Death and its meanings

Beltane and the Cancer Moon

Vanitas

Under the Cancer Moon I’ve wrestled with the news of cancer returning. Death and its meanings. At the Journal workshop I wrote in one exercise, death has found me. I still feel that way, that this is a mortality signal with little ambiguity.

Even so, I’m feeling upbeat, happy right now. Why? CT scan showed negative for metastases. So did the bone scan. That means the reemergence has happened in the prostate fossa. Localized. An easier place to treat.

Ozymandias, Shelley

Death may in fact have found me, but prostate cancer may not be its agent. The word cure comes back into the vocabulary with these findings. If the radiation is successful, I’ll be a 72 year old guy with no cancer. Wow.

This will take a while to incorporate.

Out of Elementary

Beltane and the Cancer Moon

Last night was Gabe’s continuation. The Denver school system marks the transition from elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school with a continuation ceremony. Continuation is Latinate, ugly, and denies a sense of completion, of finishing. Why not graduation? Or, finished. Or, done and dusted. Or, thank god. Or, anything but continuation.

There was cake afterwards on the school yard. “Cake is only for continuators.” Continuators? Ugh. Graduates. New middle schoolers. Our former students. Completists. Finishers. OK. Curmudgeoning officially over.

This will be the last event at Schwigert Elementary in Stapleton. A rush hour traffic jam through the entire Denver metro has always preceded them. A 45 minute trip last night was 2 hours. Not much way around it without going a couple of hours early.

Gabe gets his certificate from his 5th grade teacher
The continuator and his cake
Continuator, cake, Dad, sister

Peaceful

Beltane—————————————————————Cancer Moon

Peaceful this a.m. The imaging work is done. At least for now. Three days now with no medical interventions or doctor appointments. And sunny blue skies.

On Monday at we leave Shadow Mountain around 5:30 am to get Kate over to Littleton Adventist for her j-tube placement. She’ll be there over night. Since she’s stronger now, we’re not anticipating any major issues. This is laparoscopic surgery so the recovery should be minimal.

We got the first j-tube feeding accessories in the delivery yesterday from Option Care. Jumbo size plastic syringes for flushing. The j-tube will be a major change from the tpn. No more aspectic procedures. No more bag to carry. Not nearly as much risk of infection. And a consistent source of nutrition.

Butterflies and Clouds

Beltane…………………………………………………………………………..Cancer Moon

Looking up at the paneled ceiling tiles from the ct scan table was a tile made of plastic and full of butterflies. Leftside. On the right, another plastic ceiling tile of clouds. Between them the circular ct machine through which I was fed on a moving slide.

I’d drunk a bottle of orangia like liquid 45 minutes before, but getting the iv in for the additional contrast material was painful. The gal who poked me twice didn’t have it down. She, in her words, tapped out and got a new wrestler to come and put it in. The new nurse was an old pro. She twhacked my elbow crease, looked, then put the iv in place.

“You’ll have a warm feeling in the back of your throat, then you’ll feel like you’re peeing, but you won’t be.” An interesting introduction. Sure enough though the back of my throat warmed up, a flush of heat that spread to my groin. The dye working.

Osiris and early ct

“Take a breath and hold it.” That was the ct scanner. In case you didn’t get it there were little faces, one blowing air out, the other with plumped out cheeks. They lit up.

Took no time at all. When will it be read? You’ll have results in a couple of days. Oh. It’s Thursday, so next week. Oh, well. Been waiting this long. Gilroy’s out of town until next week anyhow.

When the first try for the iv went in, it hurt. A lot. Lying there on an imaging machine, in a hospital, a serious illness underway, I cringed. Will I have to have lots of these? I got back to the moment, looked at the butterflies, then the clouds.

Imagining Imaging.

Beltane…………………………………………………………..Cancer Moon

Some heaviness in my walk. Taking out the trash for its delayed pickup. Memorial Day. Getting the Denver Post in its orange plastic wrapper. Putting it at Kate’s place.

The sun rise has begun to melt the frosty crown on Black Mountain. All conditions are impermanent, disappearing in the sun, blowing away in a Chinook.

Gabe called last night and wanted to know if I was coming to his continuation. Fifth grade to McCauliffe. I’m not sure, buddy. I have this procedure tomorrow. In his world fifth grade matters as much. I had already taken my thc for bedtime, tired.

It overwhelmed me. His need. Ruth’s. Who wants to go, but had planned to be up here today, to help us, the conflict hidden until it wasn’t. Jon’s navigating their worlds and ours.

My view on the ct today. The cancer is already there. This is just a pair of special binoculars that can peek inside the black box, see where it is. Once this gets read, a treatment plan will fall into place. Unless it’s equivocal, a finding I don’t want. I could know by tomorrow what’s next.

Ikigai

Beltane Cancer Moon

This Morning

It’s been this kind of May. And it looks as if June will be cooler and wet, too, according to Weather5280. Good news for us, not so much for those lower down when the huge snowpack starts to melt.

Got further along on print Ancientrails. Am now in late 2017, quite a ways in. Then, print spool error. Again. Well. Gotta go back to whatever I did that solved it once. Tried so many things I’m not sure which one worked. Something did. For a while. Soon though. Then, I’ll take everything for three hole punching and decide what kind of binders I’m going to buy. Each folder with month tabs.

Also figured a way to unzip Superior Wolf and focus on Lycaon’s story. Don’t know whether I’ll follow up later on Christopher and Diana. The hunt for immortality is almost a cliche these days. And the central conceit of their story, a hedgefund group that funds Diana’s research, is not fiction anymore. Geez.

That means I’ve got months of work ahead, maybe years. My ikigai. A Japanese word that means reason to live. This article talks about ikigai in more depth as an explanation for Japanese longevity. Squares with my own intuition. Purpose keeps you alive and flourishing.

The Japanese have a lot about life figured out. Ichi-go, ichi-e is another favorite of mine. It comes from the Japanese tea ceremony and means each moment is once in a lifetime. No such thing as an insignificant experience with another person.

Sekkyakushi, 15th century, Muromachi period, Metropolitan Museum of art

Reading a book right now by the wonderful travel writer, Pico Iyer: Autumn Light, Season of Fire and Farewells. It’s a follow-up to his The Lady and the Monk, which I have not read, in which he recounts meeting Hiroko, the Japanese woman who would become his wife. He had moved to Kyoto to immerse himself in Japanese culture, sensing, as I do, that their approach to life is worth learning, perhaps adopting. Twenty-three years later he lives in Japan with Hiroko six months out of the year and six months in the U.S., caring for his mother and working for the New York Times. Recommended.

Each time I dip into some aspect of Japanese culture I find I want to know more. The MIA’s Japanese collection gave me a chance to interact with tea bowls, tatami mats, sumi-e, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, put me deeper into my own Asian pivot.

Zen itself has not intrigued me, but I did follow Zen back to its roots in Chinese Chan Buddhism, a melding of Taoism and Buddhism. The Taoist aspect of Zen, and Chan. Yes.

Tomorrow. The CT scan. Probably the last of the imaging work. It will either show metastatic disease or a localized recurrence in the prostate fossa. If the former, one kind of treatment. And, prognosis. If the latter, 35 days of radiation and a possible cure. Hopeful, of course, that it will be localized, but aware that it might not be. In either case I’ll know. That’s been the hardest part of this time (well, no, that’s not right. The hardest part has been dealing with insurance and the hospital’s “benefits” office.), knowing the cancer has reasserted itself, but not knowing what that means for my life.

Will be glad to have this work done so I can move onto what’s next.

The Right Thing for Us

Beltane Cancer Moon

Things I think about while falling asleep. Life. A stream rushing down the mountain of time, a branch into a tributary, tributary to river, river to the gulf of eternity, a small part of the sea of infinity.

Project print ancientrails update. Got into May of 2015. Then, printer spooling error. Spent an hour on it yesterday, got tired. Learned long ago to quit at a point when I’m doing the same thing over and over. Come back the next day with fresh eyes. Later this morning I’ll be back at it.

Looked out the bedroom window this morning. Frost. Rained over night and the temperature is just below freezing. A nubbly ice covered the deck and the stall mats, but the driveway was only wet. Saw a mule deer crossing Eduardo and Holly’s yard.

The sun is now well up at 5:30. The victory of the light will peak in three weeks. I look forward to the Summer Solstice as the moment when night begins to claw its way back into prominence.

Jon and Ruth left Gabe here yesterday while they went skiing. A-Basin. It still has peak snow cover, may be open until July 4th. Unusual. When they got back, Ruth and I made spaghetti and meatballs. She’s turning into a sweet, loving person. A real pleasure to see.

While walking back to the house after getting the paper this morning, I thought about her and Gabe. We moved here to have these kind of interactions with them, casual and frequent. It was the right thing for us to do.

50th High School Reunion, Alexandria, Indiana

When I was in school in Alexandria, Memorial Day marked the end of the school year. Summer begins! Days of freedom wandering alleys collecting pop bottles for small change. Going to the field with Rick Meyers and the Kildow boys to play army. Playing blackjack every weekday afternoon in the paper boys shack of the Times-Tribune. The occasional pickup softball game. Riding bikes around town. Outside until well after dark. No thoughts of pedophiles, school shooters, terrorists. No climate change worries. No computers. No cell phones.

Here in Colorado school typically ends in June though Ruth, because of McCauliffe’s schedule, got out a couple of weeks ago. This is Gabe’s last week. They will both start school again in the second week of August, both at McCauliffe for this one year, Ruth in the 8th grade and Gabe in the 6th.

Ruth, as do most of her friends, has a season pass to Elitch Gardens, an amusement park that serves as summer day care for many Denver teens. They have rides named Brain Drain, Mind Erase. You can see the attraction after school’s over.

2,000,000 Words

Beltane Cancer Moon

Half of Ancientrails on the right, both stacks. Missing, Superior Wolf, and Phantom Queen out for editing

A long quest for me has ended. I’ve been searching for a way to print out Ancientrails for a couple of years. Not an insignificant undertaking at well over 2,000,000 words. Found a plug-in for WordPress, the software I use (thanks, Bill) called Print My Blog. Prior to Print My Blog the only way I had discovered to print posts was a repetitive process of copying each blog post and then pasting it into a Word document. With over 10,000 total posts that was enough to make the process difficult and time consuming.

Print My Blog has its problems. It only allows starting at the beginning of your blog and printing sequentially from that point. If you have a printer or software issue, as I did twice a couple of days ago, Print My Blog resets to the beginning. Sigh. I was at February 22nd, 2013 on Saturday when I got a printer error. That was about half of the total pages I needed to print. That was the good news. The bad news was that if I wanted to finish I’d have to start all over again, at the beginning. And hope nothing would interfere.

Then it hit me. I can run Print My Blog, get its formatting of all of ancientrails and its content, do a select all, and copy the entire blog into Word. Which I did yesterday. Easy peasy. Printing is much easier in Word with multiple ways to divide a document. I may finish printing it out today. Then, I’m going to get thirteen notebooks, 2007-2019 and have those pages three hole punched at Staples. There will be a written copy of my work on ancientrails except 2005-2007. They exist somewhere in the cyberether, but I can’t find them anymore.

Why are you doing this, Charlie? Kate asked. I have three reasons. I have a cloud backup of Ancientrails using Updraftplus and I’m grateful for that. If my web host crashes or I get attacked by a hacker, I can restore everything. But, when I die, it’s probable that no one will pay my web host and/or no one will be able to use the backup because they don’t know it exists. I’ll leave instructions, but after my death protecting my blog won’t be a top priority. A printed copy solves that problem. If, that is, anyone wants to keep it.

Second reason. My cousin Diane thought some folks might like to read what I’ve written here. At 2,000,000 plus words no one, not even me, has that much interest. A volume devoted to Ancientrails will require editing. A lot of editing. WordPress is good software for writing and posting on the web, that’s what it’s for, but not so good if you want to go back and read, then edit, multiple entries. Pretty clumsy. Reading ink on paper and marking it up? Easier. This is a long term project, but one made simpler by the hoary art of printing.

Third reason. I want to see it printed out. Very satisfying to see all that work in one physical location. The cyber copy of it all is invisible, most of it. Hard to reify. This will make it real in a Velveteen Rabbit way.

Anyhow I’m pretty far along with this now. Word pushes pages out of my laserjet printer even as I write this. The written word has occupied me for the last thirty years. Still does. This is one not so small part of that focus.

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing

Beltane                                                                                        Cancer Moon

Start of the first Indy in 1911

Today is the Indy 500. The 103rd. A long time. I’ve written here before about this race. Growing up in Indiana there are two sporting events that create a life-long spot in the heart, the Indy 500 and basketball, especially high school basketball. At the beginning of May the Indianapolis Star would start running articles about the racers, the crews, their preparations. The build up would peak pre-race on qualification day.

On race day those who didn’t get tickets would gather around their radios to listen. If you chose to go to the race, you already knew about the horrific traffic jams ahead of your trip to Speedway.

Speedway is a western suburb of Indianapolis which, according to Mapquest: “The town of Speedway was developed as a city of the future. Meant to be a testing ground much like the famed race track which is its namesake, Speedway was designed to be a city that was hospitable to the car. In a time when Indianapolis streets were often narrow orange brick thoroughfares… the town had homes with garages for cars.”

Borg-Warner Trophy

On the F1 circuit, the winner stands on a podium with the second and third place drivers, opens a bottle of champagne and sprays his fellow drivers and the crowd gathered around. It’s a media event. At the end of the 500 the winning driver is alone in pit row, like a thoroughbred at the end of the Kentucky Derby, which runs not far away in Louisville, Kentucky. Also like the Derby the 500 winner gets a floral sash.

This Indiana dairy farmer will present today’s winner with an ice-cold bottle of milk

The 500 is a race with agricultural roots, a car race held about as far south from Detroit as it is north of the Derby. A blend. Nothing shows that more than the winner posing with the huge Borg-Warner Trophy and chugging down, not champagne, but a quart of milk. From a glass bottle.

In 1965, the same month I graduated from high school only sixty miles from the speedway, Jim Clark and his Lotus changed the look and feel of the race forever. Jack Brabham brought the rear-engine European designs from F1 to Indy in 1961. 5 years later Jim Clark won in his Lotus-Ford. After that rear engine cars dominated the race. And still do.



Resting

Beltane Cancer Moon

Both Kate and I have a weariness this Memorial Day weekend, one occasioned by the intensity of the last week. Kate got a schedule for her feeding-tube placement which ended three months or more of maneuvering within the practices of Lisa Gidday, Westermann, Gupta, and Smith. I spent Wednesday pleading with various parties to authorize tests that would let me get on with treating my cancer. On Thursday the bone scan and good Nick. On Friday the drive to Lone Tree and Gilroy’s wonderful, “The bone scan was clean as a whistle.” That’s enough for one week.