Marlene and I were active XCountry skiers this past winter, until I was suddenly sidelined by some weird mystery ailment. It came over me like an arthritic tsunami — at times, debilitating. It got so bad that if I dropped something on the floor, I would actually stand there and debate in my head whether it was worth squatting down and picking up. Almost always, it wasn’t worth it.
I went to see doctors and they ran 86 blood tests, but could find nothing — not even Covid. They said “test-wise” I was fine. “If it doesn’t go away, come back in a couple of weeks and we’ll think of some more tests.”
So, after a couple of months of playing the role of a slow-moving frail old man, at the urging of friends, I went to see Vern. He is a longtime Kalispell, Montana herbalist who is highly regarded by many. Even my local pharmacist insisted “there is something to this Vern.”
Growing desperate for some relief, I made an appointment. And, this was definitely out of my comfort zone, akin to taking my medical concerns to a shaman. I suspect Captain Ron (my mentor in all basic life decisions) would say, it was like going to “the land of voodoo, hoodoo, and all kinda weird shit.”
Vern’s office was in his modest 1970ish home’s walkout basement. He is a tall, lean aging man with thin, sweptback grey hair. He spoke softly, almost shyly, and gestured for me to sit on the office’s worn, yellowish, plaid couch, adjacent to a roll-top desk. Around me were tall wooden shelves housing brown bottles of all sizes. It was a cross between an old western saloon and Doc’s office from the Gunsmoke TV series. Vern sat at the desk and handed me a cord, like the kind you use to plug an electric guitar into an amplifier, and asked me to hold one end in my hand, either hand. The other end of the cord plugged into a panel inside an old, weathered briefcase. On top of the panel were at least a dozen dials with very apparent wear marks. This contraption had some miles on it! Vern went about busily turning these dials and concurrently jotted notes on a clipboard. I could not see how the mechanism was giving him feedback. There were no gauges and he wore no headphones. Vibrations perhaps?
Anyway, after quickly studying his notes, Vern confidently gave me his almost inaudible, convoluted diagnosis — something about monkeys, childhood vaccines, and the Monsanto Chemical Company. This was followed up with the presentation of numerous brown bottled tinctures of God-knows-what — various extracts of different kinds of roots, I guess — weird names of plants I was unfamiliar with.
Skeptical, I nevertheless dutifully ingested the various awful tasting herbal medicines — for several weeks! I really didn’t have any better options on the table.
Now, months later, I am at least 90% improved.
Was it Vern’s medicine? Was it giving up gluten and artificial sweeteners? Or, was neither? Is the mystery ailment simply resolving on its own? I don’t have a clue. I just hope it stays away.
Life is truly a mystery.