Sensation Aware

The Lapse podcast is one of my go to listens in the morning. It occurs to me that this is a weird use of the word listen. It takes me to the frequently used expression by newscasters: take a listen. Anyhow, for some reason the use of that expression by media has me now morphing the word into a different use of the word listen. So, the podcast is one of my frequent listens in the morning; that is, something I turn to to listen to to pass the time as I drive to work.

This morning, the episode is a “best of” the past year of stories. Short stories. The episode truncated four episodes that ended up being personal favorites for the host: Kyle Gest. This is Kyle’s second year as a solo podcaster; his stories are for the most part truly amazing. I find myself often wondering how he came across the people he features on the show. In many cases there is such an amazing resonance with circumstances and events that, while they may seem unusual, mirror the human global experience. It’s the depth he reaches in such a short time.

In this particular episode of “bests” he opens with the notion that he hates “best of anything”, because he doesn’t want to pick one, or two, or three best. It short changes the possibility that another might be ‘the best’. My words not his, but in a nutshell- his feelings on the subject. He launches into his best of with four episodes anyway, and indeed – for the first two, he has picked really good ones. I remember listening to those two in their full version, months ago.

The first one is about a man who had a terrible cramp that got worse and worse. To the point where he ended up in the hospital. The next thing he knows, his limbs- all four, are amputated. My synopsis here does not do the episode justice, you must listen to it. Kyle’s episodes are told by the persons involved in the stories. And Kyle filters in sound effects so that the story comes to life a bit. The voice of the person experiencing this medical emergency that catapulted him into a completely different life, is soothing, reassuring and so gentle as he explains his journey. And his perspective of what happened and why it happened is incredibly touching. He does not seem to have any anger. His goal in the hospital as all this was happening, was to be kind to the staff, to get to know them personally: to be a really good patient. All the while, this overwhelming scenario is playing out for him with necrosis through bacteria spreading to all four limbs.

I admit that when the episode was repeating itself in this “best of” version this morning, I was momentarily tempted to switch to something else. The pain of hearing this kind soul’s horrific journey caught in my chest. I stuck with it because it was the reminder of his way of getting through it, of pressing on and of finding hope in certain moments during the ordeal, that kept me riveted. This time around, Kyle didn’t include the part about this soul’s urgent need to listen to a specific classical piece of music which he had trouble communicating to the nurses. Instead of a soft and gentle piece, they misunderstood his request and placed earbuds in his ears with a piece streaming into his head that sounded more like a full brass band. Something like that.

The original podcast had specifics about this music and I can’t recall it completely but remember searching for the music he had intended on my Spotify app and then being so sad for Will Lautzenheiser (the gentle soul losing his limbs) because instead he was listening to something completely different, for hours. I recall on that initial listen feeling such horror for Will be causes he had been forced to listen to this clanging and banging fanfare orchestra, rather than an elegant lilt and shimmer of a nocturne that might help put one to sleep. It might be like asking for a lullaby only to be presented with a heavy metal jam session. Without arms and for the moment no voice because of the tubes inserted everywhere, he was not able to correct their mistake. So, he endured that as well. As I write this, I realize that I must go back and listen to the full episode again (not just the condensed version), for I must know the music he craved to hear.

In the car this morning, the episode also reminded me of the beauty of sensations we have which we take for granted. Touch. Fingers and hands touching something, and feeling the different textures. Will has the opportunity down the line to receive arm transplants for both arms. Real arms. Initially, the arms when surgically added to his body- are not completely connected to his own nerve centers. But as time passes, he begins to feel things. He turns on the shower (not with his hands yet) and places an arm under the water stream. He then turns off the water and brings his arm out of the shower; was that cold he just felt? He talks about other amputee patients with transplanted arms which he had read about – who after time could feel the difference between a hard backed book and the paper sensation between the covers. How most people don’t think about the intricacies of sensation and nerves – the very delicate nerve endings that we have in our fingers which help us to experiences such different sensations.

As I drive, my mind moves to my own hands resting on the hard plastic (pleathered) wheel. It’s a little bumpy. I move my right hand to the passenger seat which has a lambs wool cover. I feel the texture beneath my fingers. I caress the lambs wool and feel it’s scratchy and bumpy nuances. I begin to think about my morning with Sofie, as I get ready for work. She sits on my bed and each time I pass her I talk to her: “hey sweet girl” and occasionally I stop and bring my arms around her neck and back and  I caress her silky fur and then I bring my face down to her forehead and kiss her eyebrows. She lets me, her body goes limp under my arms and hands and she rolls to show me her belly. “Pet me, please” she seems to say through her eyes. I pet her soft belly. The sensation of her silky fur is so lovely and her trust growing more and more is so beautiful. Sensations. Fur. Leather. Plastic. Books. Taken for granted. We don’t know what we have really, until we don’t have it anymore. I supposed we can’t go around on constant high alert of what we have all the time. But this gal appreciates the reminder of what I have, the gifts I have in this life because of how I am made.     Grateful for this awareness brought in part through Kyle and his podcast.   Thank you Kyle… A New Patreon Member is coming your way soon!

Podcasts – voices and stories

For a few years now, I have subscribed to various podcasts. It’s interesting to me how few people in my daily life understand what I am referring to when I share with them that I listen to podcasts. For me, it’s a regular part of most days, particularly a regular feature of my daily commute. My current list of podcasts is about a half a dozen long and includes spiritual matters with Pray As You Go (a Jesuit daily prayer exercise that I find soothing, thoughtful and helps me enter the day with a renewed gratitude and peace). There are three podcasts that are all about knitting, in various forms. The first two are more traditional in that they feature knitting tips, what’s on the podcasters needles, a fiber artist guest speaker and in one case, there can be some added Piper highlights as the podcaster is a bagpiper: Knitting Pipeline. I really enjoy this one- her cast of characters tends to be the same so one gets to know her regular co-podcaster voices. Then there is Curious Handmades, an Australian gal shares her knitting universe with the rest of us and again features special projects she is working on and key guests from the knitting community. These two are likely a big puzzle for non-knitters, after all how can it be interesting to listen to someone talk about knitting. If you are at least more than an ultra beginner, the sessions offer insights into knitting challenges, provides inspiration with new projects and can also offer tips on which yarns (wool, alpaca, cashmere or should I use silk?) are best for certain projects. Another knitting podcast I enjoy is called Teaching Your Brain To Knit; this one is focused on the mental aspects and benefits of knitting. This could be meditation, memory, well being and more.   This last podcast is hosted by two gals in the Northwest- they also talk about their geographic location and highlight their own projects as well. So one gets to know these personalities and at times, instead of local radio, I reach for the podcast to accompany me on my drives between home and work.

Depending on the season, that ride can take anywhere from a half hour to an hour an a half! In the last six months, I have added two podcasts that have been a great balance to the knitting and spiritual. These are basically radio journalism. Stories- true stories. The first one is called The Lapse, and the host offers these 20-30 minute episodes that are stories brought from real lives. He invites people to write in about their stories and then he creates the broadcast with their voices, throws in sound effects and brings interesting perspectives about the human condition to the air waves. These have been thought provoking as well as humorous in some cases; definitely mind opening.

I leave the best for last. A new discovery called Serial. This podcast is a weekly series delving into one important story. They are only on their second story- which drills down into the facts and situations surrounding Bowe Bergdahl. This is their second “season” or perhaps best called “series” .  The producers of the show have uploaded two episodes so far covering Bowe Bergdahl and the story; they are featured weekly on Fridays.  The episodes go into depth as the host Sarah Koenig, from NPR’s This American Life, explores questions of:  what happened, how, why… how did it affect his fellow platoon mates, his family and the controversy it drew with his release and swap for the 5 Taliban detainees.  Before the Bowe story, I listened to 12 episodes of the story behind Adnan Syed, a seventeen year old Baltimore high school student who has served 15 years so far of his sentence for being convicted of murdering an ex-girlfriend. Those episodes went through a process of interviewing a large volume of people surrounding the case, his sister who believe in his complete innocence, class mates, teachers, expert law sources and Adnan himself. Sarah Koenig, the host of the show, has this soothing intellectual voice, as one might hear in France “Sympatique”; meaning, she sounds like a friend – a smart friend, that is helping to open up the conversation again about this young man behind bars, is he guilty? Was it Muslim racial profiling? Does he have it him? Is he a pathological person? Is he too kind and too good to have done anything so heinous? The podcast, literally, casts new light on the situation and Adnan is up for a retrial in February 2016.
Podcasts, an extension of talk radio with the benefit of it being on demand, allowing one to connect with stories and voices. Opening a window for thought provoking analysis. Or, focus on a simple prayer for the day, a meditation with the odd cast on and knit two together, a yarn over discussion.  It’s a whole different world.