the cats, sat in cool sunlight, pecking under feathers, spreading a wing to the sun. All the animals have tiny animals living under feathers or hair and warm sunlight is one of the ways they have to get the beasties to come our from hiding so that they can peck them, lick them, eat them. The animals and plants here are very close to wild, we have no cages, they take care of themselves. I no longer feed the chickens (I used to; my need to nurture--they do fine without my expensive "scratch'). I realized that wild animals must itch almost all the time. I've seen a hen stop eating to quickly peck at an itch under a wing. A cat sits down suddenly and licks or bites at places on their anatomy humans cannot reach with their mouths. We scratch with our nails, our arms reaching almost everywhere.

If animals can put up with itching, I should too. They don't take prednisone which the doctor always lectures me about before writing yet another prescription. Bad medicine, certainly when you take it too often, and/or too much. I ration it very carefully, but still" We, humans, use all too many chemical concoctions for what we should just accept and live with. 

My first New Year's resolution: No more prednisone and no more unnecessary chemicals that interfere with the normal functioning of my physical self--who, what I am. My body/mind/soul is an ecology, finely tuned to balance all the many different interactions and exchanges that smoothly happen between the many actions that go on all the time. A pumping heart, a liver that cleans poisons out of my system, blood that carries all kinds of useful elements as well as waste products, garbage, from where it originates to where it can be dealt with. I must not interfere in that. Western medicine is very sophisticated and can do marvels but we use too much. Our whole civilization is about too much. If one table spoon of cough medicine is useful, two spoons are better; not so. We over-medicate, over-eat, over-plan, over-think, over-control. A culture of over. Our wars are immensely over-violent, we overkill, overspend, over-propagandize (is that a word?). Our rich are much too rich, the poor much too poor. Our houses, our cars, much too large, our diet too artificial. Our life styles too lazy, dependent, unreal (add your own "toos'). Our civilization, so-called, lacks moderation, compassion. We've forgotten or rejected the ancient sense of being part of the All.

I make too much of itching. Animals live with it. I used to dislike my skin, too itchy, too white, too thin. Skin is not only the largest but a very important organ. It is boundary and defense, always an integral part of the whole. 

Now that I think of it, trees and plants definitely have skins, with funguses, mosses, scrapes and scratches. An armor that gets dented, cracked, cut, always renewed from inside, the dead outside sloughed off, until it is discarded with what it protects.

I must cherish my skin for the good work it is doing. I must take care of it. Almost certainly I clean it too much in the morning when I take a (too) warm shower. (I am very careful about turning the water heater on only for the minutes of my shower.)  I have forgotten that growing up we did not have warm water to bathe with. Throwing a dipper of cold water over my head.  A daily shock, but probably better for my skin. All the primitive and indigenous people I have known  washed when they could in what water was available, salt water, dirty water, cold streams. Maybe not every day and they certainly did not use as much soap as I do (because it feels soft). Their skin was toughened, mine is softened--not good. I have at least three different kinds of anti-itch creams; all of them stick to the fingers that spread it. Not good. Hmm, must add all that to this New Year's resolution:  take better care of my skin

Is there a skin, boundary, protector, of my mind? Of course, a whole set of behaviors, practices, words. What wonderful mysterious beings we are. How wonderful and mysterious Mother Earth is.

Happy New Year!


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robert wolff lived on the Big Island, called Hawai'i

his website is He passed away in late 2015. He was born in 1925, was Dutch, spoke, Dutch, Malay, English and spent time living and getting to know Malaysian Aborigines. He authored numerous books including What it Is To Be Human, (more...)

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