It’s been a few weeks since I’ve exercised any blogging presence. I have a good excuse.

I’ve been upside down!

I will spare the details of my “ups and downs,” but I’ll share my best guess as to what happened.

I did have a little inner ear “thing” going on, and could feel the pressure. It’s been high allergy season already, which may have been the root cause. And then there are viruses going around, and after a year with no exposure to even a common cold, perhaps a virus was at play.

Then there’s my activity level.

Gardening has been my primary pastime during the long Covid-lockdown season. On property I’ve amassed at least 200 individual potted plants, ranging from mini-transplant seedlings to plants that have grown so abundant I’ve had to invest in larger pots and more planting mix and expense than I care to admit.

All last fall I watched the squirrels digging in the pots and burying acorns, and what’s the saying? “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow?”

All of the carefully cultivated pots are sprouting oak trees. And so I ambitiously attempted, over two days, to purge what I could by careful plucking small forests from individual containers, and in entirely too many, re-potting several dozen other plants into larger containers.

Did I use the potting bench, as my dear husband suggested? Short answer, NO!

So after two days of doing head inversions, I did myself in, and now I have explained my vertigo. All is well now, and I’ve promised myself to be a little less physically ambitious (notice I don’t use the word foolish) and perhaps I can avoid this in the future. It has not been easy.

Recovery required a lot of sitting very still, and in those quiet and contemplative moments I recalled a field trip Jay and I enjoyed a couple of years ago.

Mission San Juan Bautista, fifteenth of the Spanish missions established in California (1797) is adjacent the San Andreas Fault and has suffered a lot of earthquake damage through the years, but has been “shored up” and repaired a number of times and the grounds are pretty with inviting views.

I have previously posted about many of the 21-missions that connect from the bottom to the top of the state. Unlike when I was a child and taught mission history from text books that glorified mission life for the California Indian, California school children today are taught a more accurate history.

The true and distressing story of the missions’ founding must include the near-genocidal policy in which the California Indians were herded to build the missions, and once there, not permitted to leave. I am appalled at the historical context and record and I can’t always decide how I feel about the missions today. 

I live in one mission city, San Gabriel, home to the fourth mission founded 1771. I’ve loved the architecture and the gardens and I’m continually amazed that with all the earthquake damage over the centuries, they remain. Upon visiting, I try to pay reverence and respect to the lives lost in the mission era.

In the 65 years between the establishment of the missions in 1769 and the secularization by the Mexican government in 1834, 37,000 California Indians died at the missions. This wasn’t a fact taught when I was in 4th grade!

It becomes a little complicated for me when I also get kind of a kick out of modern-day stories that connect to hallowed space.


Another pastime Jay and I enjoyed this past year was watching Turner Classic Movies. We have multiple subscription streaming services yet our movies of choice were the old ones. I grew up on old movies because in the Los Angeles market we had “Million Dollar Movie” which took a classic and repeated it all week long and twice on Saturdays. Apparently my husband was more industrious and didn’t repeat watch movies!

I enjoyed a steady diet of Hitchcock, but Jay did not. So in 2020 we binged! 

Scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” were filmed at Mission San Juan Bautista. Homage to the director and to the film are displayed in one of the chapel porticos, and since towers have changed some over the years I don’t know what remains today resembling the classic scenes filmed in 1958. The “old Spanish village” described by Madeleine (Kim Novak) to Jimmy Stewart’s character is a clear description of the historic mission at San Juan Bautista.  

For Hitchcock fans, a Vertigo movie tour of San Francisco could be a fun escape!

So that’s my personal experience(s) with Vertigo, and this week I’m planning to keep my two feet firmly on the ground with my head held high for quite a long time. No swift moves, and an excuse to sit down anytime I don’t feel like I want to cooperate with chores or work I don’t really want to do. It could be a good excuse to trot out from time to time!

I do hope to return to broad scale blog participation very soon. 

Here’s to a safe and healthy new week for us all! 


50 thoughts on “Vertigo

  1. Debra, as usual I relate to a lot of what you share. I’ve experienced vertigo and I love TCM and Hitchcock! I learned a lot from this post and I hope you continue to feel better. 💕

    • So you’re another friend who has experienced vertigo. I am amazed to learn how common it is, however, I should suspect it to be so, given inner ear disturbance isn’t all that rare. Since we share similar tastes in music, I shouldn’t be surprised at TCM!! Be well, my good friend.

    • So nice to see you here, Sharyn, and thank you. I am back in balance, and very relieved. It was a little scary, until I began to realize it was probably just my inner ear and it would work its way out. Hope you are doing well yourself!

  2. Lovely post – interesting and entertaining ! 🙂
    But I’m sorry about the middle ear infection, Debra – such an ailment disturbs not only one’s actual balance but, in my thinking, also one’s life balance. It’s almost impossible to behave like a real person when vertigo can threaten, eh ?
    I hope you guys are enjoying summer. Down here it’s fffffffff-freezing: windy as anything, too ! Ugh ! Boodie my moggy sits on his climbing/scratching tree and gazes out at the world through the huge glass door; and when a gust of rain hits it he kind of draws back without actually moving his feet. It’s a very human kind of thing to do, and amuses me greatly. 😀
    Anyway .. go on looking after yourself, yes ? – yes !!
    Big hug from me, being somewhat less big myself, [grin]

    • I hope you’ve been posting about your Weight Watcher “adventure,” M-R. I’ll be back to check in with you on that, and I’m still delighted you’ve given it a try. Our summer is starting up nice and warm, borderline HOT, and with envy I hear your describe your rain! Here in Southern California we sure didn’t have very much, and if we go into drought conditions again all these pots are going to be a problem!! All is well for now, and after the year we have all had, I find it hard to complain about much!! 🙂

  3. You just take it easy Debra. Overdoing things is quickly done. I find fatigue creeps up on me, but the weather usually gives me a day off now and then to recover from gardening escapades! Interesting about the missions, which I had never heard of before.

    • Thank you, Cathy. I’m feeling good but at the same time I wasn’t well my son and his family had come down for the first visit in more than a year. I think the combo has just left me a little tired, but doing well overall. I’m not in a hurry to take on too much. 🙂

  4. What a lovely area you’ve created with all those pots, but what a lot of work! I sit looking out at mine and smiling, but there are only a fraction as many. 🙂
    🙂 Glad you’re recovered, Debbie. I missed you, but don’t go rushing around. I’m on a break from the blog right now, but can’t resist the odd peep, to see what I’m missing. Take good care, and have a wonderful summer!

    • Oh good for you, Jo, for taking a little break. We all need them from time to time, and after the year we’ve all experienced, I think we need time to just rest our minds and souls, even from really good activities! And thank you for the comment regarding the work of all the gardening areas and pots. I had nothing but time all last year, and stepped up my commitment by quite a bit. Now I’m needing to reconsider what I’ve created for myself. LOL!

    • It’s really true, isn’t it, Fiona? I rely on those “excuses” more and more often, and have NO thought of feeling guilty about that! 🙂

  5. So happy you are on the mend! 💛🙏💛I had a bout two weeks ago when the pollen triggering something. Had to stop teaching yoga for a couple of days.

    • Thanks for sharing about your vertigo, Val, and helping me determine that indeed mine may have been triggered with the pollen and allergy season being significant this year. I haven’t done my yoga for a couple of weeks, being really a little afraid. I’ll get back to it, but it’s significant when you as a teacher have to stop. Thank you for adding to the conversation. 🙂

  6. I always enjoy your yard and garden photos, Debra, and following those initial pics I was wondering just how many pots does she have…200!!! WOW!!! Sorry to hear about the vertigo; I hope it didn’t last too long–? Very interesting about the missions, and to learn of another part of history that I wasn’t taught. Thank you for continuing my education, in so many ways.

    • Gail, I don’t think anyone outside of California school children get too much information on the missions, unless you’re deliberately trying to learn about them. They’re probably the oldest buildings we have in California, so for that reason alone I’ve always been drawn to know them. I’m feeling better now, thank you! And my 200, possibly more pots are a lot of work and not all are wonderful. But they ALL hold potential. 🙂

    • The vertigo is gone, Kate, and I hope to never experience it again! From the comments of so many others it sounds like many suffer with it semi-regularly. I cannot imagine. And thanks for the comments on the garden. I have really enjoyed being home so much and able to care for it the way I’ve always intended. Now, though, we must update our watering system. One good thing leads to another. 🙂

  7. Oh goodness, I know Vertigo all too well. I deal with it regularly. Stay off the salt, sleep propped up. Epley maneuver every day, until it hits. Get the water out of your ear (I use belladonna a natural antibiotic and Flonase) It’s no fun!
    As for your garden. Hon, it’s gorgeous. I love the wall-mounted shelf for the hanging plants. Good job!

    • Wow, Bridgt! You sound very familiar with vertigo and I am so sorry! This was hopefully a one-time thing for me (fingers crossed) and it was a complete disruption to all other life as long as it lasted. My daughter did introduce me to the Epley maneuver, and now I’m going to be interested in some of your other suggestions. I sure don’t want a repeat! Thank you for the firsthand information, Bridget!

      • I remember the first time when I got Vertigo, I fell on the floor in the bathroom when I bent over. It has come back ever since -once or twice a year, what doesn’t mean it will come back in your case.

        When you do the eply manuver correctly a few times, the crystals will fall into place. Do it in the afternoon, put a neck brace on or one of these travel-neck pillows. Sit and sleep in a recliner and be careful for a few days.
        It’s one of the gifts we get when we age I fear.

  8. Lot’s of sympathy Debra! I’ve ‘had’ vertigo but my husband and many in his family truly suffer from it. Glad it sounds like things are better. But wowzer. And….imagine the forest in 50-75 years if you took all of those baby-might-oaks and planted them somewhere!!!

    • You know, there are some local programs that ask for oak “donations” once they sprout and get a little bit bigger. I haven’t ever contributed, but maybe next year. We go through this all the time with the goofy squirrels!

      I’m so sorry to hear that your husband and others in his family suffer from vertigo, and the way you refer to it, sounds like it’s not a “one-time episode” for them! I think I somehow knew it was common, but I’m still amazed to hear HOW common. It was really a rough couple of weeks, and I hope it never returns. Thanks so much for sharing, Colleen!!

      • Oh I’ve never heard of oak donations. What a brilliant idea. I know I have pulled quite a few baby mighty oaks. I always feel bad but didn’t think they would fare well in the path they were growing.

        I have total empathy for you and your episode of vertigo. It is vicious isn’t it????

  9. I just had a short bout of vertigo too, Debra. It only lasted a week and only bothered me at night (standing from a reclining position) but it was still a bit disconcerting to have the floor wobbling about under my feet. As for your plants ~> WOW! Nice to see that someone put their time in isolation to good use. Just gorgeous!

    • You had vertigo to, Nancy! That’s so interesting…and I’m sorry to hear it!! I still wonder if it might have been a little virus, but I’ll likely never know. It was humbling to be so helpless!!

      Thanks for the comments on the garden, and I really did spend hours and hours (and hours!) last year and we have a fairly large space to cover. I found it therapeutic and exactly what I needed to calm myself. Now I’m trying to maintain it all and laughing at myself. I have a tendency to overdo good things! 🙂 Keep feeling better, my friend.

  10. I can’t remember what grade I was in when we all learned about the missions, but I do remember “mine” (San Juan Capistrano), which I researched and illustrated for my class presentation. I was so disappointed when I went into a local Michael’s store and saw that they now have pre-illustrated and cut models of the missions… kids these days miss out on all the fun :). But, you are so right, the “history” we learned was very Euro-centric and no mention was ever made of the poor treatment of the native population. It is a shameful past that shouldn’t be swept away.

    Your yard is gorgeous! I love the grid system you have to hang your succulents from. Now I want one!

    • I am sure you were in the 4th grade, Janis. That’s the typical year for the introduction to the missions and the infamous mission project. My granddaughters passed through the 4th grade when the pre-constructed mission models were available, and I don’t think they bought one outright, but they had many more craft products available than I did, all those years ago! LOL! I didn’t have a Target or a Michaels. 🙂 Funny that I cannot remember what my mission was, and I can’t believe I’ve forgotten that information.

      Thank you for the compliment on the grid holding the plants. I have two more in other parts of the yard and they’re fun. I bought the original grid and pots on Amazon at one point, and then had them placed a little nicer with the wood blocks holding them. They should be very easy to resource. The only thing is the pots aren’t very large and plants outgrow them quickly! But I don’t have to bend over to maintain. LOL!

  11. When I was about 11, mother drove us to San Diego and from there we drove up the coast, visiting all the missions up to San Francisco. It was quite a trip.

    Hope that vertigo clears up – makes me dizzy just thinking about it. 😉

    • I am feeling strong, and reasonably balanced now, Andrew. Another new experience for me! I think I’ve been to all of the missions but some but the most northern probably only once. My favorite is Santa Barbara, and that’s probably for the view and the gardens! I always wonder if those not raised in California have any idea of them, really. I cannot imagine driving the whole length of the state visiting each one, but that’s a fantastic memory Your mom was brave to undergo that trip with an eleven year old! 🙂

    • Thank you, Philip, and for sharing that you’ve experienced vertigo in your personal life. I am feeling much, much improved and only wish I had a true understanding of what triggered it, if anything could even be pinned down! It certainly slowed me down, and once again, not sure that’s a bad thing! 🙂

  12. Lovely post Debra… I relate to the overly ambitious re-potting project. Your garden certainly looks happy about it though, and it is so beautiful. On the Spanish missions, Fran and I have visited maybe 5 or 6 over the years of our California travels. Indeed, it is amazing there many years of surviving the earthquakes and 4 centuries of what nature has in store for us. And yet the sorry back story is so terrible, On the near genocidal history of the white conquerors, this strikes such an overwhelming tone of trauma and overwhelming incredulous-nous for us all (it took me 30 seconds to carefully consider what words to choose.) This is especially striking in this moment, considering the recent discovery in my own home province of 213 first nations children who were found buried in an unmarked grave of a past residential school. It was a system created by the Canadian government in the 1800’s that forcibly removed children from they’re indigenous parents and in full collusion and participation with the mainstream churches who ran the so called schools. It seems it was a very similar system to the Spanish colonial missions, and also somewhat similiar to the US Indian reservation system. I am not at all surprised by the discovery of the remains of these children in Kamloops BC, though of course am deeply saddened an ashamed of it all. I have a few First Nations friends and past co-workers, even family, who still who struggle with the inter-generational trauma of this terrible legacy of the residential school system. Ultimately, I appreciate your story of truth, suffering and the joy of your garden weaved into ‘Vertigo’…. that well describes so much, doesn’t it… even the crazy and beautiful world around us. Peace to you, and cheers as always….. Bruce

    • When I first heard of the sad findings at the Canadian residential schools, 213 souls, I immediately thought of the lives lost and the sad history in my own “back yard.” There are thousands of these stories if we all could be honest about the past. I am really interested in the topic of generational trauma. Richard Rohr has been writing about it for some time, and I stop and take it in almost as a new thought–new to me. If we could learn to acknowledge the past as having an influence on who we are today, and take steps to heal as a result of accepting sad and often terrible truths, we could move forward with a different set of intentions. It is a challenging notion, but I’m currently very caught up by it. Thank you, Bruce. I always enjoy what you have to say.

  13. Sorry to read about your unpleasant experience with a loss of balance Debra. Sometimes nature likes to remind us that we need some balance in our lives, though I think that was meant to be a hint to take a break from the day job rather than doing our leisure activities! It sounds like you had a real production line of repotting going on, so perhaps you made it into a ‘day job’ and hence your body rebelled – you are supposed to be retired after all!

    Your plants look wonderful in their pots – Beautifully well-kept and very neat and tidy. A total opposite of my backyard, which has mainly self-sown wild flowers this year! 😉

    I enjoy reading your historical posts about the old Missions in California. There are so many bad pieces of our ‘European expansionist’ history to be found throughout the world today. I was pleased to read that children today are taught a more accurate history of the past and how things came to be than the whitewashed versions that were taught when you and I were in school. Alasdair’s history lessons were different to mine. In some ways, the new history becomes less broad in its brush. I noted that the study of the 2nd World War dealt with the details of small pieces of time such as Germany in 1933 and the students were given information from which they had to draw conclusions about cause and effect. It’s almost like university type tuition!

    I saw Vertigo so many years ago that I couldn’t tell you the story. I really must make an effort to watch it now that you’ve told me where it was shot. My personal favourite Hitchcock movie is North by Northwest 😊

    Keep well and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  14. Good post. I went to an old Catholic high school in Long Beach. They never taught us about Jesuits. Oh wait, they were Jesuits. They tried to treat us the same way that their forefathers did.

    As far as vertigo goes (heh) you should be fine. However, according to the NIH, you should do whatever triggers it until your brain gets used to it. I am not kidding.

    Those squirrels don’t know what they are doing and they are going to be very hungry. Squirrels bury acorns all around here and they don’t blossom into a tree. They bury them for two reasons. They need the food during certain seasons. They also bury them to leach out the tannic acid and soften the shells.

    • I don’t know how to exactly repeat my actions regarding the vertigo, but I am very active in the garden and if indeed it was the potting that triggered it, I’ll likely have another round! And you’ve given me info on the squirrels and the acorns that may make more sense to me. I’ve laughed at the silly beasts for years because we don’t have a winter! They can get the acorns straight from the tree or under its canopy 12-months a year. I thought instinct made them bury them for food, which has been a little annoying, but if it’s to soften the shells, that would make sense to me. Interesting! I’ve never heard that before. 🙂

      • I wouldn’t suggest doing that because it seems like you are creating more problems. , It’s like burning your hand on something. Keep doing it until you don’t feel it. We have more squirrels than you can count around here so i started researching what and why. That’s what I found. We really don’t have a winter either, but there is a time when there are no acorns which is their primary food.

  15. I have had the same problem with my ear due to the allergy, the pressure is always there. I hope you are better. I really love your garden. “at least 200 individual potted plants”, wow!! It is a labor of love. I used to spend hours working in my yeard and had 4 dozens of rose bushes.
    Thank you for sharing your experience and beautiful garden, Debra!

    • Thank you, Karen. I’ve been able to travel to be with family this week in Northern California and I did much of the driving. I couldn’t have done that a couple of weeks ago! 🙂

  16. Working in the garden shouldn’t be taken lightly! (Says I who don’t have a garden to tend – gladly). But you have created a beautiful bit nature around you, even with an occasional oak here and there. Thanks for the trip to mission San Juan Bautista and the reminder that it’s time for me to re-watch some Hitchcock again.

  17. Dear Debra, so good to read what’s been happening in your life recently, but distressing to learn that the gardening–a creative and comforting past-time usually–led to vertigo. Having had Meniere’s disease for the past 15 years, the great V and I are now long-time friends.

    I encourage you from now on to be aware of your body when you bend over. Not only when you garden but when you pick something up off the floor, etc. That is, bend from the knees and keep you head somewhat elevated with you eyes raised upward. This takes getting used to, but it so helps with vertigo. It demands that you be aware of exactly what spot you want your hand to reach down to. Probably sounds strange, but it’s now my customary way of bending toward anything!

    You were so wise to rest for several days really. Vertigo drains and depletes the body of energy and strength too. Take care. Be gracious to yourself. Peace.

  18. I hope you’re feeling better. Vertigo is challenging. What’s amazing is that I met a new friend for lunch yesterday (at an Inn’s porch, in the sweltering NE heat). We began to talk non-stop, until suddenly she asked me to STOP. Turns out she gets vertigo frequently – not an inner ear thing for her, more a precursor to migraines. When I talk, my hands move (as it does for most of us). My hand motion was leading her to vertigo (again, something that has happened to her before when talking with friends and family). So, for the rest of lunch I sat on my hands. No easy feat.
    Your flowers are beautiful. Hope they’re giving you some respite and serenity.

  19. The missions have been very destructive for many peoples. Abuses and rapes of children and adolescents are consummated. Whole cultures have often been destroyed. The religion of love created only death.

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