Saturday, September 30, 2006
Cancer. It's not really bugging right now. Not in the way it would bug some people. It's more like an annoying house guest that just won't go home. The big issues? I've faced them before, twenty years ago, when I had lymphoma. That was when I faced my own mortality. Dealing with lymphoma stirred up other unfinished business, and that got dealt with too, as much as was possible. So here we are again, dealing with mortality again, and dealing with other issues.
Welcome to life!
But now cancer reminds me of something that happened some years ago.
I was teaching. It was 5 a.m. on a school morning, and I woke up suddenly with the sense of a dream where one of my sons had died. The feelings were intense, so I jumped out of bed to check on them. In each bedroom, quietly touching their chest, feeling their breathing. Three sons, all sleeping peacefully. So, back to bed and sleep for the precious few minutes left before the alarm went off.
Later that day in school, one of the other teachers asked me if I'd heard Trevor had died. Trevor was a student I barely knew who had been dealing with cancer for the past couple of years. I hadn't been following his story - just vaguely knew he had it. When did he die? This morning, I was told. What time? 5 a.m.
And here is the divide between facts and imagination. Something happened, and it's nonrepeatable. It still happened. Both the logical and imaginative parts of my brain peer closely at this, looking for explanations and meanings.
There's a certain perverse pleasure in knowing, absolutely knowing, that reality is more than can be proven by the scientific method. However, there's also another equally perverse pleasure in also understanding that I simply am not beholden to any explanations generated from outside the experience itself.
The key, I think is experience. But the caution is wishful thinking.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The spider is merely following its DNA directions.
Sometimes things fall into the web the spider doesn't want to eat.
Sometimes the helpless victim dies anyway.
Sometimes the web is destroyed.
Such a variety of webs; beautiful, utilitarian, visible, practically invisible.
Sometimes we don't even know we've walked into a web until we feel a bit of discomfort.
All kinds of webs.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
It was nice watching Chris Matthews verbally beating up on John Boehner, House Majority leader. I don't even like Chris Matthews much. Nevertheless, it's becoming fashionable to beat up on Republicans. It's not good reporting but it has some entertainment value.
Hey. Whatever gets the grin works for me.
And oh yeah. purple is always fashionable…
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Fractals are still being, I hope.
Sometimes I wonder if our own individual lives, in addition to being our own individual lives, can also be viewed as those cursed story problems in math textbooks. I never liked them. Just gimmee the formulas, enough time to organize the data, enough paper to work out the solutions, and I'm a happy camper, especially if I can present the solution in turquoise ink. Puhleeeeze don't make me look at two trains approaching each other at different speeds and figure out where they will meet. I don't care where they'll meet. I don't want to find the relationships. I just want to do the math.
I tested into the honors math program at Ohio State. In the first class, we had to prove that 1+1=2. What? That's not math! That's…thinking? Philosophy? A waste of time? Surely not math!
The next class was calculus. The textbook was full of numbery kinds of things. Cool. Somehow I missed the concept that the square root of -1 is an imaginary number, not a real number. I busted too many brain cells trying to grok that most basic concept in calculus. And because that made no sense, nothing else made sense. At the end of the quarter I earned a "C", the ticket out of honors.
Imagination belonged in one world, numbers belonged in another. It was decades before I became familiar with some of Einstein's ideas. Too bad.
I was going somewhere with this. Our lives as story problems. Fractals. Patterns. In the macro and in the micro. You see? I finally get it.
Last night I kicked a hole in a door in a fit of rage. oooohhhhhh god…
It was stunning to feel that much emotion pouring out in an all of a sudden kind of way. It wasn't in the middle of a difficult conversation, but something triggered something. We looked at each other, saw mutual pain, and decided to get more real. Necessity, you know…
We uncovered assumptions.
So this is the new story problem. Solve it inward at the personal level. Then take what is learned and apply it outward. Because, you know, if we can't do that, we're hosed as I was hosed in college math.
I really do hope it matters in the big picture. All the inner work in the world doesn't count for jack if it dies when we die, seems to me. And yet, if being immersed in the process is what makes us most human, hmmm, I'm going to have to think about this a little more.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Yesterday a little girl was invited to walk through a door. She has her own computer, now, and that may be a good or bad thing, but it's not my thing to deal with. But since she has one, I asked her if she wants to be on my picture a day list. Yep, she does. This list of a few dozen people get whatever photo I send out daily, plus usually some poetry written by a friend of mine related to the photo. It's just a fun thing to do. If you read this blog you see the photos anyway, for the most part. If you want to see the poetry, well, you'll have to ask.
Anyway. Amanda is in third grade and reads the poetry, too. I asked her if she'd like to write some poetry to go with some photos that she might want to take. We'd share them with family members and friends around the continent.
She was overjoyed, and had a chance to buy a notebook specifically to hold her poetry.
Soon, now, her photos accompanied by her poetry will be delivered with the morning email to lots of family and friends. There's a lot below the surface to this little story, of course. I remember my own childhood where children were seen but not heard. Where parents were obeyed without question. Where we had no voice. Where we were ordered to go out to the tree and cut the switch that would be used to whip us. Oops, not very far below the surface, it seems. Sorry, saying it anyway.
I've dealt with and am dealing with my own stuff. Part of my "thing" is to make damned sure I don't pass that crap on. And, if it happens anyway on occasion, then to face it and fix it. I can't fix the world, but I can be a sister to my granddaughter and in the process strengthen one tiny piece of the universe.
She's a cool kid. Sister. Friend. Granddaughter. Herself.
All of the above.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Fractals be. A phrase used by Mike and me as we'd wander around the universe, making observations about this and that, and noticing that patterns exist everywhere. Not only that, the same patterns seem to exist at the micro and macro levels.
He has done his own journey into the dark, and before it was finished he pulled me into it and asked and hoped I'd stay and not run from it or him. I didn't. How could I? Mike is my son. The journey was painful, of course, but in the end the light appeared. His story is amazing, and if you're lucky you might meet him, and he might tell you about it. Or not. His story is written across his face and being, as I suppose all of our stories are.
This photo speaks to me of independence. Each young hosta plant has its own center. None of them are extensions of any other plant. Well, there's a whole silent symphony goin' on about that, and it's not confined to the plant kingdom. Mike found his own center. I'm still working on mine. Actually, maybe he's still working on his, too. Maybe it never is really finished.
Layers and layers and layers.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Anybody addicted to happy happy joy joy better go read something else. It has not been a good day.
I got a second opinion on a surgeon today. The first surgeon was a likeable guy, but frankly, being on the same page spiritually doesn't cut it. I'm not wanting him to meditate with me. I want him to have good and intelligent surgeons hands. Period. With plenty of experience. So I saw another. I hate his words. He told me things I didn't know until now, and I hate it. But I'll stick with him. Here's what I heard.
I may need radiation.
I may not be a good candidate for reconstruction.
I may need more chemotherapy next year.
I now know what the tumor looks like. It's like a spider web throughout the breast. That's why x-rays can't see it.
So to answer a couple of questions, no, the hard part isn't over with when chemo is finished. I just walk into another room and have to figure out where the walls are. And yes there will be an evaluation. I'll have a petscan, whatever the hell that is, that will find any cancer hot spots anywhere in my body - if there are any. If there aren't, then the surgeon won't have to be as aggressive with the surgery.
The hard part is this: I'd just made my peace with the double mastectomy, finally accepting it, knowing that I'd get the compensation of substitute breasts, and was enjoying thinking of tattoos et al. That assurance has been snatched away. You know the feeling of being in a dream and the alarm clock goes off? That.
Ok. Bitch session is over. The flow is magnificent. Someone sends something beautiful about dancing and cancer. How amazing! Today! Thank you! (won't divulge names unless you say it's ok).
And today's photo. No, I didn't choose it. It came up automatically on a rotation I use. Look at it! Reaching. It reminds me of a time I reached out my hand to a student who needed my hand. Reaching out to another. And, frankly, not knowing for sure if the other is also reaching for us. Right? Or if the gap will be closed. We don't know for sure. I'm reaching for some healing, and I don't know for sure if it'll happen. But maybe the only healing that really matters is the reaching itself. Perhaps reaching is the dance that proves we are alive. Perhaps that's as good as it gets.
And yes, I am dancing. Stumbling, holding on to the furniture, crying, laughing, raging, embracing it all.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Tired. Chemo is kicking my butt. So very tired. Now the steroid high doesn't counter the chemo low. My mouth hurts and the chili I made for the family tastes like…textured air. Well, it's good from a nutritional standpoint, at least. And I'm tired of that, too.
You know how flying is really controlled falling? Well, chemo is controlled dying. In both cases the person in charge wants to get to the destination without crashing. Fortunately, it almost always works. So no, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. Too tired for that effort.
Now I'm in the home stretch. I've got four treatments left from a total of sixteen. I remember how that felt running. You just keep on keeping on. Push through it. At least with this I can push in a horizontal position.
So why am I sitting up writing and putting up photos? Because from the beginning I wanted to do something every day that brought me joy, and hopefully would please a few others. Apparently it's working.
Today's photo, in case you're not geologically literate, is an ancient sea bed. Howzat for what happens if you sink in the river that is life? You end up as sedimentary rock. The water moves on, you don't. Ah but all is not lost. All is never lost. Eventually the wind and rain and ice take over and break you up into tiny little bits of sand, and eventually you get washed into a bit of water that flows to a larger body of water and voila you end up back in the sea again. See? You can't get away from it. All is flow.
Well, I guess I'm not too tired to wax eloquent for a few moments.
see ya tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Sometimes you get to the river
and bridges appear to get you to the other side.
Sometimes there are no bridges.
Sometimes you have to build your own bridges
and that may be the whole point of the journey.
Then again, maybe the river itself is the point of the journey.
Monday, September 18, 2006
A butterfly is perched on my butt thinking butterfly thoughts, which are probably not thoughts at all as we understand them. That butterfly probably has no concept of "butterfly", and certainly has no sense of what a human being is. In fact, it probably doesn't even know I'm alive, having no concept of "living", either.
What about us? What if we're not the top of the universal food chain? What if we're simply perched on the butt of some massive super intelligent creature? A creature who has evolved enough and learned enough to realize that whatever it is we do with our pea brains isn't anything like the kind of thought that creature is capable of?
I'm kind of inclined to suspect that creature may be right. We think and do some pretty incredibly stupid things, like kill each other. Even butterflies don't do that! But we're supposedly smarter, we have "souls", whatever that means, and look at us. We kill each other. There's enough of everything to go around, yet we hoard. What's up with us, anyway?
Yet it seems we have something. Choice. The butterfly doesn't. It doesn't choose not to kill. It probably simply isn't genetically programmed to kill. So this is what we get. Evolved brains, "souls", and choice. Oof.
Speaking of oof…I saw with my own eyes a reconstructed breast today. Well, a flat mastectomy would get an "oof' out of me, too. So since insurance covers it, it seems like I get a chance to exercise choice. So why not? All the advice I've received, all the thinking I've done about not needing them, about being too old, yada yada yada. Why do we always think we have to choose the tough road? Ok, maybe you don't. Maybe it's my thing. But thinking about this, what the frick is wrong with dodging the "shoulds" and "oughts" and just choosing what feels good? Is this Protestant work ethic gone mad, that we think we shouldn't choose something that simply feels good? Vanity! Oh my God!
Well, ok. Most won't have a problem, I suppose, with choosing breast reconstruction after cancer. But will most also decide that "feel good" is sufficient reason? Just something to think about…
By the way, about that butterfly…
Not only did I examine a reconstructed breast, but she showed me how tattooing can create a new areola. Now how cool is that! And I don't have to have the predictable round ones. I can choose butterflies…
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
You are standing in the dark, the forest behind you, a lake in front of you.
You hear a rustling noise behind you….
You turn and look, and coming toward you from the forest is a creature with a two bladed knife. The knife is long and curved, and the threatening presence swings it in a hacking up and down motion.
You run. At the edge of a lake you find a boat, and quickly get in and paddle to the other side.
As you get to the far shore, you look behind. The presence has also found a boat, and is gaining on you.
You run, dread tickling your back.
A cellar door appears before you.
As you look back over your shoulder and see the presence getting out of the boat, you open the door and run down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs is another door. You open it, run into the cellar, and lock the heavy wooden door behind you.
There is nowhere else to go and you hope the heavy door will hold.
In horror, you watch the double knives chopping through the door.
With nowhere to run, you stand there, melting in fear, closing your eyes. In despair and resignation you await the pain of the knives tearing you apart.
Instead, the presence with the double blades walks right past you and destroys two ghosts that you hadn't noticed…
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Do you realize that when you perceive something, you actually have no contact with the thing you think you see? Or hear? Or touch? All of your "perceiving" takes place in your brain, cozily wrapped in a hard boney shell. The brain only knows what the input gizmos feed to it. So if your input gizmos are quirky, you can never be really sure that what you see is what really is.
Your brain almost never experiences directly. Only second hand.
So…what if the real world cannot be perceived because we don't have sensitive enough input gizmos. You know, eyes, ears, etc.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Today I'm busy as a bee getting ready for a trip. For y'all tracking the chemo story, I'm fine. I've taken a couple of weeks off from chemo and am returning rapidly to normal. When I return home, it's five more sessions with the iv needle then I'm done. Done!!!! Of course, then comes the appointment with the person who will streamline my profile…
I can deal with that. We have brothers and sisters returning home from Iraq having lost much worse than breasts. Increasing numbers of children will be born with deformed bodies and missing limbs because of depleted uranium. The cancer rate in Iraq is horrible, and they have to endure so much of it without medical help at all. So yes, I'll voice my pain about my loss, but I'll also remember I'm one voice in the chorus.
Other stuff: I'm always a bit nervous about a gathering of Christians. Scandalous? Maybe. The test for me is this: if I can walk in wearing my stop bitching t-shirt and still make eye contact with at least some, then it's an ok group. Moebius is an ok group. We gather a couple of times a month and share our views on whatever book we agree to read. For now it's "God after Darwin." I rarely have anything to add, but I enjoy listening to the others. Last night I listened to a scientist, a psychology professor, and a theologian share their views on post-Darwinian Christianity. Of course, none of them have any trouble with evolution. However, they have the ability to look at what really troubles people - the fact that evolution implies an indeterminate universe. And that, of course, challenges the whole concept of a loving God. God? Just what do people mean when they say God, anyway? And then they spin off to a side issue of getting past God the person. See? I love this group!
I wondered why I didn't share my own views. God, evolution, creation, wondering, this is where I spend my daydreaming time. So why not share? Finally, as the evening wore on, it began to make sense. The conversation was mostly left-brained and I approach these things from the right brain. I began to see it visually. The people are examining a net, knowing the net needs to be reworked, and they're discussing the netting, the history of who built the netting, how to retie the net without destroying it's usefulness, all that. I can't do that, though I wish I could.
I almost said something along the lines of this:
Can I say something from the stance of a poet and artist? It's really pretty easy. Just ignore the net. Come on, take my hand, and let's just travel on over to that place beyond time and distance and rest a bit. Step outside your personal net and become aware of all sentient beings all along the continuum, in all parts of the universe, struggling with meaning, inventing God and gods to explain what they don't understand. It sounds a bit like an orchestra in the pit, each musician tuning their own instrument, preparing for the concert. Just stay here and keep listening, deeper and deeper. The music already exists. The musicians are learning how to be part of that music, but it you listen even closer, the tuning the musicians are doing is actually part of the music itself. Don't ask me how it works. That part of my brain can't comprehend it. But just stay and listen until you hear the music, then we'll go back to the meeting. Once you've heard the music, you'll hear it in your own voice and in the voices of others.
Well, I suspect I'm discovering what the others already know. They explain it their way, this is my way. It's easier for me to write about it than say it aloud.
I admire their commitment to the larger social construct, and their education and training that gives them understandings of the net itself. I don't have that awareness, but there's a place at the table for me, so it's all good.
Speaking of writing…a retired pastor in this group is one of my biggest fans for my column. He told me last night to keep talking…
I'm going to have to think about that.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
just one of those days
full of nothing
full of everything
a friend believes we plan our life before we live it. then we are born and take on the cloak of forgetfulness. yet, we leave little reminders scattered here and there on our path.
who knows. some think they know, but who really knows?
Friday, September 08, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
This is my current sense of how things really are…
Similar to the story of the blind men and the elephant…
All the sentient beings are attempting to make sense of the mystery of the universe. Call it God or ultimate reality or lincoln logs advanced design. I don't care. Words are just words, and that makes what I'm writing suspect, too.
Anyway. The sentient beings are describing what they see. Some of them, maybe most of them, thinking what they see is all there is. I'm watching this play out from a position in the cheap seats, since the Dutch Reformed church that gave me first structure deemed that was the place I deserved. But from that distance, I saw that what everyone was looking at was actually an infinitessimally large faceted jewel. Every being had a view of that jewel, but could only see one of the facets. Actually, every sentient being saw a different facet.
So, all we really have to do is listen to each other, and make sure we also share with each other, what we see from where we stand. Right? That's how to get the bigger picture.
But then something else happened.
It's not enough to see the bigger picture. That still leaves us at some distance from…whatever "it" is.
That's when I realized each of us isn't just describing a facet.
Each of us IS a facet, already complete, already beautiful, already part of the jewel.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
Something I discovered not too long ago - relationships are either vertical or horizontal. Meaning, either both individuals are equals, or one is superior to the other in one way or another. But I've also noticed that vertical relationships can be very subtle, and sometimes the lesser of the two doesn't even recognize the dynamic. So, one day the lesser discovers the dynamic and decides to not feed into it anymore. What happens? Hell on earth, sometimes. Well, I'm not going into that particular story line. However, a friend commented on a blog entry from a couple of days ago with this brief story:
Someone asked me a question recently and I passed along a version of this little tale... a young guitar player is sitting in his room with his electric guitar and small amplifier.... a car pulls up and out gets eric clapton. he goes into the house, picks up the guitar, makes a couple of minor adjustments to the amp and plays a few tunes. Then he walks back out of the house and drives away. The young guitar player now knows something he did not know before. He also faces a choice... play or never play again.
This is a great story. If you're groomed in vertical relationships, you know, the ones where you judge people as older, wiser, smarter, richer, better looking, more talented, and thus value them accordingly, you'll never play the guitar again, probably.
I didn't start playing my guitar until just a few years ago. I'm talking to a friend who didn't dance until she was 40. Yeah, I hear ya, girlfriend. I think of all the dancing and art and poetry and laughter we could have shared with others but didn't.
Well, i got it figured out, and probably just in time. I guess I'm a slow learner. Wait. No. I can't say that. That is a product of vertical thinking. Wait, Yes, I can too say that. Saying I can't is a product of vertical thinking!
Seriously, though, I'm thinking of how pervasive this is, in our social constructs, our government, our churches, our families…
I'm the mother.
I'm the Altar Christi.
I'm the Decider.
God appointed me…
Children should be seen and not heard…
White shoes cannot be worn after Labor Day.
Because it's the law…
What will the neighbors think?
…and if you challenge that, you're disloyal, unpatriotic, ungrateful, or maybe even a terrorist.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
The pansy gets its name from the French word pensée meaning "thought". It was so named because the flower resembles a human face and in August it nods forward as if deep in thought. Because of the origin of its name, the Pansy has long been a symbol of Freethought and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. Humanists like the symbol also, as the pansy's current appearance was developed from the Heartsease by two centuries of intentional cross-breeding of wild plant hybrids. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) uses the pansy symbol extensively in its lapel pins and literature.
American Secular Union
and, not but not least…August.
Here I was going to rant about people calling their brothers pansies, about hurting both their brothers and pansies, but I guess pansies can take care of themselves.
But deep down, why do people hurt each other with names? What exactly are the name callers afraid of?
Saturday, September 02, 2006
dreaming of red
there's not enough red in this world
so i'm adding some of my own
no, that's not right
the universe is inviting US to dance…
on the other hand…
tired of being tired
of listening to my heart thump
of nose bleeds
of dry mouth
of twitching nerves
and food that tastes either
like cardboard or slime
tired of courage
and some other things
tired of knowing…
and not knowing…
sometimes I want to go into a cave and cry
but don't come in with me
you can't, anyway
don't give me sympathy
just sit at the entrance
and love me
and try to understand
that this, too, is the dance
deeper than pain
deeper than joy
Friday, September 01, 2006
This little jeweltoned gem began as a photo of swirls of pollution on a river in Canada. I took the picture for the swirl patterns only. Later, playing with the myriad of functions in Photoshop, this image emerged and I am entranced.
Once I was listening to a friend, and for a moment she became a dance of colors. Yes, I saw that, and I wasn't tired or upset or anything else. I was listening and loving. Period. If you say I'm delusional or some such, I'll suggest you label me merely as a way of drawing a line of separation. But you isolate yourself, not me.
Well, this isn't the time to go off on a tangent about isolation and fear and how we stunt our own evolution.
But wouldn't it be nice if once in a while we could install Photoshop on our eyes and hearts?