Oh, I see

So. Saw Dr. Gilroy, the radiation oncologist. His office, appropriately, is close to Skyridge Hospital where I left my prostate 4 years ago. Gilroy is a man in his 50’s, a friendly broad face, short cut but curly hair, a thick, but not fat body, and a kind demeanor.

Still hoping to dodge the bullet

All the folks at Anova have been kind. Which helps. Kate was there, sitting second chair this time, as I’ve done for her appointments over the last year. These patient rooms are the same. An exam table, two chairs for the patient and support person, a stool and a small desk projecting from the wall, a computer. Sometimes drug company posters on the wall: Pulmonary Hypertension and You, How to rate your bowel movements, Glaucoma and the eye. Bland wall colors. Sensible carpet. A sense of depersonalization. The focus is on you, the sick one. Or, the maybe sick one.

The news so far is sobering. The rise from .1 in January of 2018 to 1.3 in February of this year is rapid according to Gilroy. The velocity of the rise can be an indicator of the severity of the reemergence.

“Have you had a digital exam since your prostatectomy?” In this case of course digital means, with a digit. “No.” “I need to do one.” “Oh.” “Drop your trousers and bend over the exam table.” And so I did.

He could find no nodules. Had he found one he said it would have indicated the likelihood of a localized reemergence. Rapid velocity. No digitally findable nodules. Could mean metastases.

Next up are the traditional imaging techniques. CT and MRI. The MRI scans bones for mets and the CT looks for what I’m not sure. Next week sometime.

I’m not afraid to die. But. I’m not eager either. The gap between those two does produce a quickening, a stomach drop, but I’m not experiencing, nor do I expect to experience, dread. Into each life a little death must fall.

Onward

Beltane                                                                                 Cancer Moon

20190509_124939Go now, the workshop has ended. Paraphrasing the end of the Catholic mass. Appropriate in this case having just come Mother Cabrini’s shrine. The experience of being at Mother Cabrini was familiar in its physical surroundings. In college I would always retreat to Catholic sanctuaries to be still, to reflect. I always found them/find them, soothing.

I have my Intensive Journal beside me as I write this. I left it at the workshop over the last week. It’s filled with thoughts, meditations, exercises. The tabs in the journal, some of them, have esoteric names like Peaks, Depths, and Explorations or Twilight Imagery. Others more ordinary. Daily Log. Dreams. Meditation. The workshop itself both teaches how to use the journal on an ongoing basis and creates a gestalt of life now, as considered as it can be. This latter, for the other three workshops I attended, has been enough for me. Not this time. Not sure what changed, but I’m feeling a need to keep using the journal outside the workshop.

20190511_082432Here are two examples of next steps that have me excited. The first is to do a dialogue with reading. In the dialogue section of the journal, orange tabs, there is a method for developing one to one conversations with people important to you, living or dead, fictional or actual. That seems to makes sense. But the other four tabs in the orange section: Works, Events, Society, and the Body perhaps not so much. It works though. The journal method posits that a dialogue can be had with work you’re doing. I wrote a dialogue with Superior Wolf and in it realized I needed to pull the novel apart and focus one story only on Lycaon. In the Body section I’m in the midst of a dialogue with cancer.

Back to reading. Here’s the method. Each discrete entity under these tabs has a conception, a period of growth, then a waning, perhaps even a death. I’ll write a focusing statement, a short introduction to whatever it is: cancer, my mom, alcoholism, reading. Then, I’ll do steppingstones that move my experience with reading from its conception, through its history in my life, and finally where reading is for me right now. (also in the focusing statement.) When those are done, I re-read them, make a comment about how it felt to write them, anything new that has occurred in the re-reading. At that point I’ll enter a meditative place, a twilight place, that will allow me to engage reading in a dialogue, not from my intellect, but from deeper within what Progoff calls my well. Then I write a conversation, a back and forth between me and reading. I’m eager to see what will come of that. Also, in completing the dialogue with cancer.

My Intensive Journal from 2014

My Intensive Journal from 2014

The second example is another dialogue, a dialogue with ancientrails that will both focus on where I want to go with this fourteen year old project and how it and the intensive journal can work together. Again, I’ll write a focusing statement, write steppingstones, re-read and comment, go into the twilight place, and write a dialogue between me and ancientrails as a work.

This week, the follow on week after the workshop is going to see a cleaning up in the loft, a tidying. After that I’ll develop a routine with the intensive journal and ancientrails, do some of the deep work that I left undone in the workshop like the dialogues with reading and ancientrails, but some more work in the dream log, twilight imagery log and in the section labeled testament. Probably others, too.

Mother Cabrinins confirmation

Mother Cabrini’s confirmation

I’ll need both ancientrails, the intensive journal, and caring bridge to weather the critical medical work that faces both of us next week. Kate’s lung disease. Her four crowns. My axumin scan. My glaucoma check. My visit with the radiation oncologists. This time a week from now we should both have a much clearer understanding of where our respective health challenges will take us.

Down for breakfast, then back up here to get some of that work begun.

In a room off the chapel there were several windows that recounted the life and work of Mother Cabrini. It just occurred to me that those windows are steppingstones in her life. All up there with beautiful stained glass for others to see.

Not yet

Beltane                                                                             Cancer Moon

20190510_064922

from my computer, this morning

5 or so inches of snow over the night before and yesterday. Looks like winter again here. Solar panels covered. Black Mountain hidden in the clouds. The drive down the hill yesterday took some skill. Slick spots, long runs snow and ice covered while going down. Wouldn’t want to have to do that everyday for work. On occasion it’s interesting, different. Our workshop leader, Joanne, lives in Fresno where it gets hot, and in Hawai’i, where it never gets cold. This weather is not to her liking.

This is the last day of the workshop. Now considering how to continue this work on my own. Each other time, three before this one, I’ve come back and not continued the journal. This time it feels like I finally understand the method enough to do it unguided, or at least with the help of Progoff’s main book, At a Journal Workshop. The week long retreats have been sufficient for me to gain new insights, position myself in my life at the moment, and chart out a path forward. That’s why I’ve come to back to this experience.

One thing I’ve not touched on yet in this new journal is reading. I want to read more, more methodically. This desire comes over me from time to time, right now it’s coming in strength. I read a lot anyhow, you know that, but I want to take specific time for more difficult reading. Gotta figure out how to work that in.

There is, too, some overlap between ancientrails and the intensive journal. Sometimes they’re covering the same or similar ground. Will have to work out the relationship between them.

20190506_084930It’s a bit strange to be at May 10 and have the temperature at 24, snow covering the driveway, the roofs, the walkways. In Minnesota the safe time for planting was typically May 15. Don’t think it would work here, at least not every year. We warm back up next week. For now, though. Winter wonderland. Like, I wonder why it’s still winter?

Next week will test the equanimity. Monday am. Kate’s appointment with Gupta. Lung disease diagnosis and fitness for j-tube surgery. Later in the day, her new crowns. Tuesday, axumin scan to determine the extent and location of my cancer. Wednesday, a visit with my ophthalmologist. Retinal photography. Thursday, mussar. Friday, all-season tires and dye into the air conditioning system. A visit to Anova Cancer care for a treatment plan. A jump shift from this quiet week.

One important thing the journal workshop has underlined for me is that I’m not ready to die. I have family I want to care for, see grow up, grow older. Friends I want to know better. I have books to write. Places to visit. Deep work still ahead of me. This is not new, of course, and the journal workshop hasn’t made me aware of it, no. But, it has put me in touch with the gestalt of these things and my desire to keep at them all. The feeling level.

Death will come, but as I heard someone else say, let it be tomorrow.

 

 

Jettison Some Shame

Beltane                                                                          Cancer Moon

plowRead yesterday in the group. Iam asked me afterwards if I was a professional writer. Well, I write novels. But, I’ve not sold any so I don’t know if I’m a professional. Drina, who works for a website connected with the founders of Findhorn, said I was a “bright light.” Not sure what that meant, but it was a compliment. Nice to get feedback.

The intensive journal is a plow for the psyche. It turns over the soil, reaching well below the surface, often down into what Progoff called our well. Up pops things hidden, things repressed and suppressed. I worked yesterday with my one year at Wabash. I’ve always been proud of going to Wabash, ashamed of going to Ball State. Yes, even now 50 years later, still ashamed. Enough of that. Shame is not a big part of my inner world, but in this case it’s stuck around.

What I realized yesterday was that I went to Wabash because I believed in a liberal arts education, in studying what was important to me, not what was useful for a career. Its brick buildings, main quad, great library, and 150 year old traditions gave that sort of education a physical manifestation. It was liberal arts. When I transferred to Ball State, primarily a teacher’s college that got big and became a university, I kept up with the liberal arts. I continued my philosophy major from Wabash, picked up an Anthropology major and almost enough credits for a minor in African Studies. I got my liberal arts education. And am still getting it, yet today.

the_foolWe wrote spiritual steppingstones, what experiences in our life have led us to our current spirituality. Those of you who know me know that it’s been a long journey. An ongoing one, too. I would characterize my current spirituality as a tablespoon Taoist, two tablespoons existentialist, a teaspoon Christian, a teaspoon and a half Reconstructionist Jew, and a half cup of paganism (of the earth, the sun, the starting of the universe, aware of it and finding it enough). Mix together and bake until dead. Then, we’ll see.

We also wrote about ultimate concerns, those things which excite us, motivate us, about which we have passion. I had several: the Great Work, Economic Justice, Writing, Painting, Reimagining Faith, Horticulture. Each of these continue in my life, some more prominently than others, but they are the core. Economic justice work proceeded them all. Writing came next. Then, horticulture at Andover. The Great Work. Reimagining Faith. And, most recently oil painting.

The third day of creation

The third day of creation

We’ll work with these today and tomorrow in this last of the three segments, Life Integration. My experience with these workshops is that it’s often days, weeks later that the fruits of the work begin to manifest. I already know I’m going to revise Superior Wolf, separating out the two story lines I merged in it and giving them their own books. I’m going to focus as much as I need to on getting well, on the scan results and potential treatment options. And, obviously, continue taking care of Kate as long as she needs it. Beyond those things, tbd.

It’s been more exhausting than I imagined it would be, commuting. I’m tired, but glad I’m doing this, weariness a small cost.

 

 

Cycles of life, and death

Beltane                                                                       Cancer Moon

green knight

The Green Knight

Cancer has come up in several of my exercises so far, as you might expect with depth work. This work has helped me put it in the perspective of my life as a whole. Here’s one odd way. Progoff saw that many aspects of our lives went through conception, growth, decline, then death or significant waning. Children. Jobs. Creative projects. Hobbies. Places we live. Even illnesses. Cancer can be a metaphor for a project or relationship or job that has taken over our life, growing and demanding more of us than we have to give.

Cancer begins as cells in the body get out of whack, seek immortality at the expense of those cells that go through the life cycle. It grows unchecked unless a medical intervention occurs. If things go well, the cancer weakens, slows down, then dies. If not, the body weakens, slows down, and dies. Either way the cancer ends. So, cancer is not an exception to this experience of conception and growth, though it tries to hard to avoid decline. In this case I’ll actively seek its death, as we sometimes actively seek the finish of a career, a marriage, a creative project.

Samuel Palmer, The Harvest Moon (c 1833)

Samuel Palmer, The Harvest Moon (c 1833)

This perspective helps me see cancer not as a violent exception, but as an organic process like others. Which does not mean I’m embracing it. I know some people prefer not to see cancer as an enemy, but that’s not me. I’d like the archangel Michael to come in with his sword and whack every last cell of it.

This is also a Great Wheel insight. The ancient Beltane began with literal conception, saw the greening of the fields as crops began to flourish, then transformed into the heat and frenzy of summer at the summer solstice. As the crops matured, the harvest began at Lughnasa and continued through Mabon, the fall equinox, coming to a close at Samain, Summer’s End. Then the long fallow season commenced.  It’s a cycle that repeats year after year with the coming of spring, the greening of the fields, harvest, then the fallow time.

Cancer is, then, normal. Usual. Part of a cycle, with its own cycle, too.

Baptized in the Underground Stream

Beltane                                                                     Cancer Moon

20190506_131302Lots of Catholic kitsch in the Mother Cabrini giftshop. I mean, lots. In fact, that’s almost all they have. St. Expeditius here is my favorite, especially his arms.This is a refrigerator magnet and there are others. Including St. Gregory the Wonder Worker invoked in desperate situations.

But, there’s more, so much more. I may pick up an action figure of St. Michael since I find Michaelmas an important holiday. The springtime of the soul, September 29th.

Mother Cabrini action figures, too, some of them very well made. Crucifixes. Prayer cards for particular ills and problems. Mugs with www.anamazingparish on them. Mother Cabrini shrine mugs. Medallions. Jewelry. Lots.

Wandered through the gift shop on the way into the refectory. Good food. Fish, rice, vegetables and a wonderful cherry pie.

The first segment of the workshop is over. It’s called Life Context. The Progoff process plows up the unconscious, kicks up into consciousness both bits from your own unconscious and from what Progoff calls the underground stream. Progoff studied under Jung and the Jungian collective unconscious seems to have influenced him in a profound way.

Another exercise, I mentioned steppingstones yesterday, is inner wisdom dialogue. Progoff wondered, after his time in the army during WWII and the holocaust, what would happen if all the sacred texts disappeared. We would, he decided, write others. After all, we wrote the first ones and that knowledge has to be out there still. Or, better, in here.

Each intensive journal, Progoff believed, is a sacred scripture, a bible of the writer’s own creation. Why? Because it draws on the same source as the Koran, the Torah, the New Testament, the Tao Te Ching, the Diamond Sutra-the underground stream. This is a radical claim, but comports well with, say, Buber, the mystics, Emerson.

The inner wisdom dialogue predicates the underground stream. Each of us made our own list of as many wisdom figures as we could. These wisdom figures can be living or dead, mythological or literary, organic or inorganic. Among mine were Lao Tse, Emerson, Herman Hesse, Shadow Mountain, and the tree I used to visit at the Boot Lake Scientific and Natural Area. It abutted the Carlos Avery Wildlife Reserve in Anoka County.

After entering into a twilight state, a way of getting below the intellect to tap into the unconscious and the underground stream, I wrote my dialogue. I spoke with my tree. It’s a back and forth, leading wherever it goes. The pen follows the deeper you, not the rational mind. At least if the exercise is working well. Mine did.

That tree, with a curved, forked trunk, got passed by when the lumberjacks came because it was not straight enough for lumber; a tall white pine, it grows on an earthen island between two marshy areas. Boot Lake is largely marsh. I scattered Tully’s ashes, some of them, there. I snowshoed to this tree in the winter, walked to in the spring, summer, and fall. I often sat with my back up against its trunk, nestled between two thick roots.

It spoke to me of rootedness, of choosing your place, of reaching deep for what you need, of climbing high for the energy from above. I asked my tree about cancer and it answered. Trust your arborist. Follow through on your treatments. The tree knew of its kindred who have died due to the pine bark beetle. We know illness and death, the tree said.

We also did dialogues with persons important to us, our body, and our creative work.

Today we start the Depth Dimension segment.

 

33 foot Jesus

Beltane                                                                            Cancer Moon

progoffMeet up in cyberspace. My old friends Paul, Mark, Tom, and Bill zoomed into the bits and bytes yesterday from the land of first light to my spot among the purple mountain majesties. We spoke of those things that matter now. Mark is done with his second book. Bill’s going to Tanzania next year as his long term project, U-Face Me, takes off. Paul’s about to join the joint replacement club with a new hip. Tom’s adjusting to life as an eminence grisé.

Woke up yesterday realizing I’d not prepared any food for Kate. After breakfast I made her a pound of sloppy joed hamburger and a couple of quarts of vermicelli soup, a favorite of hers from our Monastery Soups cookbook. Got ready to go to Progoff.

At noon I headed down the hill toward Evergreen, hopped on I-70 for a short run to the Genesee Exit. U.S. 40, the old cross country national highway which I-70 more or less parallels has a short run between that exit and Golden. Gonna stop this afternoon at the buffalo overlook, just off that same exit. An article in the Denver Post says there are buffalo calves. Makes sense. It’s spring/summer.

Progoff cabrini

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue at the Shrine

Down old 40 toward Denver you can access Lookout Mountain, Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave, museum plus giftshop, and the world famous, to Catholics, shrine of Mother Cabrini. The most prominent feature at the shrine is a 33 foot high statue of Jesus, set at the shrine’s highest point. When I left last night at 9, Denver’s lights twinkled below me and Cabrini Jesus stood lit up and proud above.

If you’ve ever been on a retreat at a Catholic retreat center, you’ve been to the Cabrini set up. Hallways with one bedroom rooms on either side, large kitchens, kitschy paintings, and furniture bought with comfort not fashion in mind. A chapel. And, since this is the Rocky Mountains, vacationland U.S.A., a big gift shop.

When I arrived yesterday, the large parking lot was about three quarters full and most of the visitors I saw were Latino. The retreat center cum chapel cum giftshop is at the end of a switchback road that climbs several hundred feet up a rounded peak, one of the first of the foothills. It overlooks Golden, then Denver, to the east and the continental divide to the west.

Joann Hackett, the workshop leader, flew in Saturday from Hawai’i. Quite a shift from humid, warm Hawai’i to the dry, 60 degrees Rocky Mountain foothills. She was the workshop leader in Tucson, my last Progoff workshop. She began this work when she went to a Journal workshop lead by Ira Progoff. She got to know him very well, found his intensive journal idea compelling.

progoff2There are seven of us, a small group by workshop standards. Two folks from Denver, one from Berthoud, another from Boulder, one from Ft. Collins, and one man from Santa Fe. One other commuter. This first segment, all the segments are two days in length, begins with identifying the current period of your life. Mine had an obvious starting point, the move to Colorado. You spend time fleshing out what makes this the current period of your life, then move on to an exercise called steppingstones. Steppingstones, in the Progoff work you get 12, are key moments in your life that led you to this period of your life.

As I wrote them this time, mine were roughly, polio, mom’s death, participating in the 60’s, adopting Joseph, marrying Kate and leaving the ministry to write, becoming a docent at the MIA, working on the Great Work, the move to Colorado, cancer, Jon’s divorce and Kate’s illnesses, cancer’s reemergence. The steppingstones, I’ve discovered, change according to the perspective you bring to the exercise, a perspective shaped by what you’ve defined as the current period. Over the course of the workshop you expand on each of these, writing about them, following the memories and the feelings they evoke.

Gotta get ready for today’s session. Talk to you later.

 

 

 

At a Journal Workshop

Beltane                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

My Intensive Journal from 2014

My Intensive Journal from 2014

This Sunday I start my fourth Intensive Journal Workshop. It runs each day through Friday, the 10th. The whole rising psa, get in the oncological spirit matter has come up since I decided to attend. Makes the whole process even more important. What’s life like for me post the move to Colorado? What’s the next few years’ focus?

No question that health matters have had pride of place almost from the time we got here. My prostate cancer diagnosis came in April and May of 2015, only months after we moved into our house. Kate’s multiple issues, Sjogren’s, the bleed, food aversion and weight loss, anemia, and lung disease have dominated for almost 18 months. We both had joint replacements, my knee, her shoulder.

20190501_090802Having said that, they don’t compare to the importance of having been here for Jon and the kids during that messy divorce and its aftermath. Which continues. Nor do they compare in importance to finding Congregation Beth Evergreen. Or, the constant wonder and awe of living in the Rocky Mountains. Or, the creation of a new family with Joe and SeoAh’s marriage.

How have all these things changed me? What do they suggest for things that need emphasis, and things that need to go in the compost heap of my life? An introvert’s delight, the journal workshop. It’s my birthday present, maybe the best one ever. Thanks, Kate.

Beltane, 2019

Beltane                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

great wheel beltane_2017As the growing season begins, as the Green Man and the Goddess in her Maiden form come together to pass fertility into the soil, we have snow on our solar panels. The streams though have been rushing, carrying water down the mountain. The lodgepoles are greener. Catkins are on the dogwood and willows. Leaflets on the aspen.

Beltane marks a turning point from the fallow time. Finally the crops could go into the fields, food for another year. Beltane was a time of celebration in the ancient Celtic world. It began with a week long market where goods could be exchanged, hand-fasting marriages (a year in length) begun, and night time love making in the fields to assist the Greenman and the Maid in their joy. Work contracts for the growing season were made as well.

As the fallow time fades, you might consider what you want to plant, to grow. Was there a dream that took shape over the time of darkness and cold? For us mid-latitude folks, anyhow. Was there a project that got started, that needs the energy of sun, the nourishment of rain, and the nutrients in the soil of your life? Perhaps a transition that only got underway, but now has better definition. How can the growing season push it along, make it a better part of your life?

Or, are there things in your life better left behind to compost, to decay? Finished parts of your life. Things that can be set aside, that no longer need your energy? The cycle of life is not only about growth. It’s also about literal recycling, of energy, of resources, of flesh and food and fuel waste. There may be things that promised a good crop, but came up stunted. Or things that simply didn’t flourish in your life. Better to let them go, allow them to become memories, learnings, and not give them what other parts of your life now need.

(Maxwell Creek, dogwood catkins last week)

Here on Shadow Mountain we have the stirrings of a new awakening for Kate. She’s gaining weight, eating more. She’s also started, again, bringing up things that need to get done. Just before I go to sleep. Hmmm. We have a way to defeat her anemia and a plan for continued weight gain. When the lung diagnosis is complete, surely before the growing season ends at Samain, we’ll have a treatment. I want the sun, the rain, and the nutrients of our mutual soil to boost her, give her that push to get not only better, but well. May it be so.

In my situation I want to stop growth. Of those damned cancer cells. Looking forward to the axumin scan and getting treatment recommendations. Then, implementing them.

 

At the Jabbok Ford

Spring                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

jacobPhone call today from buddy Tom Crane. In referring to the current kerfuffle within my body, those cancer cells, he said I was “wrestling with a dark angel.” That is so.

Yet what it called to mind was one of my favorite biblical passages, one I’ve written about here before and about which there are many wonderful works of art. Jacob at the Jabbok Ford.

Through the night Jacob wrestles with what the text refers to at first as a man. When the man, now revealed as an angel, sees he cannot best Jacob, he says, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” Jacob, strong enough to hold an angel fast through an entire night, is not willing to do that. “I will not let you go unless you have blessed me.” It is at this point that the angel, who had to dislocate Jacob’s hip to keep from losing the match, agrees: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have commanding power with [an angel of] God and with men, and you have prevailed.” Jacob (now Israel) continues to limp the rest of his life. He names the spot Peniel, (I) saw the face of God.

Wrestling with angels is a tricky business. Just ask the Egyptians. That one, the angel of death, sometimes called Azrael, passed over the lamb blood smeared doors of the Hebrew slaves and killed the firstborn of Egypt. What would have happened to Jacob if he’d been beaten by the angel? No blessing, I’m sure.

Wrestling with Azrael, cancer forces this struggle on the psyche in the same way Jacob’s angel blocked his passage across the ford, could be represented as happening at a ford of the river Styx. Lose a match to Azrael and, to mix mythological systems a bit, you can catch a ride with Charon.

As with Jacob’s angel, no contest with Azrael will result in victory, Azrael wins all struggles in the end. But in the interim, as with Jacob’s life after the Jabbok Ford, we can go away changed in heart, identity, and fate.

ruin_stairs_leave_destroyed_broken_dirty_building_factory-921666.jpg!dRecalled as I wrote this that I had a dream:

“I was in a non-descript house or building, bare of furniture. Someone, or something, was in the basement. I could hear gun shots. I hunted for entrances to the basement and found two, one a door and one a grate.

Down there were steel pillars covered in concrete.  Whoever or whatever down there wanted to bring the building down. The blue painted concrete had shattered on many of the pillars exposing steel beams. They still stood strong.

Somebody handed me a rifle. I readied myself, though frightened, to go down and save the building.”

Surely this is Azrael. I woke up before the contest could begin, so I’m going to imagine the rest.

I went down the stairs, grateful for the rifle, thankful for whoever handed it to me. But, could I use it? I’m not a man of peace exactly, but I’m not a man of violence either. Still, desperate times. The basement had a little light, enough to make shadows. Gunfire echoed more loudly as I got to the bottom. Whoever it was, was serious.

The gunfire stopped. “You shouldn’t be down here.” A voice cold and firm. From the depth of the shadows. “Leave now and I won’t destroy you. Not right now.”

OK, I thought, back up the stairs. This is too scary. However, I didn’t move. I lifted my rifle and aimed it toward the voice. When I pulled the trigger, it clicked. A rifle with no ammunition. Well, that settles it. Back up the stairs. Nope. Stayed. Scared, but unwilling to give up.

The gunfire did not resume. The air had faint patterns of blue dust from the pillars that had been shot up. The silence was complete. No voice. No evidence of another.

Fates

Fates

My feet began to move before my mind caught up. Whoa, I thought, feet where are you going? I knew, though. Straight toward the depth of the shadows. I heard what I imagined was a rifle clatter to the ground. Hmm. Even up, I guess.

“Come no further unless you want to meet your end.” Cold, firm. Closer.

My mind said, back up the stairs. My feet kept moving until I lost sight of them in the darkness of the deep shadow. Heart racing, adrenaline swimming through my bloodstream, setting me on fire. We closed.

How long we struggled, I no longer remember. He was strong. Much to my surprise, so was I. We went back and forth, pushing, straining legs and arms, trying to gain an advantage. This was all in the darkness of the shadow. I could not see him and I assumed he could not see me.

Oh. Wait. Not a he. At one point, arms locked together, we touched at the chest. Breasts. A woman! Didn’t change my situation. She was still there to bring down the foundations of my life.

This went on. And on. I grew weary. So did she. Panting, both of us. Our moves more feeble. She touched my left shoulder and my left hip. Pain. Agonizing pain. Giving up not possible, I hung on, endured the pain, chose it.

Isle of the Dead, Arnold Bocklin

Isle of the Dead, Arnold Bocklin

“We must end this,” she said.

“Not until you stop. I need those pillars, I can’t let you wreck them.”

“If not tonight, later. You know that.”

“Of course. Yes. I know. And when it’s time I will not fight you, but come willingly.”

She dropped her hold on me. My shoulder and my hip blazed. The adrenaline was gone. I felt weak. “You must bless me and I will leave.”

Later, back up stairs, the door to the basement closed and locked, I sat at a small wooden table, drinking coffee. I had a new name. Just like Jacob.