How I’m Finding Solace in Creative Work

Craftwork and walks in the woods give an ALS caregiver a respite she needs

Kristin Neva avatar

by Kristin Neva |

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On my daily walk, I take a detour from the field and into the woods because I’m on the hunt for birch bark and pine cones. It’s the season for collecting natural accents to use on my Christmas wreaths, which I’ll start making in a month. I sell them for the holidays. It’s a work-from-home project I can do while caring for my husband, Todd, who has ALS.

In the woods, I step on bright green, springy moss. It feels like a plush carpet.

finding solace | ALS News Today | a photo of a birch log with branches cut off, on the ground in the woods

A birch log in the woods. (Photo by Kristin Neva)

I stoop to inspect mushrooms growing on a fallen birch. It’s pretty, so I snap a picture, but I’m looking for thicker logs, and perhaps rotted a bit so the paper bark easily peels off. I’ll cut strips and shape them into rings.

I look beneath pine trees. I put well-shaped cones in my jacket pocket. I need about 60 more so I’ll have enough for each wreath to hold three groupings of three.

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Being out in the woods and thinking about making wreaths are a respite from caring for Todd. He’s set up on his computer and can text me. If he needs me, I’ll run across the field and help him in the bathroom, or I’ll help him cough if his lungs fill with mucus.

ALS is a discouraging disease because things only get worse. There’s no overcoming it. There’s no real success. No recovery or lasting accomplishments. The “progression” that happens with ALS is never meant in a positive sense.

Our kids just got through bad colds. Todd isolated in his office and didn’t get one. I guess that was a kind of success. Yesterday, he had me clear his lungs with manual assist coughs, and he felt better. That was a temporary victory, although Todd’s been having headaches lately, even though he’s using noninvasive ventilation most of the time. If Todd makes it through another year, that will be an accomplishment, but every year is harder.

I like the tangible sense of accomplishment I feel in making a beautiful wreath from fresh Fraser fir boughs and natural accents. I feel productive in a way that I lack when caregiving. The mundanity of toileting, suctioning, and cleaning awaits me across the field. Now I’m doing prep work for my holiday crafting.

I have cones to gather and wire into clusters, birch bark to strip and fashion into rings, and ribbon to cut and tie into bows. In a month and a half, I’ll start clipping boughs and pressing them onto metal wreath rings. I find solace in creating.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


pamela J glover avatar

pamela J glover

Kristin, I need a wreath! contact, me through FB messages. Thanks.


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