Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cold carrots in December

We harvested purple carrots out of the frozen cold frame today.  My son planted a variety of carrots in late August.  The window panes were frozen shut and buried under slushy snow.  After I preyed open the top and dug my hand down into the freezing soil I pulled up two beautiful purple carrots.  One for Bunny (that is who he planted them for) and one for us...

What a gift.  

The ground never had a chance to freeze.  The temperature last week peaked at 59 degrees Fahrenheit.  Usually the ground freezes a bit first, then the snows come, then the fun begins.  It threatened to rain today and wash it all away, but it didn't.  The wind is blowing and the temperature is 30 degrees F now.  Whenever the wind blows like this I always wonder, where are all of my animals?  Are they warm?  Are they safe?  It was so warm today, now the temperature is dropping.  A cold front pushing up against a warm front, making wind, high wind.  The other day the gusts blew over important things, things that broke.  Luckily they didn't have any animals in them...

It is late, or should I say early in the a.m.  

Spooky sounds abound.  

Eeekkk, I am off to bed.  Nighty-nite.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I was reminded again today about the beauty of life.  Raw nature, life as it is, streaming on.  This year is the emotional opposite of last year at this time, almost to the very day.  I was submerged in fear, deep sadness, and feeling totally helpless.  Bone cancer are two very scary words.  My journey began with the loss of my eyesight in my right eye, July 2008.  I flippantly thought that it was just an advanced sinus infection.  My eye doctor gently told me that he thought it might be MS.  I remember shaking, thinking, "no, not now, not me, I have never had a serious medical condition.  We just moved into our old farm house, we just got my nieces for the summer, we are just starting out on our dream.  We worked and saved and waited for ten years to get here, I am only forty-five, groan."  Neurological demise seemed terrifying, I felt so vulnerable.  I started crying.  My pupils still dilated, I had to sit in the waiting room, breathing, keeping my cool, staying grounded, in denial, sort of.  I used to be a hypochondriac in my other life so in my fear I easily slipped into feeling sorry for myself and in that moment thought, "ya, I knew it."  "Too good to be true."

The scheduling started, Thanksgiving was coming, Christmas around the corner, our first one on the edge of the hollow, I was ready to deal and to celebrate.  Two MRI's and CT scans later they thought it was definite, I had MS, but wait, what is this tumor here in your petrous bone?  They found it in July, it didn't seem alarming then.  Maybe nothing, maybe a scar from an ear infection, but no, Nancy Yazinski in the MS clinic of Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon wouldn't let it go.  In November I went to meet a neurosurgeon, by myself, again casually thinking it was just a shadow or an anomaly.  I had come to terms with my diagnosis of MS, I joined the national association.  So many wonderful people around the country reached out to me, called me, consoled and advised me.  I felt strong, I felt like MS is o.k., I can handle this, it is progressive, it is unpredictable but it is...  I said to him, "oh, no worries, as long as it isn't an aneurysm or tumor."  He quietly, kindly said, "It isn't an aneurysm."  So it was a tumor.  He thought it might be a chondrosarcoma.  BONE CANCER!  In the center of my skull of all places, talk about the possibililty of non-invasive surgery slipping away.  I thought maybe it was a blip from my late 70's high school over experimentation of altering my consciousness in an attempt to answer the question and drown my fear.  No.  His interpretation was scary, dangerous, life threatening.  Surgery, a hole in my skull larger than a silver dollar, brain clamps, seizures, coma, tremors, blindness, deafness, inability to swallow, and more.  I was shaking, I was sobbing, I had to drive home alone.  It seemed like an out of body experience.  I called my husband from the parking garage, I couldn't catch my breath.  He breathed for me.  He is always so calm, so rational, so steady, I just exhaled, felt the seat under my body, my feet on the floor boards, his words, anapana and it was o.k.  All the practice, the sitting, the breathing, the courage to look inside served me well.  I was ready, I looked up and turned the key.  I wanted to move forward, travel this journey with grace.  I didn't know what all of this meant for me but I knew my eight year old son would be watching, hearing, feeling all of this too.

So, I chose to step into the light.  To breathe in the light.  Noni gave me the gift of feeling the depth, the healing power, the letting go into the light.  It was real for me, it emanated from my heart.  I could easily breathe, I could let go.  My mantra for the last twelve months has been, "let go".  I understand on a cellular level what it feels like to loosen my grip, unclench my teeth, let go and not cling to life.  All of that clinging and clenching had been the symptoms of my greatest fear, my death.  I can remember asking my mom when I was very young what it was all about, why was I here?  What will it feel like when I die, where will I go?  I spent my entire life trying in so many ways to understand my fear and to find the answer to those questions....

and in one fell swoop, I knew.  I had been whispering prayers to the universe most of my life for help, for contentment, for peace, for the courage to face what we all have to face and that was it.  That was the great gift I described, the gift, the wrapping, and the bow.  I let go.

I remember early in December and January looking out of our bathroom window in the morning thinking about the things I had to do that day or some unhappy responsibility I was in charge of.  Just daily life, the dishes, dirty clothes, cooking, cleaning, my weight gain, whatever million little, silly or not-so-silly thoughts I would harvest and I would think to myself, "Oh YES, I'll take that, give that to me, those old 'problems', those worries, if that is all I had to bear that would be wonderful."  All of the silly and not-so-silly became sweet, worth cherishing, worth smiling about.  All of the mundane became beautiful rituals of my life, my gift to my self, to my family, and my life.  The life I was trying to create.  Even knowing that at some point in January I was going to have my skull drilled into I knew it was going to be fine, whether I died or whether I lived.  Being incredibly driven to the dramatic, of course, I assumed that I would die.  I began to embrace that.  Slowly at first, not morbidly, but beautifully.  I felt like it wasn't the end, the thought that we all have to die became so matter of fact, so o.k., kind of like a club I would join.  I started to think of all of the people that passed before me, known and unknown.  I thought of all of my ancestors, my friends, my animal companions and I felt........AH.  

It is beautiful.  I would make the most out of every second I still had consciousness.  I am breathing now, I would think, I am here now.  Wow, I wish I had felt that so many times before.  All of the petty worries, all of the micro-managing.  All of the little stuff seemed so little, unimportant, inconsequential.  I decided to call all of my friends, to make the most out of every conversation with every person I met, look deeply into every pair of eyes, Namaste all day long.  My son, my husband, I deeply embraced them with every breath.  I felt so strong, so awake, so present, so ALIVE!

My husband and our dear friend Jon found endonasal surgery and UPMC on the internet.  I can remember being resolved to get the craniotomy, my husband was not.  At the very end of December I sent UPMC an email and waited, hopeful.  They responded on Monday, asking for all of my records and pictures.  It was a whirlwind.  I flew alone to Pittsburgh, a big feat for me, and met with the team.  They said yes, I said yes and we scheduled my surgery for February 2, 2009, the Monday after the Superbowl, Pittsburgh Steelers vs St. Louis Cardinals.  I hadn't been to Pittsburgh since I was a child, I have wonderful memories of my time with my family in Pittsburgh.  My father was born in Pittsburgh, his father was born in Pittsburgh, it was my town too.  While I peered out of the taxi's window into the city that streamed by along the Monongahela and up to Shady Side I quietly thought about all of my ancestors that had lived there, breathed there...  I felt embraced, I wasn't alone.  The city was beautiful, changed, exciting.  The hospital was bustling with people from all over the planet.  Doctors, interns, nurses, workers, patients, families, children, it was a metropolis driven by hope.  I felt brave and free, what would be would be and I was no longer clinging, it all felt safe and I trusted...

Here is my garden in the wet, wet snow of December 2009.  My cold frames are buried but still filled with life.  Green, young leeks, onions, chard, carrots and some celery that just never grew.  I thought maybe it was a dwarf variety, you know, 4 cm tall?  No stalk, just leaves. ha ha....

Peace and Namaste