As my energy returns, I can feel how much the radiation and the trips to Lone Tree wore me down. A lot. Cancer treatment is often like that. It beats up on the cancer, yes, but it also beats up on the rest of you.
The hope is a u-turn. Goes like this. Diagnosis. The stroke down. Treatment, the curve at the bottom of the letter. Recovery and cure. The stroke up.
Got a call about my DEXA scan on Tuesday. No osteoporosis. Some osteopenia in my left femoral ball. Soft bone there. Good news. Taking calcium and vitamin D together in one pill large enough to choke a horse. Might need something to help. Danger is a fall, a minor fall, that results in a broken femoral ball. Ouch.
Making a visit to Bailey today, the Happy Camper. Last night an 8 year old boy in Bailey got attacked by a mountain lion. He’s in the hospital. Not common though a mountain lion attacked a hunter in northwest Colorado a couple of weeks ago and another attacked a runner earlier in the summer.
Got a passport photo taken yesterday. Sending mine in for renewal. Want to be ready once Joe and SeoAh move to Singapore. Gonna hit Taipei, too. The National Museum.
Starting to tick things off a list I made a few days ago. Two months worth of errands. Need to mow today. Landscaping fabric and stakes came yesterday. Five foot no ignition zone all around the house. River rock on top of it. When that’s done, clearing trees in the thirty foot fire drop down zone. Chainsaw work.
Got a card yesterday from the Black Forest, Das Schwarzwald. A get well card purchased at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts by my buddies in the Woolly Mammoths. They had gone together to see a show of Native American women artists, one of the more powerful exhibits in recent years my docent friends have told me.
Each man wrote a personal message on the card. I read them all, smiling, seeing this gray head, that gray beard. The old smiles. Hearing the laughter. Knowing the Black Forest, probably outside at a round metal table, traffic whizzing by on 26th Street. Frank ordered a sausage, if memory serves. Maybe some spatzle, weinerschnitzel, lentil soup. St. Pauli Girl drafts.
And, felt sad. Wistful. I love these guys and know them. Well. In the way only 30 + years of being together could allow. It was a sweet sadness, one that told me these relationships still live within me, not extinguished, not weakened by almost 5 years in Colorado.
Regrets? No. An affirmation of life, of the power of friendship, of its durability. The sadness is real, as is my gladness at driving up Brook Forest Drive to our home on top of Shadow Mountain.
Both Minnesota and Colorado have wildness and wilderness at their hearts. The Northwoods, the Boreal forest, the lakes, Lake Superior. Wolves, deer, lynx. Muskie and walleye. Mt. Evans, Rocky Mountain National Park, the San Juan Wilderness. Black bears, moose, elk, mountain lions, fox. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Colorado has Congregation Beth Evergreen. A quirky synagogue with a collection of folks who call themselves mountain Jews. It’s where I’m seen and where I see others. Deep moments of human connection, like the Woollies. Glad for both.
Orion has returned. He’s visible just above the south-eastern horizon around 5 am. A friend since my time as a security guard for a cookware factory. On the midnight shift I worked alone and during the fall and winter months we became acquainted. He signals the season of inner work.
As the growing season yields its bounty, the plant world gets ready for the fallow season that will start on October 31st, Samain. The nights grow longer and cooler. On September 29th Michaelmas, the springtime of the soul. Perennials send food down to their corms, tubers, bulbs. Their leaves turn brown and die back to the ground. Annual flowers finish their summer long journey by spreading seed for the next year.
This is the Great Wheel and it repeats each year, spiraling out along earth’s orbit. Lived too, in lifetimes of birth, youth, maturity, and senescence. It is the way of the earth. For living things, the most ancientrail of all.
This is the lens through which I see my life, the one I use for comfort in difficult times, celebration, understanding.
Saw a movie yesterday, Midsommar. Its opening scene shows winter, spring, summer, and fall in a tableau. You may be aware of the naked dancing the Swedes (and others, too) enjoy at their midsommar bonfires. Well, this isn’t about that. It shows the dark side of a pagan worldview, how it can devolve into traditions every bit as dogmatic and frightening as any inquisitor. I loved this movie. Kate hated it.
Fans of Wicker Man will see Midsommar as an instant classic in the same vein. Kate said, “It made me glad I’m not Swedish.” Spoiler alert: the character named Christian does not fare well.
Kate’s 75th today. Three quarters of a century. We went to a movie last night, The Kitchen. Irish mob ladies take over Hell’s Kitchen. Not gonna be up for an Oscar. Entertaining though.
Going out together. Been a rare thing over the last 11 months. This was special and we may do it again today to see Midsommar. Whoa.
We’ll have our own party today. The grandkids and Jon will come up next weekend for a second party. Wish I’d been feeling less distracted by cancer and radiation. This is a big birthday. Not only has she turned seventy-five; she also lived to see it. In question at certain points last year.
My no glow first week is over. I feel better, gut behaving like old times. More energy. I’ve put together a list, checked one off. This list will take me well into the fall. It includes more fire mitigation based on Ben Yellin’s report back to us. He visited last Tuesday.
Example. Going to put down landscape cloth five feet out from the house. Then, river rock on top of that. This is the no ignition zone. Ben also marked many trees, adding his thoughts about strings of trees that lead from tree to tree to house. He explained the thirty foot out and hundred foot out zones clearly.
The idea is to get the fire to drop down from the trees to the ground, then run up to a no ignition zone around the house. This will, he said, give our house a good shot at surviving even a crown fire.
He also said, “Risk rating agencies around the country say the Evegreen/Conifer area is the most at risk for a big, damaging fire.” Oh, that was good to hear. A spur to more action though.
The photos above come from the Deer Creek Canyon Fire, now 100% out. This is along a route I use to get to my docs, so I know it well. Not that far from us as the fire crowns.
Continuing to do my three workouts a week, cardio plus resistance. Working hard to counteract the sarcopenia caused by the Lupron.
Did you turn the heat up in this room has become a favorite question. Kate still has hot flashes, too. The family that flashes together, sweats together. Carrying this togetherness thing to its absurd conclusion.
Doc said I’ll gradually return to pre-radiation mode in about a month, so three weeks from now.
6 days now with no glow. I’m a no glow zone. Gut seems to have settled down. Mornings are good, energy better. As Joseph said on the way home from Merton and Rebecca’s 50th anniversary party, “I can feel my powers returning.”
Hot flashes have begun to occur with more frequency. Disconcerting. Is it me, or is it the room temperature? Mine are not really flashes so much as hot flushes. A prickly heat sensation at the base of the neck, then my head gets warm, sometimes uncomfortably so. A couple of times I’ve had to wipe sweat off the back of my neck.
At MVP the other night I had to get up twice and go outside. The social hall at CBE has banks of 7 or 8 foot windows and it’s always warm to hot in the summer. Being in a warmer environment encourages the flushes. It was weird to leave an intense discussion because I was too hot, but I did it anyway.
We’ve gotten more food. And flowers. And chocolate. And cake. And pie. Thanks, if you’re one who contributed. Having the meals over the last month has made the days so much better. I pick the pan back up starting next week.
May not recalibrate our lives for a while. The Lupron.
The full Moon of the First Harvest floated above the mountain tops as Kate and I drove home last night from Beth Evergreen. I love these night drives through the Arapaho National Forest, wild animals sleeping, hunting, drinking from the mountain streams, a full moon casting its light down among the lodgepole pines and aspen.
The Mussar Vaad Practice Group met. We checked in on our awe practices for the last month. Instead of cultivating this middah, as we do with patience or joy or enthusiasm, the consensus was that we open ourselves to awe. As I’ve written here a few posts ago, considering awe this month led to an insight for me, one I’ve been seeking for years.
Opening ourselves to awe is, I believe, the act of opening ourselves to revelation, to seeing the Otherworld, the one that lies close to us, even within us, but which habit, culture, language, fear, denial, inattention blocks from view. When we open ourselves to awe, we find the cracks in those all too human barriers. At first we may glance behind the curtain only briefly, but this openness we can cultivate.
There was the Moon of the First Harvest yellow gold, round, luminous. It slipped behind this peak, this grove of trees, then reappeared as we drove up Brook Forest Drive and on to Black Mountain Drive. You could say, oh, that’s the moon. Nice. Or, you could open yourself a bit and see, maybe first, our rocky satellite come round again. Keeping the aperture open a bit longer you might feel the beauty of its loneliness in the night sky. The wonder of its soft light. Imagine what it means to sleeping deer, elk. To prowling mountain lions or foraging bears.
You might find yourself lost in the legends of moon phases or practices like moon watching parties in Japan. Or, you could open yourself to this particular full moon as the skies memory for those first nights of harvesting wheat. Smell the bread. See the corn dollies and the shocks of cut grain. This full moon is not just another full moon but one embedded in a natural context, a cultural context, a personal context. Each of these available if we only pause, push away the occulting screens of routine and the need to hurry home.
The MVP group is precious to me. It’s a chance to be honest, to think clearly, to learn from the inner work of others. I love these people: Susan, Judy, Marilyn, Ron, Rich, Kate, Jamie, and Tara. And that love is part of the experience of awe. We met as strangers not many years ago and now we see each other, really see each other.
Three aha moments. Responses to my Facebook post about ending radiation. A Bollywood epic about 21 Sikhs who held off a Pathan tribe force of 10,000. Kesari. 2015 Alexandria Class of 1965 50th reunion.
In 2015, a month and a half or so after my prostatectomy, I drove to Alexandria, Indiana for the 50th reunion of the class of 1965, my class. In Independence, Missouri I got out of the rental car, went back to get my luggage out of the trunk and promptly peed my pants, soaking a pair of jeans. Embarrassed and chagrined I got in the room holding my luggage in front of me, took those pants off and stuffed them in a wastebasket.
The first event of the reunion, at the Alexandria Historical Society, found me with that experience at front of mind. As a leader in academics and the class, you might not expect me to be nervous, feel vulnerable. I did though. It was partly the Independence (irony) moment, yes; but, it was also the knowledge that I’d traveled a much different road after high school than the vast majority of my classmates.
Many of them went to Vietnam. Dennis Sizelove died there. Richard Lawson, a close friend, died later of wounds from his war time. Mike Thomas and several others at the reunion were Vietnam vets. Only a few of us went onto college, maybe 10% out of our class of 180. I didn’t know anybody in our class with a graduate professional degree and a post-graduate school doctorate.
This was 2015, the year before an electoral Titanic took us all down with it. Somebody asked me to speak during our dinner at Norwood Bowl. It was the only venue in town large enough for our meal.
We’re here together again. After 50 years. But not just 50 years. Most of us were together for at least 12 years before that. Let’s call it 62 years. Yet we’re here. Why? Because we still care about each other, about our town, about the memories we made.
I know we’re divided in many ways: those that stayed around, those that left. Like me. those that supported the war in Vietnam and those that didn’t. Like me. Those that found George Bush a good President, those that prefer Obama. Like me. Those that like the Colts and those that like the Vikings. Like me. I’m sure there are, too, differences over sexuality, abortion, maybe even race.
But this is what’s important. In this room we share something more important than those divisions. We share a community. We are a community. And communities don’t require everyone to believe the same. In fact, they’d be pretty boring if we did. I care about each of you not because of what you believe, but because of who you are. Even if I don’t know you well, I still care because we share a life built together over time.
I was shaking when I started. I’d chosen to lay bare the vulnerability I felt. Hard. But as I spoke, maybe 3 minutes, the vulnerability went away to be replaced by gratitude that I still knew these people. Was still alive with them.
On facebook I’ve made two posts about cancer. First, letting folks know I had it again and that I would undergo radiation treatment and a second one saying I’d finished. On the list of folks who responded and commented were many who post America love or leave it type messages, pro-Trump, anti-snowflake. They were also folks who can’t wait for the revolution. With some of them I share a love of art. With others college during the late 60’s. With others Congregation Beth Evergreen.
Each one part of a venn diagram of various communities to which I belong or belonged. And, in those communities empathy and concern, love, transcend political and religious differences. Why? Because communities do not expect everyone to share the same beliefs.
Kesari. Amazon Prime Video has many Bollywood movies. I like them. I even like the inevitable contrived dance routines and singing.
Kesari is a retelling of the battle for Saragarhi, a real 1897 encounter between 21 Sikhs who held Ft. Saragarhi and an invading force of Muslim Pathans that numbered around 10,000. It has an Alamo feel; the Sikhs fight only to slow the invaders and all of them die.
The lead character, Havlidar (or, Sgt.) Ishar Singh, rallies the Sikh’s both against the Pathan tribesmen and the occupying British, “…who see us as slaves. We can choose to die as free men.” The story remains in Indian memory because it underscored the bravery of the Sikh soldiers and, by extension, all Sikhs.
Here’s the link for this post. At the very end of the movie all but Ishar Singh and one other are dead. The Pathans have demolished a wall of the fort and will soon invade. Ishar Singh, who has had visions of his wife throughout the movie, has one as he stands alone, sword ready for the coming assault.
“Should I run? Or, should I stay?” he asks her. She smiles, “Make our community proud.”
Here’s the paradox of community. There are inclusive communities, usually we had no choice in belonging to them, like our families, and communities defined by exclusion, like the Sikh’s, say, or LGBTQ, or Trump supporters, or progressive Democrats. These exclusive communities can inspire us, make us feel safe among our own “kind,” but they also reinforce political divisions and make our larger communities less safe.
Pole dancing. I have no magic formula. No way to be in an exclusive community without its pitfalls. Perhaps though if we took a lesson from exotic dancers and were willing to strip ourselves bare, to see ourselves as individuals and, most important, show ourselves as individuals, to each other. Perhaps. Just perhaps.
First week with no radiation treatments since June 17th. Still seems odd to me that I started radiation for this most male of diseases the day after Father’s Day. And, even odder, that I ended in the week of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s anniversaries. Peaceful or deadly, the use of technology and science matters. A lot.
And in other cancer treatment news. Why did the room get so hot last night? More than once? Not exactly hot flashes, more like hot surges. Still so new to me that I don’t tumble to them immediately. I just wonder why someone turned the heat up in the room. So far they’re in the evening for the most part. None at night and only a couple during the day. I’m taking Black Cohosh and if they get bad I’ll find an acupuncturist.
Yesterday we got a great beef stew, peach and strawberry cobbler, smoothies for breakfast, and salad from Judy Sherman. This is the last week of meals from CBE. Counting on Gilroy’s one week and you’re beginning to feel a lot better.
Gonna do a bagel table in September. That means I lead a discussion on the Parshah for that week, Ki Teitzei. Parshah are much longer than lectionary selections in Christian churches. Where a Christian lectionary might identify a few verses of one chapter, parshah have multiple chapters in them. Ki Teitzei runs from Deuteronomy 21:10 to 25:19.
I agreed to this a couple of months ago, planning to focus on it after the radiation was done. Well…
Sorta intimidated. Steve, a CBE member who is also doing some of the bagel tables, reported he’s been studying Torah with Rabbi Zwerin and other Rabbis for over 25 years. I’ve been studying Torah for at most 3 years and not in any dedicated way. (caveat: that statement depends on seeing torah as the first five books of the Tanakh. Rabbi Jamie sees the purpose of torah as learning how to be and how to be in the world. I would say becoming, but that’s for another time. In that sense I’ve been studying torah my whole life.)
What did I imagine I could offer? Any quick study of essays and commentaries will leave me short of knowledge, not least because I don’t know Hebrew. Realized mimicking a Rabbi or an educated lay person was not only not possible, but not a good idea either. Why try to be who I’m not?
Gonna read the essays and the commentaries anyhow, but I’m gonna take a different tact. A couple of different tacts. First, I’m going to own my relative ignorance. Relative in that I have studied the Torah as part of biblical literature in Sem.
What I want to do is draw from those who come how they perceive the torah and how they perceive its use in Jewish congregations and in their personal lives. I’ll talk first about the very different way I would look at it from within a Christian hermeneutic. Then, we’ll discuss their perceptions of torah as a whole, then their perspectives on the particular content of this parshah. I’m going to try to communicate Rabbi Jamie’s idea of torah, too, because it makes a lot of sense to me.
In fact, I may introduce a bit of Emerson to them, that introduction to Nature I’m so fond of.