Saturday, January 31, 2009

on the power of sunlight

I am sitting with my grandmother in her hospital room. She has been in the hospital for three months now--three months!--of which she has been conscious for about the last five weeks. Something that really strikes me here is the seeming alarm about sunlight and a view that some of the hospital staff seem to possess.

I open blinds to let sunlight into my grandmother's room. It hits the bed, creates a gorgeous backlight behind her flowers, brightens a tirelessly, endlessly routine space. It slips up over the sheets, lighting her mostly still form beneath the blankets and her cherished yellow robe with purple flowers from home. The light touches her face gently, its afternoon winter rays weak, yet strong enough to illuminate the healthy color in her skin, the still-lively smile that pulls up her lips when she teases us.

But the workers ask, when they see the opened blinds, Won't the sun bother/hurt/annoy her? Won't it get into her eyes? Doesn't she prefer it closed?

Oh. Well, why did I not think of that? Shutter the light, keep the air stale and still and unnaturally lit, and of course she'll get better. Why did I not think of that before? Silly me and my frightening love of the light. The sterile, cold environment is best for healing.

I wax sarcastic, but it stems from months of uncertainty and varying healthcare and wildly differing opinions. It pains me to think how oddly fearful urban and suburban dwellers seem to be of our own sunlight. (My fingers keep slipping on the keypad and I write "sinlight" by accident. Interesting, no?) Some of that trepidation is culturally created, with all the genuine concern about skin cancer. But really. We need at least 15 minutes a day of direct, glorious sunlight on our bare skin in order to obtain vitamin D. And for our souls, our psychology, our humanity, I think we simply need to be sun worshippers, in the best, healthiest definition of that label.

Do not fear the light. Do not shut it out, do not always replace it with a pale artificial imitation. And please, please, do not withold it from our suffering and ill, locked away in our places of rest and wellness and recovery. They need the sun. My grandmother needs the sunlight, to remember that she is human, that there is a world out there still awaiting her return. And I, for one, will gladly let that light fall across the beautiful, soft, lined map of her face. She's every bit as worthy of her place in the sun as anyone else.


Laura said...

I personally know that sunlight is very healing to me, be it direct (in small doses) or indirect. I can't help but feel that i would heal more slowly in a hospital with the blinds pulled. My soul would be sad. I would need to know that there was life out there, something more than the small, dark room I was in. Healing, life, miracles. But hey, that's just me. I'm not a health care worker. (but I wonder what non-western health care thinks about dark rooms with the blinds pulled.) :)

Julie Trevelyan said...

Methinks non-western healthcare practitioners think we westerners practice weird, dark healthcare! Snort.

LauraJean said...

then again what do i know. i can't seem to get well for anything....

Julie Trevelyan said...

Maybe you do need to hang out more in the sunshine? :)

Lexi sundell said...

I am afraid our culture does not put a high value on being aligned with nature, does it?

Your grandmother is lucky to have you looking out for her!

Julie Trevelyan said...

Yes...we've moved so far away from our wild roots, haven't we? I think it was announced in 2007 that more people now live in or by cities/urban areas than rurally. Meaning, in history. Amazing, no?

Dance in the moonlight, wisely worship the sun, make sure your water is truly clean and pure...these are all our birthrights. And if we forget that, we're in some really deep poo.