I am awake in the middle of the night listening to a pair of Great Horned owls calling to each other from the tall trees in our neighborhood. This is such an unusual happening — being awake like this at this time (yes, I have too much on my mind) and also to hear the owls. So instead of sleepless worry, I am simply enjoying the song and the amazing conversation between the two owls. It is magical!
Whoo! WhooWhoo! Whoo! Whoo!” As the nights passed the booming of the owls became more and more frequent. Bubo called from his beech tree, Black Talon answered from her elm roost. Then Bubo called from the sugarhouse and Black Talon answered from the marsh.
~ from Bubo: The Great Horned Owl, by Jean Craighead George
August turned out to be a very busy month. It was filled with doctors appointments and treatments for my husband, lingering summer heat, beautiful flowers in the garden, and some enjoyable reading. I am hopeful that, in September, we will spend less time in waiting rooms and more time in our reading chairs or in the garden. We’ll see.
I hope your August was full of good reads and happy summer activities!
Last fall, my husband received a devastating diagnosis. He has Stage IV metastasized prostate cancer. Although this news packs a powerful punch, and there is no soft, kind way to share it, I need to let you know about this major change in my life, dear friends. I am sorry for the pain such news causes.
We have had time now to process the initial shock, to learn much more about what happened and is happening to his body, to begin the process of “getting everything in order,” and to start letting people know about it (although he’s a very private person). And in the middle of all the adjustments and doctor appointments, we are living our new life, which now has a one to four year time limit to it.
We have entered a new world — the world of cancer patients, survivors, caretakers, doctors, nurses, technicians, counselors. Cancer has become the kernel of truth within our daily lives now. Ever-present.
Cancer is a tremendous opportunity to have your face pressed right up against the glass of your mortality.” But what patients see through the glass is not a world outside cancer, but a world taken over by it—cancer reflected endlessly around them like a hall of mirrors.
~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My husband describes the first months of his disease as “surreal.” Surreal because he felt mostly healthy and normal except for the side effects of his treatment medications, and some pain that came occasionally. His body has been tolerating his treatments well so the cancer has been controlled for the time being. That is slowly changing as this disease finds new ways to get around treatments, but the inevitable decline has not started, yet.
Cancer is an expansionist disease; it invades through tissues, sets up colonies in hostile landscapes, seeking “sanctuary” in one organ and then immigrating to another. It lives desperately, inventively, fiercely, territorially, cannily, and defensively—at times, as if teaching us how to survive. To confront cancer is to encounter a parallel species, one perhaps more adapted to survival than even we are.
~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
He entered this disease in excellent health, with excellent vital signs for his age, and no “co-morbidities,” using the term we’ve heard so often during this Covid-19 pandemic. He was, and still tries to be, active and fit. He feels his best when he is out on his bicycle. Genetic testing showed no genetic mutations that would have caused this to happen, and that, gratefully, are not something our children and my husband’s brothers need to worry about. It just happened. It is real…but it is not yet “real”. Surreal.
Right now, we are deeply grateful and profoundly sad. Grateful that we have time left to be together, to live life together. Grateful that we can face this disease side by side, as we have faced every other challenge in our 52 years together. Grateful for each day that he wakes up in the morning and is “mostly well.” At the same time, we are both profoundly sad, and the sadness comes in waves between otherwise “mostly normal” days. We are seeing everything in life now through this new lens of impending loss, and are living each moment with crystal clarity.
And from this vantage point, with deep feeling, I want to ask you to please cherish those you love. Please cherish yourself. Please cherish the daily-ness of your lives. Please cherish all the little things, because, as they say, those are truly the biggest and most important things. Live your life to its fullest, each day, because “today is all of time,” as my grandmother wrote in one of her poems. Today is all of time.
My husband had a bone scan done today. That meant a trip to the hospital at 11:00 to get the infusion, and then back to the hospital at 2:00 to get the scan done. Since it’s a distance to the hospital from our home, rather than driving back and forth, we decided to make good use of the in-between time and go out to lunch and then to the bookstore. It was so wonderful to be in the bookstore again! Spending time at Powell’s is definitely bibiotherapy!
Oh my goodness. Yes, we have a lot going on here, but May and June just seemed to get lost in the shuffle of busy-ness. Reading has slowed down, gardening has sped up. In both May and June, all of us now vaccinated, we enjoyed a couple of visits with our daughter. We took a one day road trip to see her home and garden after 15 months of not being able to travel. Then, her visits in May and in June to our place. When she comes for a visit, there’s a lot of garden stuff that happens. We always visit our favorite garden centers, AND she helps in my garden! She weeds my flower beds and makes things look so nice. Her way of “helping,” which is a major understatement!
Two days after she left this last time, I was outside picking our bumper crop of cherries which took three busy days. I hustled to pick as many as I could before THE heat event hit the Pacific Northwest. Then I spent my mornings watering to keep things alive in the intense heat, and afternoons in retreat from the most intense heat I’ve ever experienced. Thinking back over the last two months, it’s no wonder I am feeling very fatigued! But here I am, checking in and letting you know I am still here, and still reading!
Books finished in May and June:
- Seesaw Girl, by Linda Sue Park
- Beginner’s Mind, by Yo-Yo Ma
- Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
- A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
- Death by Dumpling, by Vivien Chien
- The Firekeeper’s Son, by Linda Sue Park
- The House in the Clouds, by Victoria Connelly
- The Living Reed, by Pearl S. Buck
Hopefully, with the hot afternoons of July upon us, I will be getting more reading done while staying cool indoors parked in front of our window air conditioner. And hopefully, we won’t have a repeat of that record-breaking heat wave! I don’t want to repeat those three days of 104, 109, and 112 degrees!
I hope this post finds you enjoying your summer, and that it is filled with sunshine and books…and nice mild temperatures!
Long closed due to the pandemic, our library has finally reopened! Hallelujah! On Friday, I visited it for the first time in I can’t remember how long, and it was a delightful 20 minutes I spent there. They have excellent virus protection precautions in place, and as a result, we are restricted to a 30 minute time period. There were only two of us there, besides the librarians, so it was incredibly quiet. Oh, how I’ve missed being able to walk there and spend time exploring the stacks!
Today, my Dad would have turned 101 years old! He’s been gone for 27 years now, but I cherish my very special memories of him. They keep him close to me every day. The last time we drove past our old family home (pre-pandemic), his rose garden was flourishing! It warmed my heart to see his beloved roses in bloom, still gracing the old neighborhood with their beauty.
My reading in April really dropped off, due to some happy busy-ness. Reading time was given over to Spring garden projects, a visit from our daughter for the first time in most of a year, and the call to be outdoors by the return of very pleasant weather.
I was able to finish two books in April. The first one was Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell, (which I loved). The second one was The Consequences of Fear, by Jacqueline Winspear, (a fun addition to her Maisie Dobbs series). I also made a little more progress in my long-term project of reading The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a book that is both painful and fascinating to read.
I must confess that not spending so much time reading during the day was delightful. It is simply wonderful to be outside in the sunshine after the long gray days of rainy winter/early spring in the Pacific Northwest.
Byron and I met 52 years ago today. I cherish these 52 years of silliness and humor!
The word I chose to guide me through the year 2021 is CHERISH. I am keeping this word ever present in my mind, every day, and I thought I’d start sharing with you some of the people and daily kinds of things I am cherishing right now.
I was so happy to welcome this January and this new year! After all the difficulties of 2020, how nice to have a “new beginning”! And the month was filled with LIFE.
Weather-wise, January started with unusually warm weather and all our bulbs thought Spring had arrived. Mid-month, we had a week of major rainstorms with flooding and the closing of many streets in the area, and with water in our basement (110-year-old home with a leaky foundation). After the rains and the flooding subsided, we had a storm that dumped a couple of inches of snow on us! It didn’t stick around very long, however, with the temperatures warming back up to 39-40 degrees during the day, but we enjoyed it while we could.
Byron and I were able to get our first dose of the Covid vaccine (Moderna). Hubby has some health issues that put him into the first phase, and because of that, I was also able to get my first dose. We are now anxiously waiting to make appointments for our second dose. So far, we haven’t been able to do that. Yikes!
My reading this month was both productive and enjoyable. Productive in that I focused on reading more books from my Classics Club list. I have now read 45 out of the 50 books I planned on reading for my 5-year period of time. My favorite reads this month were from that list: The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim; The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame; and Most Secret, by Nevil Shute. Another favorite was the audiobook of Stacy Abrams’ book, Our Time is Now. I will be reviewing that one soon.
I am really looking forward to my February reading! Because it is Black History Month, I’ve decided that my focus will be to choose from the wealth of excellent books by black authors– from classics to modern fiction to non-fiction to books for young people! I have so many good books already waiting for me!