Ponder this:

Friday, April 30, 2010

Oh, my bleedin' heart

This will reassure all of us who find it more painless to be cynics than to be bleeding hearts.

Further investigation revealed that the "kid" I was feeling sorry for was, in fact, a frequent flyer. And not a kid. The innocence was feigned. 
Or else his memory's shot and every time is a brand new experience. 

It's a good thing I'm not a cop.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Overheard outside my office door

"Okay, now here's what's happening. I'm going to place you under arrest now."
Soft, disbelieving: "I'm gettin' arrested?" 
"Yes. I'm placing you under arrest for..."
"But it wasn't mine. It was hers." 
"Well. You were the one who had it."
"She asked me to just keep it for her. I was gonna give it back this afternoon." 
"That may be, but you had it on you."

"Am I a criminal now?" still soft, in wondering supplication. 

"I don't know how you want to define it, but . . . you are being arrested.  The charges are [whatever they were]. We'll go in back and get you processed..."
"Am I goin' to jail?"  
"......probably not. The judge is on his way. Right now we have to go in back and get you processed and then we'll go upstairs."
"Come on back through here and we'll get started."

Noise of the solid heavy door to the inner offices being opened . . . a space of time while the officer and the kid passed through . . . then the latch closing, locking. Clunk. Click.

I waited to hear the judge come in; I opened my office door so I could see the kid whose voice I'd heard.
But I heard and saw nothing more.
"Am I a criminal now?"
It haunts me. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Light of heart

I have been increasingly and ridiculously lighthearted lately.

I have resumed my mid-afternoon gigglefests at work. My coworkers have once again begun saying to each other, "There goes June, must be about 2:30," before they check the clock.

I have become a madwoman with my variegated hosta. I come home every day and rip into the big established clumps to separate them and spread them out to make the garden border continuous. The frenzy always starts with my simple intention of digging out one or two dandelions.
And then I notice, eye, the bare spaces in the edging around the shrubs, and think, "Oh, just this one clump."  And in half an hour my fingernails are packed with dirt, my palms black, my neck cramping and my head aching from the chilly breeze. There follows the self-congratulatory promenade to admire my work, to envision how the transplants will look in a few weeks when they've become accustomed to their new locations and round themselves out into hearty and fluffily exuberant bunches. Forgiving plants, hosta.

So many earthworms! Finding them inches deep in the dirt, I feel sorry to have disturbed them at their work, and carefully try to dig around them so as not to cut them into pieces. Not always successful with that, I hope that the ones that get . . . damaged . . . will be able to regenerate their missing parts; some can, if cut in the right places. I school myself not to think about it. I pick them up and set them aside, throw some damp dirt on top of them for safekeeping, and then replace them as I place the new planting. They're doing me a favor with their existence in my garden. I'd hate to look a gift earthworm in the mouth . . . or really, in any other orifice . . . should I be able to find it.

Here's a piece of new self-knowledge:  I like the singular feature. 
The wild trees along my route to my job are beginning to be a solid mass of new green.  I love seeing the spread of new growth, but part of my heart misses the odd one pale green tree, spring's sentinel salient among the gray and brown.
The graceful spare shadblow is blooming, sparse flowers among the indifferent disorderly brushwood. My mother called it shadblow. Its semi-formal name is serviceberry (dressed up in whitetie, Amelanchier). Maybe the ones that are cultivated . . . planted as decorative landscape trees . . . are serviceberry or Amelanchier. The unbound ones, I think, should always be called shadblow: the name suits their nature.
Image borrowed from Saratoga Woods and Waterways

Driving slowly up the hill to home, the car's tires scrabbling and shifting on loose small stones in the dirt road, I came upon a bird dawdling across the road. Unperturbedly aware of my approach, he sauntered, stopped, sauntered, so slowly that I was able to examine him through the driver's side window as I passed: a funny little banty-chicken-looking thing with a long thin neck and a little pointy crest on his head. I have seen ruffed grouse only a few times in my life: I had to come home and check my Audubon book to be sure that's what it had been.
Photo borrowed from A Passion for Nature, a blog I'll have to keep track of...
Wildlife North America has pictures of the male displaying, something I've never seen. Such a tiny thing exhibiting himself so proudly, exactly like a big wild turkey, is endearingly precious.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thank you all

I have insufficient time to craft anything like a "post." Today is Friday, which means that within twenty-four hours I should be working on one, prior to going back to bed at 5:30am. The wee hours of weekend mornings are my usual times to float into my interior and put words to whatever I find there.

I had planned to respond to each comment on the last post. Now it's too late for anybody to find my responses, so this is it. Each of you who wished me well: thank you warmly and most sincerely. To those of you who have had similar experiences and felt that I expressed what you, too, had felt: Humbly, thank you.  To the ones who offered praise for the writing, ahh, thank you. 

A friend wrote me recently:  "I've been thinking about how they say cats take pain well. What, exactly, can a cat do but take it? And what can we do, but take it?" I think that's funny, philosophical, and perfectly true. 
The bonus is that, as #1Nana said about her storyteller friend, I got a story out of this experience, and apparently one that touched some people . . . because of their own experiences or those of friends.  I expect more "stories" will emerge as I explore this new landscape. At the very least, I hope that during my recovery I'll be blogging my little heart out. 

And the good news on the employment situation is that 4/20 has come and gone and I am still employed full-time.
Power That Be stopped by my desk in the afternoon of the meeting that he had predicted would either plunge me into unemployment or trim my hours to a "no benefits" status, and told me there would be no discussion about my employment at the meeting. "There's just too much else on the agenda.  But no promises about next month." 
"Okay," I said.

"I thought you'd want to know. . .  I know I would . . . I know you have been worried."
"Well," I said, "I have been, and I haven't."
So I need not worry about having health insurance coverage for another month.

The world grows more beautiful by the minute.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Live like you were dying

On April 9, I went to the doctor for a long overdue checkup. And because I had found a lump where a lump should not be. 
On April 12, I had some non-invasive diagnostic tests.
On April 13, I had a biopsy done. Four skinny little worms of core samplings of my tissue laid on a saline-soaked gauze pad. The doctor showed them to me. I could see the white of the tumor among the pink of the apparently normal tissue. They looked like two-and-a-half-inch-long strips of chicken meat, with a little white fat.
I got dressed and met the surgeon in the hall at a little writing desk.  He told me where the tissue would go, when the results would be back. He was putting a rush on it, he said, and I should have my husband with me, or a friend, on April 16.
That's when I made The Mistake.
I asked him, "What do you think?"
He said: "I'm concerned that it's a breast cancer. But I've been wrong. That's why we do biopsies."

For a good portion of the drive home, I was talking to myself.  
  • Of course he thinks it might be cancer. Why else would I be having a biopsy? 
  • There are lumps that aren't cancer.
  • You don't know yet. You don't know yet. You don't know yet.
Jack Daniels whispered in my ear, "Let's talk it over." He was my companion in times of trouble for so long that it was a simple reflex of my brain.
I stopped and bought a chocolate mocha cake.
I stopped and filled the car's tank with gasoline.
I cried the three miles home from the gasoline station.
The trees, just beginning to be limned in green fuzzy buds. The sky. The hills. The hills!
I said to my Higher Power, "Please let Heaven be at least as beautiful as this."

When I was little, the beginning of summer vacation felt like standing on a mountaintop in the sunshine, surveying a limitless number of days of reading, playing croquet or cowboys, long warm evenings of catching lightning bugs.  Now I know school summer vacation is sixty-five finite days.
Driving home, stopping at the mailbox, coming down the driveway and seeing the house that we built standing against the background of hill and sky, driving into the barn, turning off the car, hearing the dogs' ecstatic barking: all were numbered now. Tick, tick, tick off a list of checkboxes.
I got out of the car, clutching the mail and cakebox.  

I let the dogs out and we walked around the yard. I stopped in the front walk and let out my two milligrams of Fiery Anger: I deserve MORE. I deserve BETTER! 

We all came inside and I fixed the dogs' supper. I told myself I should go outdoors and enjoy the weather, but my body was too tightly clenched.  I took off my clothes and put on my robe . . . and went on this informative and comforting website.  

...and then decided if I wasn't dead yet, and if the treatment might not kill me, I might as well go outside and live. That's when I got the garden trowel and Max's ball...

The sky was even bluer than before, the clouds perfect little puffs of silver white, the hills stronger and more steadfast.  The dogs' voices were music, the dandelions snapped out of the garden beds as if they were joyfully jumping free.  The trees, the messy brush and weeds along the stone walls, were just as they should be and impossibly beautiful in their perfect random arrangements.  The breeze was perfume. I laughed with the love of all of it. 
I brought in a wagonload of firewood against the forecasted damp cool days. What patience I had with that process . . . a chore that I have habitually hurried through, making it harder than it had to be.  Like so much of life.

On April 16, the surgeon's office phoned at 12:40. The doctor had a cancellation, could I come in at 1:30 instead of 4:00?
"I would be delighted," I said. "Let me call my husband and I'll call you back in five minutes."
Husband said, "Sure.  I'll meet you at the doctor's office." I called the office to say I would be there within the hour.

We sat in the examining room for ten minutes before Dr. S. blew in, dressed in blue scrubs that matched his eyes. He was smiling.
"You have everybody confused!" he told me.
"The lab always has two people look at each sample. One said, 'I think it's...' The other said, 'Mmm, it might be, but I don't know.' So . . . your tissue has been sent to Yale for examination."

I had been prepared for "It's nothing," or "You're dying." So unprepared was I for nuanced speech that I couldn't grasp what Husband was able to hear. Between Dr. S. and Husband I finally understood that yes, it is cancer, but most likely (no one wants to say it out loud until Yale weighs in) it's cancer that is usually encapsulated and doesn't go speeding off to lymph nodes. Dr. S. hastened out of the room and back with his book, "The Breast," and showed me pictures of the likely suspect: "This is what it looks like under the microscope."

Usually this kind of cancer occurs in two percent of breast cancers . . . in non-Caucasian women fifteen or twenty years older than I am. That's why the lab technicians are so keen to make sure that it's what they think it is.

All the way home, the completely overcast sky looked bright blue. 

May 6 at 9:00am we will have confirmation.
And we will proceed.

Given the choice, I wouldn't have missed this last week for anything.

"And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter, 
"And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
~ from Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw

Thank you to Hilary at 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Creature sightings 4/10-4/17

A red-tailed hawk sliding down from the sky to my right, grasping a vole on the roadside bank, then turning and rising. I could see the vole clutched in the hawk's talons.

A glossy plump woodchuck jiggling all his round parts across the road.

A porcupine licking at some salty thing in the road. Obsessed with salt, they will tear apart storage shed walls to get at dried sweat on tool handles. He ignored the car's noise and headlights. I blew the horn and his body went whup! in shock, then he turned and waddled off to the ditch leaving his damp pawprints on the dirt.

The bald eagles are flying.  Everywhere.

A small cottontail galloping from one side of the road to the other.
And, of course, gray squirrels galore and one tiny red squirrel.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Success story: Jack M

I arrived at work to see Jack M sitting outside the entrance door reading the local newspaper, wearing a yellow shirt.  
"G'morning, Jack. Are you waiting to get inside?" I asked, unlocking the door.
"No, not really. I'm just catching up on the local news. I was out of town last week. I'll be in with some paperwork for you in a little while."
"Okay," I smiled, and turned to go inside.
"You aren't wearing your yellow shirt," he said. "We don't match. I'll have to go home and change."
The last time we had met, he and I had been wearing identical pale yellow moleskin shirts. I turned back to face him, looked down at the top I wore, black with metallic gold print. 
"Yes, you should," I said. "Try to find something with gold in it," and we grinned at each other.

Jack is an interesting man. In physical appearance, he is arresting because of his height and angularity. Jack's hair is nearly colorless, his eyes deepset pale blue, his gaze hawklike. He makes me think of a present day incarnation of the fictional Ichabod Crane.

Ichabod Crane by Michael Kenny

"The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield."  ~The Legend of Sleepy HollowWashington Irving
Like Irving's Crane, Jack taught in the local elementary school. Retired now from teaching, he  indulges his talent and skill as a carpenter. He is passionate about fidelity to historical construction detail. His work is slow and painstaking but the product . . . a Doric porch column, say, with multiple separate parts for the base and for the capital, just as it would have been made hundreds of years ago . . . is a thing of pure and simple[-looking] beauty.  Like many artisan carpenters of my acquaintance Jack owns fewer than the ten fingers with which he was born, half of one having been sacrificed at his saw table. 

Jack speaks softly and expresses himself with perfect clarity, pausing to find the exact word. Conversing with him is verbal correspondence, no words wasted, each word full of weight. . . not to say that the man's lacking in humor.  I have in one of my files his handwritten request for "an extension of a certificate of appriateness appropriateness," with a small note slanting off above it: "Great spelling bee word!" 

When I met Jack I didn't like him. He frightened me. He was acerbic and impatient, and quite obviously furious with Then Boss.  His eyebrows alternated between one raised into his hairline and both furrowed down to his eyelashes. His speaking mouth was downturned and opened barely enough to let out his complaints. His closed mouth was tautly pulled toward his ear in distrust and disbelief.  In the several years since then, Jack and I have become friends. He has shared with me photos of his workshop and his works in progress, described the process to me; I have shared with him photos of sky. 
He's one of my success stories.  

One afternoon, Jack reenacted for me The Felon During Small Pond Governing Body Meeting.  Pretzeling his overlong parts into a semblance of The Felon's tiny stature, he squirmed in my guest chair until he was sitting on the left side of his hip, his right leg crossed high over his left.  "It's as if he's trying to moon the public," Jack said, his right buttock aimed at me like an offensive weapon.
We've come to be able to communicate in ways that neither of us could be quoted for ill intention, using facial expression (or its lack) to make our meaning clear to each other.  

Looking over the newspaper at me that morning, Jack said, "Quite an interesting letter to the editor here..."
"Yes! Wasn't that interesting!" I said. "Mm."
"When I watch the public meetings on public access, it goes so smoothly that it's clear there's been . . . conversation prior to the meetings."
"Yessss," I said.
"But of course, you want them to be able to..."
"...chat," I said, smiling pursy-lipped.
"Chat," he answered, expressionless except for those eyebrows, which alternated in upward twitches.
"...law requires public bodies to give advance notice of their meetings.  
"A gathering may constitute a 'meeting' even if a public body takes no formal action -- it applies to any gathering where a quorum is present to discuss or deal with a matter of public business, regardless of what the gathering is called."                             ~Open Meetings Law

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reservoir walking

One day last week I met my friend Jo for an early spring walk around the reservoir. It's a perfect atmosphere for walking and chatting, handy for me to stop on my route home from the office. One spring and summer we met there a few afternoons a week to walk around and around the mile-long perimeter of the smaller of the two ponds, nodding hello to fishermen, chatting with each other, and sometimes stopping to laugh in our oxygen and endorphin giddiness at some remark passed between us. On warm summer afternoons, a welcome breeze blows down from the surrounding hills. One sultry afternoon we watched a thunderstorm develop over a westward hill. The lightning flashed in the distant dark sky and we remarked to each other that we might be in the worst possible place in such circumstances . . . out in the big wide open and surrounded by water. The gentle breeze grew gusty and voluptuous with rain and ozone scent.  We walked faster, but not quickly enough to outrun the storm; by the time we reached our vehicles, we were drenched.
I was the one to let our walking habit fall away, impatient after work to get to my hilltop home to let the dogs out and to relax with my home views.

On Thursday afternoon the reservoir was a pretty and therapeutic place to walk, flat and wide and warm, the afternoon sun striking hypnotically blinding sparks on the water. We paused frequently for my healing respiratory system to recover. Where the shade persists for much of the day, a thin layer of ice extended a hundred feet from the shore but the ponds are full of snowmelt, and the overflow roars its way to the creek. Jo and I stopped and sat on the spillway's three-foot-tall concrete wall, soothing our souls, watching air trapped behind the clear sheet of flowing water, the bubbles rising, falling, rising again like running salmon. 

Most of the Canada geese who nest there honked and gabbled on the far all-day-sun side, but one couple honeymooned on the near shore. They tipped their heads, took our measure with their single-eyed gazes as we approached, and discreetly took to the water. On our return I watched with interest as the male again and again raised his body two-thirds out of the water and dropped his heavy breast, advancing a few inches at a time. His demure beloved waited behind him, and at a signal from her gallant gander, followed him along the passage that he had broken for her through the fragile layer of ice.