When Bob’s second wife’s sister, Helene DeVicq, came to visit, we were always curious to know why she took so long to prepare for the day. The bathroom was occupied for a full hour before she came out, which was okay in a practical way because we just used the shop lavatory, but what could take so long? She did a lot of face care — which paid off because she was always model perfect in terms of “maquillage” (that’s French for makeup) — but she also did face and neck exercises and other mysterious things. Now I have had to add more small morning rituals myself, more little potions on the counter. More maintenance -- aauugh.
For a year or so I’ve been aggravated by itchy eyes. I was afraid of infection which nearly destroyed Bob’s eyes in 1961. His was Herpes Simplex Keratitis and was saved in the nick of time by accidentally finding out about a new experimental drug, meant for cancer treatment. I decided I was just allergic to smoke, since there was field burning. Then house dust in winter. Then. . . but this time the eye doc noticed the little patchy scaly spot on my cheek — which I thought was from my glasses frames rubbing since I wear glasses with big lenses.
Is that psoriasis? Well, maybe. Psoriasis gets into eyes. And I have rosacea, that was diagnosed by the very strange dematologist I visited years ago. He was totally hairless, deeply Southern, and his first words to me were “strip.” Then he recommended Pond’s cold cream, a lady’s basic substance from the Forties! I was outta there and never went back. He left town in a few months more. But now it turns out that psoriasis and rosacea are more than cosmetic issues.
On the Internet I've learned a lot that no doc bothered to tell me. The main thing is every morning and every night one should use a warm wet compress on eyes for five minutes. (Which feels good on my eyes but I hate the water running up my arms and getting my sleeves wet -- this is a cold house and I wear long sleeves.) When things are soft, one gently washes the eyelids with a little diluted baby shampoo. Now I realize that there is a sort of crust, a little like a hard water line, along my eyelashes on the lids. Since part of this complex is “dry eye syndrome” (which the eye doc now tells me I have) I suspect that it is the dried mineral content of tears, which are supposed to be constantly washing the eyes.
But now I also find out that probably the population of teeny parasites that normally lives along the base of the eyelashes, in the little pockets each lash grows from (eek), builds up and irritates. The washing technique seems to get them under control. One web lady, Dr. Cynthia Bailey, is a dermatologist with a cosmetic skew. She recommends using a Q-tip to rub along that line with diluted baby shampoo. Eye makeup had begun to trigger what I thought was allergy, so for years I haven’t been very alert to the state of my lids except to smudge on eyeliner if I were going out. If I don’t do that, I don’t seem to have eyes.
But this doc went farther. She began to talk about the acid/alkali balance in bodies. I’ve thought about this quite a bit but not in terms of bodies. I was reading about gardens and soils. For instance, one can't grow foxgloves here because they need acid soil.
Acid/alkali refers to the behavior and presence of hydrogen ions on molecules. Before I could find this out, I realized that — much more than before — Google is dominated by sales, so you must go down the lists past a lot of people trying to sell you things by arguing about the acid/alkali balance of your bodily fluids. The idea is that your body should be slightly alkaline, but that the modern diet pushes us towards acid with sweets, processed grain and dairy.
“An acid is a substance that donates hydrogen ions. Because of this, when an acid is dissolved in water, the balance between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions is shifted. Now there are more hydrogen ions than hydroxide ions in the solution. This kind of solution is acidic.
“A base is a substance that accepts hydrogen ions. When a base is dissolved in water, the balance between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions shifts the opposite way. Because the base "soaks up" hydrogen ions, the result is a solution with more hydroxide ions than hydrogen ions. This kind of solution is alkaline.”
A human body should be around 7.4, just above the middle. Milk is at 10. Oven cleaner is 14, the highest end of the scale. The idea is that animal foods tend to be acid while vegetable foods are alkaline, esp. green stuff. But, like cholesterol, blood levels of pH are controlled by hormone action —maybe drawing mineral from bones, excreting acids through the kidneys. All that homeostasis busyness kicking on and off.
You can test your urine pH with little sticks like the ones you use for garden soil or pregnancy testing, but it will be a little more acid that your actual body fluids — maybe 6 something. Testing pee is a little ickier than testing blood, but not so ouchy. There’s also a saliva test, which is closer to blood pH. 6.5 to 7 would be normal.
The British islands, Ireland more than Scotland, are acid because of the geological shape they are: dished slightly so that the constant ocean moisture collects to make peat. Thus, genetically Irish bodies tend to be a little bit acid and this shows in their faces, sometimes quite red, and tending towards rosacea. The rosy cheeks that I always attributed to chill and fine rain may actually be due to higher acid. But some of the molecules in the body fluids work better if they’re a little bit alkaline. People selling health gimmicks use this to persuade people to use various diets and substances, exaggerating a bit of truth into dogma. As usual. But the following seems to fit me.
“Symptoms of Over-Acidity:
Easily running out of breath
Muscle pain or cramping after walking
Often feeling like you can’t get enough air
"When people are very acidic, their tissue levels of oxygen are so low that they have difficulty holding their breath for more than 20 seconds. The length of time you can hold your breath is one technique you can use to document the difference that occurs after adapting a more alkaline-producing diet.”
When my blood oxygen is tested with one of those little fingertip grippers, it comes out low. I asked about that, but no one had answers. I reported all the above symptoms, but they were not considered relevant.
Valier is a highly alkaline place because it is an old sea bed. The latest well we drilled leaves a white crust on spigots. “Calcium forms when the surrounding environment is alkaline. This results in symptoms of migrating nerve and joint pain. Insomnia can also be a problem, and it is often associated with early morning stiffness. These individuals wake up stiff, but the stiffness quickly improves as muscle activity produces lactic acid. Lactic acid helps neutralize the buildup of alkaline compounds and bring the body's pH back into balance.”
When I get up, I should right away walk around the block or do exercises. I don’t. But coffee is acid, right? The quotes above are from: http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/proper-ph-balance/ His gimmick is green juices. I do not want another kitchen machine. But I see the stores are beginning to stock green juice in bottles. Maybe that would be worth a week of experiment.
My brother Paul was a red-head like me, but redder. His sweat was so acid that it ate wristwatches unless it had a leather strap and he had to put adhesive tape over the main body to protect the battery. He could patine bronzes just by rubbing them. (He was an art metalsmith.) I suspect that our genome and epigenomes were a bit skewed by high acid. The other brother Mark is less ruddy and more stable, but slightly depressed and possibly alcoholic. I think this is part of the heritage of acid Ireland, which could be said to even have a dark and acid national personality.
The bottom line is that my eyes, kept free of mineral rime, no longer itch. And maybe I’ll take another run at growing greens this summer. But now it takes me more time to get going in the morning, even without a walk. I had to write a list of all the little rituals to post on the mirror so I'd remember everything.
Mary, Mark and Paul
Sometime in the Fifties
The trail above Multonomah Falls