Two Sources of Sanctuary
I can't think of two books more unrelated in nature, style, and purpose. But they're the two I've read most recently, and what's better for dreary February than a couple of good books to recommend?
The first is fiction, and wondrously fun fiction, at that.
It's a self-published, or perhaps I should say, it's published by a group of writers who have banded together as the4threalm, and whose work can be found on www.the4threalm.com. They write, critique, and publish their work collaboratively. (In another article I'll follow up on that thought, as I believe it may very well be the way of the world of writing to come.)
The book is Sanctuary, by Kris Kramer. It's available through the website, or on Amazon.
It takes place in around 866 AD - the benighted "Dark Ages" of history when chaos ruled Europe, people were on the move, and raiding was both sport and occupation.
Thus begins Daniel, our protagonist's story of magic, mystery and mayhem. Well, in truth, it begins when Daniel is an old man, with grown children, and because the book ends rather abruptly and with some unfinished business, I can only hope that Daniel has more to tell us about his adventures. Suffice to say that I was intrigued enough by his tale that I wanted more when it ended.
Daniel is living in the little Wessex village of Rogwallow as a semi-cleric of some sort. He has been educated as a priest, but has not taken vows. We're not quite certain why, but suspect it has something to do with a commitment of faith.
Viking raiders attack the village, a not uncommon occurrence in the Britain of the Early Middle Ages. Raiders were looking for slaves, plunder, and the odd fun at the suffering of those attacked.
Just as all is at its worst, in strides Arkael (a name I could not help later associating with Archangel, given the mystical turn events would take later in the book). He is tall, mysterious, a warrior, and supremely confident. And he announces to the leader of the bullies, "I am Arkael. I've come to send the darkness in you back where it belongs."
With that, Daniel's adventure is ignited. He follows Arkael, believing that Arkael's preternatural fighting abilities are a sign from God, who will only go so far as to tell Daniel that what he is involved in has nothing to do with God, but with Angels and Demons, who will scorch the earth in the battle for a single man's soul.
Shortly thereafter, he disappears, and Daniel discovers that he can heal troubled souls. This discovery sends him an a mis-matched pair of followers on a quest for the source of the souls' trouble.
I won't give up the rest of the story - it's far too much fun to read on your own.
Kramer doesn't effect tortured language to let us know we're in another time and place - he leaves that to the details of daily life. While I find this perfectly fine, some readers have objected that today's vernacular pull them out of the mood. For my part, I found the descriptions of clothing, food, cold, superstition, and eventually mysterious, unnatural powers and people enough to bring me into a world that was this one of many centuries past - but not quite. And in Daniel I discovered a hero who was all too human, yet who could, when he needed to, summon up courage that defied the odds, and compassion that made him a true hero - and one who's further adventures I'm eager to follow.
Now, on to a completely - and I do mean completely! - different kind of sanctuary. And a hero of a different sort.
The book is called Arthritis and Marijuana, by Edward R. Cook, self-published and available on Amazon.
A few years back, Cook found himself crippled by osteoarthritis, a condition also called "wear-and-tear" arthritis, which eventually afflicts just about everyone, but will strike earlier in life when people use their bodies particularly hard, or with repetitive or poorly executed movements.
Unwilling, and frankly unable, to accept a life of restricted activity, Cook decided to take his medical future into his own hands. As anyone who has dealt with such ailments is aware, there is a short list of non-narcotic pain and inflammation relievers that are only partly efficacious, and also come with a number of unpleasant side effects, like stomach irritation. And while sufferers are told that the best thing that they can do is keep moving, moving is often the one thing they really don't want to do: it hurts.
Cook eventually turned to a program of self-administered marijuana and massage. He found that small doses of marijuana (he experimented and found it was most effective when inhaled using a water pipe, though he does add that smokeless inhalators have been developed for those nervous about damaging their lungs.
He offers grow-your-own tips, adding that when used for medical purposes, it's possible to obtain seeds legally, and in some states, even medically-grown marijuana. That way, Cook explains, a patient needn't play into the drug cartels or support criminal syndicates in order to get pain relief.
In addition to assorted common sense tips, such as eat right, lose weight, and drink lots of water, Cook also goes into depth about his self-administered massage program. As many arthritis patients will have learned, massage is often recommended but seldom covered by insurance, and is therefore out of the reach of most people - yet one of the greatest sources of relief. In what seems to be his ok-then, take charge fashion, Cook simply found ways to do it himself. He collected an assortment of balls, from tennis balls to baseballs to basketballs - basically, a ball to fit the body part to be massaged. Those, along with the resistance bands so commonly sold at fitness stores these days, provide the tools to work on the joints, tendons and ligaments that are sore and stiff by simply applying the force of one's own body weight.
Is it for everyone? Doubtfully. But for anyone looking for an alternative to traditional medicine, which may have failed, be too expensive, or come with too many unwanted side effects, Cook's book, and his methodology, provide a consideration worth pondering.