Sunday, April 12, 2015

How can this be? Light where dark was expected

This is the moment in chemo that I call the dark night of the soul. When the steroids that have been propping me up in the days immediately following treatment, stop working, and the chemicals take a nasty turn.

But, something surprising has happened, instead of curling up into and a ball, and retreating into myself (in short: throwing an internal pity party with me as the solo guest), I'm filled with light, and joy.

It is not an epiphany. At least I don't think so. No. It's the accumulated impact of hundreds of small, but genuinely heartfelt, things during the past four months.

It is Joe and Pat Moellers dropping off a ginormous vase of daffodils from their garden yesterday afternoon ... the shasta daisies from Pat Frey still abloom on the dining room table, along with the vivid yellow tulips from Mr. P that smell like honey … and the vivid bouquet of mixed flowers atop the mantle from Carol and Jon Falk ...

It is the snail mail cards and notes, many handmade, others bought because they were handmade, that arrive almost daily ... the card signed by the staff of the Friends of the Library shop (where my greeting cards are a teensy part of their business), the graceful card and "courage" bookmark made by calligrapher Maryanne Burke …

It is the bag of inspirational books that Peg Rhein dropped off, along with a few additions to the collage stash … the goofy care packages from Betsa Marsh of snarky books whose pages hide "Downtown Abbey" quotes, funny news clips, and Monopoly money (the latter is a whole other post) … the "mix-Nano" from Michael Roberts that drowns out the worst moments …

It is kielbasa from Buffalo via John Byczkowski, who holds out the hope that I will be able to taste it sooner or later … the warm pot of chicken chili that Julie Engebrecht dropped off that came complete with an array of garnishes (fresh cilantro, corn chips, grated cheese) and dessert from the Bonbonerie … the lunches at Jo-Beth's cafe on two of my "good days" with Carol Kerr, and Betsa Marsh ...

It is the tiny crystal angels sent by my baby sister, Helen, and the socks to wear to chemo that say "fuck this shit" … the cards sent by my sister-in-law Ann Caswell in my older brother Rick's stead (he's recovering from his own health problems) … the surprise call from my baby brother, Matthew …

It is the e-mails from my Aunt Marlene and my friend Shirley Tenhover when they have not received an update in a while … the news about what's happening in everyone else's life that helps me stay in touch, and to think beyond myself … the offers of rides, the visits in the chemo suite by Leslie Daly and Kathy Holwadel, the brief "art field trips" with painter Lisa Molyneux ...

Yeah, this is starting to sound schmaltzy, like "a few of my favorite things." Yet there is one more thing to mention …

One of the many deer images I'm collecting.
From Animate Creation: Vol. 2 (1885).

It is the healing image of a deer grazing among white aspens, surrounded by the herd; an image given to me months ago by Mary Hargrove and her spirit guides.

Those who know me well, know that I'm not exactly a "healing image" kind of person. I went along with it during the first round of chemo/radiation in 2009/10 as a favor to my friend Betsa. "Can't hurt," I told myself after much cajoling to pick an image.

Back then, I settled on the moon. During the darkest times, I imagined walking along a beach under a moonlit sky, waves gently lapping my bare feet, a slight chill in the air. It was soothing, yet something was missing …

I was alone.

Not that everyone wasn't supporting me in the way they are now; they were, maybe even more so, because the Stage 4 diagnosis was so sudden, and alarming. No, it was me. I was determined not to be defined by cancer, not to be needy, not to be hurting, not to be afraid ... in short, not to appear weak.

Part of that lingers, but it has been surpassed by the knowledge that the more you give, that the more you open up, the more you get. So, my thoughts have turned to the good things in life, and that's where they will stay, as I graze among the aspens in the clear light of a spring afternoon … surrounded by my herd.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I will be closed for tonight's Open Studios at Brazee
but please pop by to see the other studios

I try not to miss a single Open Studios event at Brazee Street Studios
especially not the opening one of the season, but must pass this time.
 There will be lots happening tonight, so please drop in to see
 the other artists' studios; live glass blowing demos;
 "WORD IMAGE OBJECT," the new exhibit in the gallery
 by Miami University Department of Art students.

See you in May! Come chemo or high water ...