Category Archives: magic

A seasonal urge

I grew up in the land of eternal spring… some even called it eternal fall.

I never have experienced four strong seasonal changes… usually it was two… but it could even be argued that there was one season unless one counts “more rain” as another season.

Ecuador had that… rain and more rain, it was eternal spring, or something akin to the glorious autumn season of the southwestern US.

Yes, it is confusing, but the big seasonal denominator for me has been the presence or absence of rain.

Today was that kind of day here in my beloved American Southwest… overcast and lightly rainy. A huge high pressure system that seemed unexpected causing tension headaches and achy bones. The release when the rain managed to push past. The smell of creosote wafting in the air.

I always feel a different kind of contentment in the rain, no matter in what part of the world I am in. If there is rain, I get this feeling. It isn’t particularly productive, but is a certain kind of peace or contentment. Though I do tend to write more when I can hear water droplets hitting the windows or the cadence of rain on the tin roof of my back porch. I feel the magic that my favorite authors are able to convey about this world, the kind that feeds the stories of Borges, Allende, Esquivel, and Garcia Marquez. While I do not claim that there is a Latin Exclusivity to the genre, as a daughter of its lands, I can understand the origins every so deeply.

When it rains, the world feels magical.

Rain in the magical jungle city of Tena in Ecuador


“The seasonal urge is strong in poets. Milton wrote chiefly in winter. Keats looked for spring to wake him up (as it did in the miraculous months of April and May, 1819). Burns chose autumn. Longfellow liked the month of September. Shelley flourished in the hot months.” Helen Bevington 

Advertisements

Revisiting 7 and then 8 – and perhaps a dash on 9 – Find the Beautiful

Revisiting 7

I suppose my last post was a bit premature, though it was true. It is amazing how something gentle can shift everything, even if it is only temporary.

After my post, I went to a meeting for an organization I belong to. I expected to get lots of hugs and inquiries about my health and my status. I was looking forward to thanking people in person for their kindness, but felt shy about the possible attention.

The hugs were nice, the kind words and gestures were appreciated. I was glad to have gone and it was not as much of a burden to my shy side as I thought it might be,

But at the end, as I was walking away.  One of the friends who was there often for me asked me how I was and I replied with my usual. I am good, lots to be thankful for, one day at a time. She grabbed my arm and said lets sit and tell me what you mean by this one day at a time thing? 

I was stunned, she had latched on the the subtle nuance of such an expression and knew that my words were far cheerier than I felt. 

So we sat down, and I tried to explain that navigating the whole thing is complex. Yes, I fully see that there is so much that is good but that there is still the tough that needs to be dealt with. Being told you have cancer is more complex that I had thought, especially given the provisions that no chemo or radiation is needed, like those somehow would allow (key word here is allow)  someone to feel like shit. Please don’t think I am trying to diminish chemo or radiation and that people who have to go through that are somehow exception in some regard… because they actually are exception. What I feel like I am missing is permission to grieve this process and that my grieving is allowed to be more than just sad.  After I feebly tried to communicate these ideas to her, I just looked at the hands in my lap and said, I want to be allowed my pity party, I just don’t know how.

She touched my arm and said you are allowed a pity party and I want to be invited, lets go get some wine together soon.

It was so beautiful being allowed to feel this way instead of being held to strict gratitude. My heart filled with something, I would hope it was grace. 

I am not sure she knew what I was talking about or understood what I was trying to say, but she asked and then listened… holy moly… what a gift. She asked, she allowed me to tell her something closer to the truth about how I am feeling, In a world dependent on daily platitudes (“How are you?” – “I am OK”) it was mind altering to pass that realm and move in to more of the brutal truth.

It is part of the dynamic between celebrating that I don’t need chemo or radiation or that my tumor was so freakishly small AND the whole truth in that it was fucking cancer and it robbed me of some things that I held dear. I am grieving.




I don’t think I am headed to deterioration. I know I will be fine, but this is a part of what has happened and is happening to me. I own it. 

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”  ~ William Shakespeare

Then 8

After the sincere gesture of my dear friend, I felt more lighthearted yesterday. It was a busy day, work with extra duties, rush to help Squink finish his homework, a school meeting for an exchange program, and cub scouts.

I was too busy to notice much more than the heaviness of my surgery site.

A dash of 9

We all woke up early, and in good moods. I even served Squink some oatmeal and let him eat it in bed. On my way to the kitchen, I noticed how amazingly pretty my orchid plant was. 

It was beautiful. 


Squink was beautiful. 



My family was beautiful. And somehow everything else seemed less important.

Find the beautiful

THAT

Find the beautiful

Yes, that…

is my theme for this year.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  


Finding the beautiful… it is very present in the external. 

But as I navigated just how ugly it was to go through this cancer thing, how easy it was for people to forget that it is my battle, and I had to find myself repeatedly trying to forgive… I lost my place. And I was so hurt by people that I am close to (who are ashamed of my diagnosis, who couldn’t/can’t talk to me about what was/is happening, who took things from me with out asking, who made things harder for me….) that I forgot to stop and find the beautiful.

So, fuck the folks who take away from this… they can live with their choices.

And I am so lucky, because I have people in my life who can help me do that. So, I have to let them in and help me see what I need to see.

I,  am so excited. Because, you see, this year, 2015, I get to find the beautiful.

Yes, that…

is really my theme for this year. 

holding the darkness at bay

So, after feeling a down due to yesterdays ramblings and self flagellation I find I need to pick myself back up.

The other day someone came to me and asked how I was. I told her that is is a day by day process. That I feel good, that I am grateful for so much.

She went on to ask if I had experienced any dark moments, any depression, and tears. She added that her sister is a doctor and had told her to expect me to get to that point at sometime.

I cried when I got the first message. there is something about being told to call an oncologist that puts a certain indescribable pressure on your heart. To hear it while alone in an office, is hard because it means that you have to call people and share the news – and I will be very, very honest, that I was tempted to not tell anyone. Though I imagined that my husband and mom would have been extremely upset with me had I gone this route – in spite of that though, I can’t tell you how tempted I was.

I even called the oncologist first. I called my physician back and asked for a copy of the pathology report we talked about the long wait until my oncology appointment and then what the report meant in terms of what was happening inside my body. I went and sat by the fax and waited for the report to arrive (he was sending it right after we hung up). I got it and sat in my office, reading (memorizing) and mulling the news, tears in my eyes. I dried them, and decided I had to call my husband and so… I called my husband and told him the news. He was devastated (he had been a young boy when his mother had gone through two cancer diagnoses, I think that what was happening to me brought all those memories back) and I had to be strong and reassuring. After I hung up, I sat in the office some more, tears in my eyes again. Bracing myself for the call to my mom. She was walking into a meeting when she answered. I heard that stop in her voice. It was the same stop when I felt when I had to schedule an appointment with a hematologist oncologist for Squink after he was born.  Granted that was just for some jaundice we did not seem to be able to get rid of, and I knew that it was the hematology part we were seeing rather than the oncology part, but still – it isn’t something you want to deal with as a mom, your babies should never see an oncologist, that should be the rule.

So that was a quick conversation and I sat in my office again, a sense of “why me?” prevailed. My boss who had gone through that cancer route walked by and noticed I was upset, came in and I shared the news with her. After that, the next 24 hours are kind of a blur. I know I called my dad, and he was probably the hardest one to tell… but only because I had no idea how he would react, and he has a tendency to avoid bad things and go on and pretend as if they did not happen so the idea that he would ignore me in this was something I considered highly probable. I only remember that at some point by the end of that night, I was sick of talking to people. Wait, I love talking to people what it was is that I was sick of re-telling the story, the news. I just did not want to have to say that damned word again.

That has been the darkest point so far.

The days following are still a blur. I talked to my siblings, texted with Prima. Made arrangements for all the responsibilities in my life that would be put on hold. Sent out a group email to women who I adore. Friends put me on prayer lists, and I got through the interminable wait until that appointment. Once I saw the oncologist, it felt so much better, because there was a plan. I knew what was happening and it felt good.

I would even say that I was a bit jubilant the day before my surgery, because that mass of mutating cells was getting removed.

I was in the hospital almost a week, determined that this whole thing would not bring me down. I have managed to stay positive through the rest, even that horrid backslide where, through projectile vomiting and other effluvia, fever spikes and chills all intertwined with a general sense of feeling horrid, I lost over 10 pounds, got dark circles around my eyes and began to lose hair. I was still in a good place.

I have these moments that seem to want to step in to those dark shadows; when I noticed that there is an area near my incision is numb (normal, but a strange feeling), talking to someone else who has gone through this process evokes some teariness, after time spent wondering if I am avoiding dealing with something, being told I hurt peoples feelings all brought forth some form of gloom to my mindset.

Thankfully, they are able to be beaten back.  And I think that is my job right now.

More thoughts and a tale from my misspent youth

Reflection
Something I do a lot of right now.
As I watch, feel, and notice my body heal from a pretty brutal surgery… I reflect back on my life.
What is so amazing to me is that I have such a wonderful group of people here in my life now. 
A husband who waited on me through the surgery, held my hand, brought me food, made me eat when I did not want to, bought me more thermometers than he should have had to purchase for me as I lay in bed vomiting with fever and chills and consistently losing them to the depths of my mattress and covers, who rinsed the vomit bowl so I could have a clean bowl for the next round, massaged my neck that was sore from throwing up, is waiting patiently for my body to heal, fed me, clothed me, monitored me while I showered in case I passed out… crap, the list of things he did [is doing] for me is too long to even recall… I just know that I could not have gotten through the last few months without him. 
Then there are the folks that helped arrange food deliveries, delivered food, send cards, visited, called, sent a text… I am humbled by all of these things. 
An aunt who fought against her ingrained instincts and took care of me as best she knew how when my husband couldn’t stay with me.
My mom, who took time off and flew to be with me and watched her first baby sick and vomiting and trying to recover; held her hand, rubbed her brow, made me smile and provided those moments that induced healing that only a mom who loves to mother and nurture can give.
Friends who made sure I felt loved and fed, acquaintances who sent notes and some who even made sure I was fed… they came out like a force field and I was unprepared for the support.
I did not expect any of that, support that is… from anyone outside my immediate family. 
I am not sure why. I tend to keep to myself… I have been deeply burned by some people I thought were friends, so I tend to keep to myself and not talk to many folks. So, when I got the “NEWS” I had to let go, I needed help, I need a group of people to have my back (and not throw me under a bus without a chance to tell my story) and they came out of the woodwork, and I was touched, and am still touched, humbled.. tears are in my eyes now, as I write.
Even friends who I exchanged superficial texts with stepped out and were present to me. Near strangers offering so much more than good wishes.
The world is truly a magical place filled with so much good. I can’t wait until I am free to frolic (without pain) and pass on that kind of goodness… for now, I heal, and am blanketed in gratitude that I have a tribe whose large size I didn’t know.
~ ~ ~
I was driving and reflecting on what good things have happened to me in my life over the years and  in a brief flash of mental inner dialog that occurs in seconds I noticed that I drove by a building that once housed a flower shop in the 80’s when I was in high school and which was made famous by a stop by then president Reagan who went to buy flowers for his mother-in-law who lived up in some super fancy “estates” near my house.
I remember that visit, he was new to office and it was a stop that made the local news. The other funny thing is that night some friends and I went to visit a friend that lived in those “estates” and was a neighbor of Nancy’s mom… how do I know,, because of the plethora of secret service who hung out in the neighborhood. I remember a group of us running to the car from my friends house and the agents getting a little “jumpy” – but those were different days. Now we would probably be shot, then we just got stopped on the way past and told to behave by men in dark suits that wore sunglasses at night. 
I smiled at this memory as I drove away from that building that once housed the famous flower shop; I loved high school. I had friends whose company I enjoyed. I had good times… I was a little bit of a rebel, but I had a heart of gold, and the naivete of a child.

Day 16 – 40 days of writing – cosmos and faith

A conversation I had about faith.

Link


This assignment is due by Sunday night, but I certainly hope to have a nice “dent” in its completion by Friday, if possible. I truly appreciate your help on this. Would you mind telling me your age, where you are from, and if you followed your worldview since your youth or did something influence a change?
I am 45 years old. I was born in Bogota, Colombia to American parents, though we did not often socialize with other expatriates. I also lived in Spain, Ecuador, and Mexico before moving to the USA.  I think it was this experience that led me to my world view. I am an agnostic, but specifically a theistic one; meaning I believe in a supreme power/being, I just feel that knowing who or what that is lies outside of the purview of human understanding… and since faith is outside of the realm of scientific understanding I do not hold it to the rigors of scientific research.  I do however, approach my faith with a deep curiosity and search for more knowledge and insight.
 
The required elements are outlined below:
1)      For this assignment, you will interview two people with different worldviews. One will have the Christian worldview and the other will be one of the following:

a)      Atheist/Naturalist
b)      Secular Humanism
c)      Pantheistic
d)     New Age

I do not consider myself to be any of these, I consider myself to be a theistic agnostic. 

2)       Include in your interview, the following prompts:

a)      What does it mean to be human?

I see humans as part of a cosmos. We are on this planet/universe and part of a whole ecosystem of things that evolve and works both for and against each other.  I am seeking to understand why there is a need to see how we separate humans from the rest of living things as I am not convinced this is an appropriate means of thought.  I tend to eschew thinking that humans are any more special that other living beings, but get uncomfortable at the use of the word special here… perhaps it might be a word like meaningful. I think that since we seem to have things that we call “reason” and “thought” that using those involves a certain responsibility (and should add that each living organism has the responsibility to act according to its make-up; so a cell must do what cells do and a fish must do what fish do and thus a human must do what a human does).       


b)      What happens after death?

As I assume that this questions seeks to discover my thoughts on the concept of an after life, I would have to say that I don’t know, but I am OK with this uncertainty. I tend towards falling back on certain principles in the hard sciences in that our afterlife continues in forms of energy, quarks and strings. I do know that ancestors carry on an important legacy and perhaps that their roles and stories being carried down in various forms (traditions for example) might be the most beautiful thing that happens after death. 


c)      Elaborate on who Jesus Christ is according to your worldview.

He was one in a series of people who have served as messengers regarding valuable lesson in human cooperation. 


d)     How does your worldview deal with the concepts of evil and suffering in the world?

Nature is cruel and has no remorse. I don’t think there is evil. Things that tend to be associated with evil in terms of humans are aspects of human behavior. I think that this is where things like religion are important (I tend to tell people that I am religious and not spiritual) as they serve as guides to encourage cooperative behavior and perhaps to curb tendencies that might not be as socially productive.

Thank you again for your time!!

No, problem. It was very delightful trying to get my thoughts on paper though I do feel like I did not do them justice. 

Day 2 – 40 DOW – was pretty shitty

Not my cells, but similar enough cells

Cancer

in-fucking-situ (I hope)

A cause for celebration. Really. They say.

But holy fucking shit, calling an oncologist for an appointment for yourself is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, Not even someone that could use a strong life lesson or a swift kick in the butt.

You get that call. The one that gives you the pathology report and tells you next steps and it is so heavy and burdened that the air gets thick and it is almost impossible to breathe. Partly, I wonder in retrospect, if is so that you don’t miss a word about what you are being told.

The call to the overly cheerful oncology office to book your appointment.

The calls to those you love. Your husband, your mother. You aunt.

Contemplating how to make the calls to your other loved ones; your father, your cousins, your friends.

Return calls. the news spreads. You get calls from your brother, A message from a professor from when you were back in medical school (who is now a close colleague to your mother).

Priorities mulled.

Pathology reports faxed. scanned. emailed.

Decisions to be made,

Priorities re-mulled.

What do you tell your young children so they can navigate the stress they know you are feeling without giving them scary words that will make things worse.

What do you tell your friends. How do you tell your friends. Do you tell your friends? It is easier to tell strangers.

How do you navigate not knowing what the oncologist will say without Googleing yourself sick.

And again, priorities re-mulled.

Fighting the tendency to blame yourself.

Trying to be strong because you need to be for others, because the last thing you need is to take care of someone else when this is about you (and not them).

Trying not to listen too closely.

Wondering if you will lose friends. Knowing you will (I’ve worked in cancer, it happens) wondering who it will be.

Wondering what do you do. Do you burden friends with the news?

Having to deal with the part of myself that feels socially awkward and introverted.

Remembering to breathe.

Philip K Dick said that cancer was “the process of creation gone wild…”.

Thoughts of prudence and of recklessness. 
The mantra of thinking “it could be worse” repeatedly. intermittently. nauseatingly.

THE divine guess

While I have many favorite words in Spanish (among them alcochofa and murcielago) , I find that there is one word that I struggle with consistently and how I struggle is in how to use the word adivinar in English. I catching my wanting to say “adevine” quite often (am I thinking in Spanish and translating into English?). 

For those who don’t speak Spanish here is some help: 

Translations of “adivinar”
verb
guess
divine

See that? There is a miracle embedded into this word! English hasn’t really supported that inclusion in to words like guess (or conjecture, suppose, imagine, think…) or even the idea of conjecture into the word divine (as in miracle [in the verb sense].

I have wanted to say things like “I can’t “adevine” that”, thus imposing a sense of magical incredulity into guesses and conjectures. But it isn’t a word and my using it would cause some confusion.

I miss the magic that is embedded into the romance languages, the kind that is largely absent from English.


I grew up with mountains like this. I think they inspired my wanting to incorporate magic into life.

Blaine the Dane QEPD



Just shy over one year ago, a very dear and special person passed away. his friendship was deeply important to me, he was kind, and gracious and patient with me. I was reminded of his passing, and the flood of sadness at knowing that I would not hear his voice again, just made my heart feel heavy. again.

He was living in New Orleans when Katrina happened, he called me a couple of days after from his cell which I had tried repeatedly to reach him on. I answered breathing into the phone with anticipation; “Blaine, please tell me you are Blaine and that you are OK” He answered; “Darlin’, I am OK. It is hell here, but I am alive.”. He asked me to call others that were important to him, people that that I did not really know, but had met and knew how to get a hold of… There was such an honor in being that person to him.
I wrote him a letter last year, shortly after I found out he had passed away from brain cancer. Here is an excerpt of that letter.

My dear Blaine,

I always told you that you helped me in ways that would be eternal.
I was recently broken up with one of the most vile and worst of the boyfriends in my life… I was broken but managed to talk myself into going to Long Wong’s in Tempe to hear The Revenants play… alone. Not anything I normally did, and everything I was told I should never do.

You were sitting outside on the patio with mutual friends. You heard them ask me about the ex. They went inside to see what was going on. You stayed and talked to me about what I needed to know about being in a relationship with an addict and how to handle it. I recall thinking that you were trying to work me, and you probably were.  The light from the streetlight reflected on your long thick hair. I was pretty broken that night when I arrived. You were extremely kind and I decided to give you a chance. We spent quite some time together after that, hanging out at your casita talking about having ties to the rise of Phoenix; your years in college in Denton, Texas; music; astrology… and even a little about Charlotte… and my vile ex boyfriend.  And in those moments, where we would sit and talk, a wonderful friendship began. That is, until you decided to move to New Orleans because you didn’t want to cut your hair. I’m not quite sure how you managed it, but before you left Arizona, you helped me regain a sense of worth that I had handed vile ex boyfriend on a silver platter.  Merely in you appreciating me for who I was, was I able to regain the knowledge that I was a good person.

Those early years between us seemed a diversion. We drank a lot of your cold brewed coffee and talked.        I always marveled that you were such a wonder… You allowed me to relax and have fun. You were a catalyst in returning me to me.
We stayed in touch by email when you moved away and then when I moved out of the country. We would use chat between Quito, Ecuador and NOLA. And you taught me enough to help me get a gig in Ecuador so I could maintain digital contact with my loved ones in other parts of the world. During those times, I was able to swing a visit to New Orleans and stay with you for a few days. That trip changed me so much. It was there that I became aware that you called me darlin’, you had always called me that… but it sounded different to me. It was that trip when I felt like the sexiest and most desirable woman in all of New Orleans. You took me to dinner and fed me jambalaya, later you took me to see the Blind Boys of Alabama. I wore a simple black slip as we walked around the French Quarter and you gave me a tour of the city at night. You introduced me to your friends as we walked along the street. I had asked you as we left your place that evening if I should wear the slip, it felt racy and daring and you said “Of course, darlin’ you’re beautiful.” I think that walking around town with you while I was wearing nothing but a black slip was one of the most wonderful moments in my life as a female. I felt beautiful in a way I had never felt before. You may have been the first male to tell me that and that I believed truly meant it. You took me to a graveyard near your home and we talked about death and life as we wandered and sat on the mausoleums, that was so perfect. You told me that you had identified the time and date you’d die. You wouldn’t tell me though, you said that it shouldn’t matter and I realize that was right. You called me darlin’ that whole trip (and never stopped).
I never had “intentions” about my relationship with you. It just was. I never thought of you as a boy friend, much less a boy friend, or even as marriageable. We enjoyed each other.
I recall that once, in Phoenix,  we spent a New Years together. We had dinner and you ordered soft shell crab. I seem to recall that we went to a party and got bored and went to just get coffee and enjoy each other. You looked so handsome in your suit, and you were extra gentlemanly to me.
I’d gotten married and when I told you, you checked our chart and told me we would be very good for each other, but that I was forever your darlin’. I came to visit you again after that and you showed me another part of New Orleans and told all the inside jokes and stories… who wants a nutria po’ boy?You introduced me to your girlfriend, showed me the Shaker Shop and your love of good wood. We were friends, and I knew that would never go away.
I was one of the first people you called after Katrina devastated New Orleans… to tell me you were ok. You’d call a every once in awhile and I’d call you. You’d share your relationship horror stories and we could talk about wonderful magical things… I’d ask about my sons astrological chart (it was not done by you, but it was done with software you’d written. So it felt right to talk to you). We would talk about how New Orleans was still trying to recover, and how you felt that the US ignored Louisiana and its recovery, that we could have done more. We would talk about guns and how much you hated commie liberals. It was never contentious, it was always delightful.
Oh my dear Blaine, when you called to tell me about your tumor. I was devastated. Stage 4 is never ever good. I asked if they thought it had been that that had caused the constant ear infections 15 years prior. You said you hadn’t thought of that. I think it was, but it is in my nature to find some form of survivor guilt about you. I don’t want you dead, but you went ahead and did it anyway. So you leave me here, all the richer for having had you in my life.
I miss knowing that hearing you call me darlin’ is a phone call away. It was always so genuine.

Love,

Blair

Originally written 8/6/13

Finding the magic, courage and faith in the pursuit of openness… maybe.

In the lifelong pursuit of being a member of the collective world, some things help facilitate things between all of us on this planet. because left to our unhampered instincts, I think we would be quite feral.

Communication is pretty much at the forefront of that, wouldn’t you say?

By that, I suppose I mean relationships.

Of course, animals develop relationships, bonds, and/or what have you… but there is a something among humans that relies on all forms of communication.

While I would say this is true of everyone, I think it is especially for people like me, who have chosen to embrace more than one region and thus have to navigate different cultures, environments, and things of that nature,

I came across this article, which got me to thinking about its list of 5 things that are better than being right (which I saw as a catchy article title that is ultimately about things that make you a better part of a community).

My first reaction was to Openness, something I am not all that good at. 

I tend to keep things closely guarded and close. I don’t reveal things until I have to or if I must.  There are many conversations with family in which I will hear them say “I didn’t know that, what didn’t you tell me?”

I don’t know if I have always been this way, but I think I am less open now than I was in… say, my teens. But, I think a lot of teens are that way.

So, I was struck by the notion of openness.

And as always I refer to consensus of definition and look to a dictionary (in this case dictionary.com). The two relevant parts of the definition are here:

  • ready to entertain new ideas; not biased or prejudiced: an open mind
  • unreserved or candid
I think I have a better grasp on the first one, I will listen, though I do tend to put things I am told to some rigor. I think this drives some people nuts, and if they waffle and refuse to accept consensus of definition, I tend to close off because who can argue with someone that sets up circular non testable arguments. 

So problem number one – I lose faith.



Faith is a state of openness or trust. ~ Alan Watts  


I do not talk about politics and religion with people. Oh, I will skim the surface so there is an impression of what I actually think and believe but, most have no idea… and we have problem number two.

I refuse the magic.

There’s just some magic in truth and honesty and openness. ~ Frank Ocean


So, I tend toward duty, and consider myself courageous in many ways. I don’t forgo new opportunities out of something like fear, but I do tend to default to duty.


So, here, in this instance, I lack courage.

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”  ~ Erma Bombeck


The good news is that these are all things I can work on… if I want to be more open, that is… not sure what that would look like for me? I like things protected and nestled in the sacred spaces of my soul.