Author, artist, and healing guide Kathy Harmon-Luber draws peace and strength from nature around her in Idyllwild.
PHOTOGRAPH BY LYNNE EODICE
Ravens sometimes chatter in the cedar outside Kathy Harmon-Luber’s bedroom in Idyllwild. A nuthatch searches for food, bluebirds burst into song and sometimes hawks visit. Some days, rays of light illuminate crystals hanging in her window, casting rainbows around her room, and she takes a mindful, deep breath.
Moments like these help the award-winning artist, poet, photographer, and musician to stay hopeful, peaceful, and strong in spite of five years being bedridden due to debilitating illness.
Harmon-Luber is passing along her lessons from decades of dealing with degenerative spinal diseases and autoimmune illnesses in her new book, “Suffering to Thriving: Your Toolkit for Navigating Your Healing Journey: How to Live a More Healthy, Peaceful, Joyful Life.”
In her 20s, doctors told Harmon-Luber she would be in a wheelchair by her 30s. Though she managed to avoid that, four ruptured discs in the past 20 years left her gasping for air at times, tearfully hoping for help to numb the pain. She has also endured an autoimmune disorder, allergies, and chronic respiratory infections. Harmon-Luber says she has been able to reverse or slow the advancement of some physical issues through self-care techniques and new ways of thinking. However, she emphasizes her spinal diseases are not curable and she isn’t claiming to cure anyone but rather help them alter their mindset to experience more peace.
Meditation has become an intimate friend, along with the necessary pharmaceutical “cocktail,” as Harmon-Luber calls it. She is quick to acknowledge in her book that mainstream medicine can be a lifesaver, yet there are also complementary modalities, used by various cultures from ancient times, that can relax us, elevate mood, and bring peace as well as a connection to the “Source or God or whatever people believe in.”
Some of the quotes:
“The words you speak become the house you live in,” – Persian poet Hafiz.
“You never realize how really strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” – Bob Marley
“My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon,” – Japanese poet Mizuta Masahide
“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it, and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself,” — Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang
PHOTOGRAPH BY LYNNE EODICE
Kathy Harmon-Luber is a certified Reiki and sound therapy practitioner.
Harmon-Luber is an award-winning poet herself, when she can snatch moments away from her work as an executive non-profit development professional for major organizations which help the homeless, disadvantaged children and youth, the arts and environment. She was previously a major fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee during Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Despite her years of suffering in bed, she has regularly completed massive grant applications on behalf of the less fortunate, on deadline. Her board memberships 2013 to 2016 included Idyllwild Community Fund, Associates of Idyllwild Arts, and Art Alliance of Idyllwild.
Her love of creativity, outside of deadlines, shows in the book, as does her high intelligence and deep sensitivity. Sound is another of Harmon-Luber’s great pleasures and healing tools. Taking courses online, she has become a certified Reiki and sound therapy practitioner. She began playing piano at age 4, classical flute at age 7, and in recent decades has fallen in love with playing Native American flutes, Zaphir chimes, Tibetan bowls, crystal bowls, drums and gongs. She employs sound to help people derive relaxation and healing from various tones and frequencies.
During her childhood in Pennsylvania, in a small town near a wooded area, Harmon-Luber’s father passed down a love of photography, as they walked among trees and wildlife. Fast forward to 2012, when her otherwise self-taught photography, along with her painting and collage, earned her Idyllwild Artist of the Year by the Art Alliance of Idyllwild. As well as her presence in the mountain village’s art shows, her work has appeared in galleries, publications, and archives throughout California and nationally, including the Palm Springs Museum of Art, as well as in Joshua Tree, Laguna Beach, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, Cal State Chico and Washington, D.C. Her photographs have been published in the Washington Post, Best of Photography, Inland Empire Magazine and others.
Harmon-Luber is always inspired by the ocean and she followed that passion to earn a degree in marine science. While gazing at the waves during a few days of respite after the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015, she saw an artistic possibility.
“People are always talking about impending doom,” she told her husband, Ken Luber. “Why not impending peace?”
Using long exposure, she created a “painterly, impressionistic” series including Impending Peace in natural light and printed on paper that makes each piece luminous. Photography is one of her meditations. She uses no computer enhancement.
In her youth, Harmon-Luber was also an active dancer, swimmer, and gymnast. As her spinal issues developed, she was forced to surrender many physical activities, which led to depression. She writes in her book that a serious illness can take people through all the stages of grief similar to losing a loved one.
Yet, she learned to focus forward and keep her thoughts positive. One of her medical practitioners, Kenneth C. Browning, D.O., noted for the book, “Kathy is able to use her pain to help others navigate their issues by showing them how to be their own medical advocate. Being able to witness this in a small part has been nothing short of inspiring and encouraging.”
Kristy Frazier found inspiration from Harmon-Luber after she says she was diagnosed with Terminal Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and placed herself in hospice care at home, foregoing radiation or chemotherapy and instead choosing her own therapies. She says she was told a year later that a PET scan showed no cancer. She values Harmon-Luber’s wisdom for helping her fight the disease and continue to live life to the fullest.
“I used Kathy’s advice on nutrition, journaling, music and communing with nature, along with her encouragement to stay positive and hopeful, to use visualization and to believe in the prayers and healing thoughts of others,” Frazier says.
“People are always talking about impending doom,” Kathy Harmon-Luber told her husband, Ken Luber. “Why not impending peace?”
Among the natural remedies Harmon-Luber finds helpful are essential oils, breathwork, heat, mineral salts, removing inflammatory foods from the diet, as well as applying forgiveness, acceptance, letting go and choosing joy. The mind-body connection is ever present in her book. – “What is my body telling me with this pain?”
“Suffering to Thriving” offers tips on how to deal with medical visits, procedures, and decisions. She also suggests gathering a “tribe” of people around you as your “team” or support network. Listen to your gut. If you’re not comfortable saying “no,” your body may tell you “no” in pain.
“Suffering to Thriving” is an easy read, is well organized, and is a particularly poignant and useful gift for anyone on the healing journey. To see an excerpt and order online, CLICK HERE.