Tuesday, September 11, 2007


As I was posting yesterday’s blog entry, Tom was already changing plans on what would be done this week. The deck boards for the second cabin’s porch are all sapodilla, and are extremely hard. Tom and Selwyn have a system of putting the boards down where one goes underneath with a couple of pipe clamps and clamps the new board into the already laid boards, and the other stays on top and drills nail holes, then hammers in the nails. In the picture posted yesterday, Tom was the one under the deck, and Selwyn was doing the drilling and nailing. When they did the porch on the first cabin, they used a softer kind of hardwood and were able to put a couple of the clamps together and were able to pull the boards in enough to get them straight as the deck got wider. With the sapodilla, it takes more pressure to straighten the boards and hold them there while they’re nailed down, so when Tom would try to put the clamps together after the deck width exceeded the length of a single pipe clamp, the clamps kept popping off and falling. So, Tom decided that when he goes to Spanish Lookout on Thursday, he’s going to get some longer black pipe so the pipe clamps are long enough to do the entire width of the porch.

In the meantime, they’re getting a good start on the soakaway for the second cabin. They dug this much in less than a couple of hours this morning, and now they just have to hope it doesn’t rain hard enough to fill it in before they get the rocks and pipe needed for drainage. Even if it rains, they can work on the bathroom addition, and they’re going to try to get the rest of the facing boards on the cabin we’re living in so we can put up the gutters, which we haven’t done yet because we’re not collecting rainwater from this roof.

I didn’t mention it, but my lower back has been hurting since the middle of last week. I don’t recall doing anything specifically that started the pain, but up until yesterday evening, it had been getting steadily worse. First it was just a little achey, then it was stiff and achey, then the pain was spreading down into my butt and higher up into my back, and by yesterday morning it was really bothering me, to the point where I didn’t even want to ride or work in the garden, both things I usually love to do, and had been doing even with a mildly achey back. I bent over yesterday morning to pick up the dog food bowls, and if I hadn’t had the counter to grab, I would have ended up on the floor with the bowls because of the spasm in my back. When I walked outside, my foot would catch on a little bump, and I’d catch my breath because it hurt. I think I deal with pain pretty well to a point, but I’d definitely reached the point where it was making me miserable. I even laid down yesterday afternoon, which I just don’t do when it’s nice out – or even when it isn’t, for that matter.

In the US, I would have called Judie, our ex-super-housecleaner turned Licensed Massage Therapist, and had her take care of it. I wouldn’t have gone to the regular doctor, knowing, through years of running and horse injuries, that the solution would be some pain pills and some muscle relaxers, followed by a physical therapy prescription if the pills alone didn’t solve the problem. I hate taking the pills, which make me logy, and I’d already been doing the stretching that I knew would be part of the physical therapy prescription. I asked around about a massage therapist, and nobody could recommend one in San Antonio or 7 Miles, but Selwyn reminded me that when his back went out, he went to his neighbor and had her do ventosa on it. It had helped him, and I believe in many of the alternative medicine practices, so I decided to give it a try.

Ventosa is a traditional Mayan healing method, where heat and suction are used to pull what the Mayan healers call “bad breeze” out of a muscle that is causing pain. Selwyn’s neighbor learned the technique from her mother, who learned it from her mother, and so on back through the line. She asked me to show her where the pain was, and then had me lie face down on a couch. I had a moment of panic because I looked at the low, saggy couch and with the way my back was feeling, thought I’d never be able to get up without rolling onto the floor and working my way up from there. She pulled out what looked like a little sewing kit, with some needles and lint balls, and got a drinking glass and some matches from the kitchen. She had me clear the spot on my back where I had the pain, and she rubbed it with her bare hands, sort of a mini-massage, then rubbed the area with alcohol. She started on the left side, pinched up some skin, and poked me a few times with a pin or needle. She then stuck some of the lint inside the glass, lit the lint, and put the glass over the holes she’d poked. All I felt was a pinch as she poked the holes, then pleasant heat and pulling where the glass was sucking up my skin. Tom said it pulled out very thick, black blood, which the healer pointed out and told him was the “bad breeze,” and then some thinner, redder blood. When the flame in the glass went out, she said the bad breeze had been pulled out, and she removed the glass and wiped away the blood, which was about the same amount as you’d have if you cut yourself shaving. She then repeated the process on the other side of my back.

Perhaps it was the placebo effect, but when she told me to get up I was able to sit up and get up off the couch without any wincing or gasping spasms. The pain wasn’t entirely gone, but my back felt like I’d just spent a half hour sitting on a heating pad, and was much less stiff and achy than it had been before the ventosa. She told me to stay out of cold water for a few days, although hot showers are fine, and said to come see her again if the pain isn’t entirely gone in a few days. I’ve been moving very carefully and haven’t been doing anything to aggravate my back, but so far so good, and I’ve had no spasms and the discomfort seems to be lessening. I picked up the dog bowls this morning without incident, and have been walking around outside without any pain at all even when I stub my foot on a stick or rock. You can see the suction spots on my back which look bruised, but I don’t feel bruised. I’m not going to tempt fate and go throw around 50 pound feed bags, or go out in the rain and help Tom and Selwyn dig, so hopefully my back will continue to feel better and I’ll consider going to have ventosa performed on my shoulder next time that decides to start hurting.

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