Yesterday was the first official day of spring. I just, you know, I don’t get as excited about this time of year as others around me do. I put on a faux smile sometimes, pretending to revel in the fresh greenness of it all, but inside I am thinking, pollen, pollen, pollen.

If I had to choose a perpetual season, it would be winter, no question. The clothes are better, the hot beverages are better, there is no less shaving, there is no pressure to polish your toenails, football is being played, & you don’t have to worry about the yard, because it is dead, dormant, not growing.

I love the stillness of winter. I love those few months when the earth just sits quietly & breathes, seemingly in no particular hurry to commence with all the pollenating & growing. Come quick, Winter! Make haste with your icy, pollen-killing fingers. You didn’t know I wrote poetry, did you?

It is no coincidence that Dear Miss Moreau spans the winter months. The novel opens on the first day of the fall semester, which is one of my favorite days of the year. It is full of so much promise.

The novel is peppered with quotes. Some are brief lines from novels, some are lengthier poems. I am not certain they will all make the final cut before it goes to print; those copyright issues are currently under investigation. One poem that stands a good chance of surviving the edits is John Donne’s “Love’s Growth.” I say this because Donne has been dead for a long, long time (since March of 1631, to be exact). As a general rule, the deader the author, the better the chances their work is considered public domain.

The poem is tucked in the final chapter of the novel. The opening stanza is, I think, just perfect for the circumstances.

I scare believe my love to be so pure
     As I had thought it was,
     Because it doth endure
Vicissitude, and season, as the grass;
Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore
My love was infinite, if spring make’ it more.

The poem can be viewed here.

The entirety of Edie’s relationship with Dr. Foster takes place during the winter months. They’re isolated, frozen, if you will, in their own little world, keeping outsiders & their judgment largely at bay, but all that changes as the novel comes to a close. Spring looms large, &, for a variety of reasons (that I won’t go into now . . . because I am in the middle of writing them), spring is when the real growth takes place for them (see what I did there?). I am tempted to make a horribly cheesy reference to “Growing Pains” right now, but I’m going to let that pass. I apologize in advance for the “Growing Pains” theme song on repeat in your head all day. As long as we’ve got each other . . .

If you read books, or you write books, you know that characters must be presented with challenges. There is something, or someone, they desire, & then such & such happens that seemingly is going to prevent them from obtaining their heart’s desire. You keep reading (or writing) because you just know they’re going to overcome the obstacles thrown in their way & reach their goal. Unless of course you’re reading Hemingway & the best you can hope for is some cuddling (in the rain) before everything takes a morose turn.

I love the word vicissitude. I love that Donne selected that word for his poem hundreds of years ago. The poem has been on my mind lately not only because of its inclusion in the book, & not only because of the change in seasons, but because of this marvelous word, vicissitude.

A romance author presents you with two people, & you get to know them as they get to know each other, & everyone is having a nice time, & then the vicissitude rains down. The author sits back & says, Okay, you two. I love you, but I want to see if your love can endure the seasons, like the grass. Will you come through this alive & green & thriving?

One of the wrenches an author can throw in a character’s grand plans is a health issue. Poor health is certainly unwelcome, an unpleasant change in fortune. I mean that’s the classic soap opera thing to do, right? Everything is going swimmingly until the strapping doctor learns he has a brain tumor.

Were I a character in a novel, I’d be furious with my author at present for relentlessly hurling poor health darts at me. The past week I dabbled just a little in Edie’s sequel, & she is struggling with some health concerns, which is so odd because last week, I paid not one, not two, but three visits to various doctors’ offices in town. No, no. If you count the visit to Reagan’s pediatrician, that makes a total of four visits to area healthcare providers.

I made it through Monday without seeking the care of a health professional, but not so much the remainder of the week. At this point, I need to back up a couple of weeks & tell you about the time I diagnosed myself with an ovarian cyst.

If you didn’t know, while I was training to be a pediatric endocrinologist, I also had some obstetrics training. This came in handy a few weeks ago when I began feeling odd sensations that I determined were likely caused by an ovarian cyst. I interviewed a few ladies, I Googled things, & when all the evidence was compiled, I determined it was likely a cyst. I wasn’t in terrible pain, but I could just tell something was amiss. Twinges, soreness, pulling, etc. Fun stuff.

I know what you’re thinking. I did make an appointment with my doctor to see what she had to say. I was scheduled to see her the same day I was originally scheduled to have my mole removed. Both appointments were cancelled due to flooding. I rarely go to any doctor, so naturally the day I schedule two appointments, the city floods. I mean what in the world are those odds?

So, both appointments were rescheduled for last week. On Tuesday of last week as I was driving home from teaching, it occurred to me that I might not have an ovarian cyst. I could have had one that resolved on its own (this is possible . . . just Google it!), but I realized, as the dull back pain I’d been feeling began to inch up my back & hurt more & more, that I might have an infection that had nothing to do with my ovary or a cyst. The pain, both the feeling & its progress, reminded me of my bout with Mastitis several years ago when I was nursing my son. It was as if I could feel something invading. It had been niggling at me, testing its boundaries, as did the Mastitis, but it was beginning to roar. Maybe that sounds crazy, but there was a moment when I realized the back situation reminded me of the Mastitis, & suddenly it all clicked.

I drove myself to a walk-in clinic, told the sordid tale to a Nurse Practitioner, & they sent me home with a Bactrim prescription. Ah, Bactrim, my old friend. I rarely take any medicine, because when I truly need it, I want it to work, & work fast. I don’t take medicine for a headache until I desperately need it, & prior to the Bactrim I’m taking now, the last antibiotic I took was . . . Bactrim, which was the key to eliminating the Mastitis that other antibiotics (including some administered intravenously!) failed to defeat.

Tuesday night, after only one dose of Bactrim, the back situation was not good, though it did improve greatly over the next fews days, leading me to believe my infection diagnosis was correct. The Nurse Practitioner told me to drink lots of water & rest. The water I could handle because I always drink a lot of water, but the rest & relax part I knew was unlikely.

Wednesday I rested by taking Reagan to see her pediatrician after her arm was pulled on the playground at school. She was in a lot of pain & not wanting to move the arm hours after the incident, so we took her in . . . & have an appointment with an orthopedic doctor in a few weeks. Sigh. It’s not broken, but her pediatrician wants someone else to look at it. He said some other fancy-sounding things that I can’t relay because while I know a lot about endocrinology & obstetrics, I know nothing about bones & joints & ligaments & such.

Thursday’s doctor visit was, of course, at long last, the mole removal. The only harrowing part of the visit was the time spent in the waiting room. Now, you don’t know this, but the mole was on my upper thigh. The doctor said he’d likely leave it & tell me to watch it, except that I couldn’t see it, so he wanted to take it off (I was like, Uh, yeah, I wouldn’t have sat for two hours & waited for you to tell me to watch it). It was hilarious because he seemed to think I was overly concerned about modesty due to the mole’s location. Let me tell you something. After you’ve birthed two kids the old-fashioned way, you don’t bat an eye over the removal of a mole. At nine months pregnant, clothed only in a thin, poorly constructed paper gown, I once begged a complete stranger to waive the paperwork & give me an epidural, so you can televise the removal of my mole for all I care.

Friday’s healthcare visit was the rescheduled OB-GYN visit. Despite deciding I likely never had a cyst, I rescheduled anyway because you’re just not a real woman if you shirk the fun of the yearly obstetrics visit. Plus, insurance pays for a yearly wellness, & you better believe I am going to milk that for all it’s worth.

I didn’t actually see my doctor. My doctor, the woman who delivered both my babies & held my hand through Mastitis, is a mythical goddess whose bedside manner is so fabulous she makes you want to have more babies just so you can see her routinely. Unfortunately, the wait time for the mythical goddess is unbelievable, & so I saw a Nurse Practitioner who agreed with me that I likely never had a cyst given that the Bactrim was alleviating my pain. And yes, if there is any further weirdness or I am not totally satisfied with how I feel post-Bactrim, I am going to do the adult thing & make an appointment to see the mythical goddess herself & demand an ultrasound, as God as my witness.

So, vicissitude, right? That’s what we were discussing. Don’t worry; Edie’s issues are considerably more interesting & dramatic than mine. I promise I haven’t devoted pages to Edie’s inner musings about a possible ovarian cyst, nor is there a chapter titled, “Mole Removal” (nor has she taken a pregnancy test . . . wink, wink).

If you’re so inclined, you can say a little prayer for me & my cyst/non-cyst issue(s) that I am prayerful will be completely resolved by the Bactrim that has done so much for me in the past. I don’t like to think back on it often, but oh my goodness, if Bactrim was able to heal the Mastitis, well, it is some powerful stuff. It’s actually, I suspect, a form of speed considering my wide-awake state most nights lately.

Tonight the book club meets to discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. So much to be excited about in that last sentence. I finished the book a few weeks ago & have yet to gush about it, but that is likely to happen soon. It is an excellent read. It’s also very pretty.

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I’ll leave you with this picture of Reagan dressed as one of the kittens who lost her mittens, which was her costume of choice last Tuesday when she was directed to dress as a nursery rhyme character.

(do you see it? the mitten . . . there on the floor)

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After the week we had, I think Humpty Dumpty may’ve been the way to go, but that costume would’ve required far more effort than I could’ve mustered in my Bactrim-addled condition.

To quote Emerson, “the first wealth is health.” May we all be thankful for the health we enjoy, & learn to graciously & prayerfully cope with the setbacks we experience, understanding that the truly great characters (& the relationships worth maintaining) are forged in fire, & they endure the seasons as the grass.

As Kermit says, “It’s not easy being green.”

AJZ