I made it around the little lake as dusk fell. My old legs wanted to give in, but then a piano started up a familiar intro on shuffle. What was this song? I knew it would play me home – Van Morrison Philosopher’s Stone. (See end note)
Years before, recovering from major surgery, I sat in the Starbucks across from Culver City Studio in L.A., listening to this song. The Harry Potter movie of that name had just been released from Sony, just down Washington Blvd. I still hadn’t emerged from pain and weakness of the operation and, it must be said, the terror of a second cancer diagnosis.
Was it really possible to be an alchemist and turn this lead of suffering into gold, I wondered.
Morrison sings that even his best friends they don’t know that he’s searching for the philosopher’s stone. He’s out on the highway and the byways in the cold and snow, alone and relentlessly searching.
In the years that followed, I caught glimpses of that magical mineral, but foolish me, I had no idea that, when it came to lead, I was ignorant – I knew nothing.
A decade later, I got a crash course. It involved emergency rooms, sudden trans-continental flights, first responders on multiple occasions, several hospitals, many, many doctors and pharmaceuticals, bureaucracy enough to break your heart, intense fear and terrible despair.
It’s a hard road/It’s a hard road, Daddyo/ When my job is turning lead into gold.
Then this week nearly six years later, we raised our heads at last. That the patient would survive the ongoing disease, we had known for a while, That the patient had relearned how to function in the everyday world despite catastrophic losses, we also knew, What we recently discovered is altogether more wonderful. The person we almost lost, through the agency of this enormous suffering, has become the person she always wanted to be.
Concise Oxford Dictionary: The philosopher’s stone – supreme object of alchemy, substance supposed to turn other metals to gold or silver
One of a series of contradictions to despair 115journals.com