Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Good morning! Surprise!

The phone rang early this morning as I was getting ready for work. It was the manager of the radiation oncology department at the Gray Cancer Center.

I just missed the call, but the message on our answering machine was, "Hi! This is Sue calling from the Radiation Oncology Department. We're ready to start your treatment. We can start today. Can you come in?"

No! No! I need time to prepare! Psychologically, I mean! Besides, John has a toothache and has to go to the dentist!! I can't do this all by myself!! I want my mommy!!!

So, I went to Connecticut Valley Hospital for the holiday meeting of the Keep the Promise Coalition, where I got a small award for entering a card in their 'cards for legislators' contest (that was nice), went home to do some work on the computer, then drove to Hartford and had my first radiation treatment. I'm scheduled for 20, rather than the 25 that Dr. Bertsch, the radiation oncologist, had first proposed. I saw her briefly today, and she said something about how this was the only way she could figure out how to do it without damaging my heart and lungs. Of course, I wasn't prepared to respond, but I'll have to ask: are you trying to say, you wish you could treat it more aggressively, but can't? I suppose, actually, that that's always the to kill the cancer cells without killing the patient.

I have my regular treatment tomorrow, and the radiation department will "squeeze me in" after my appointment with Dr. Schauer, while I'm waiting for the Herceptin to come down from the hospital pharmacy. I'll ask Dr. Schauer my questions. Pat, who is sort of my guru, is meeting me at the hospital, and will stay for the treatment. She wants to meet my oncologist, and see what the whole scene is like. She has committed to seeing me through this whole process--the process of dying, I mean.

A little poem for you, from the wonderful, wonderful Wendell Berry.

...For the Future
Planting trees early in spring,
we make a place for birds to sing
in time to come. How do we know?
They are singing here now.
There is no other guarantee
that singing will ever be.
Wishing you great blessings 'on the eve of the holy night'. Tomorrow, at 7:22 p.m. EST, the light is reborn!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tattoos and other fine things

I got a new tattoo today.

I had a CT scan to plan for the attack on the tumor in my sternum this afternoon. The radiation techs told me that they were going to try to use the five little tattoos I got for radiation to the breast--they're used to precisely aim the x-ray beam--but after they did the scan they decided they needed one more. So now I have six little indigo dots on my chest. And one beautiful vine twining around my right wrist.

I should have asked them to do my eyebrows. They never grew in quite right after chemo.

I expect to hear from Dr. Bertsch toward the end of next week. I have a Herceptin treatment with Dr. Schauer, my medical oncologist, on the 21st (the Solstice, birth of the light!), and he'll probably have talked with her about the plan for radiotherapy. Treatment will probably start right after Christmas, or perhaps they'll have to wait until after New Year's. I imagine the schedule gets tight with people taking time off around the holidays. Anyway, I'll keep posting.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Real life

So, I was on my way to have my body buffed, my nails airbrushed, my feet dipped, my lip waxed, my eyelashes tinted, my brows threaded, my skin exfoliated, my ears candled, and my hair extended when real life intervened.

Darn, darn real life.

It was fun writing that first sentence. It's quite true, though, that I never cease to be amazed at the creative ways in which human beings can waste money, and, more important by far, time.

I was a pretty teenager, after having been a homely child in all my younger years. I enjoyed the attention that being attractive got me, but I never made the mistake of thinking that either the physical attractiveness or the consequent attention meant anything.

This Sunday I will lead the Brooklyn Unitarian Universalist Society's Solstice service for the fifth year. The theme will be paradox.

I don't talk about this much, because it tends to be perceived as a sort of "holier than thou" stance, but about eighteen years ago I had what I came to regard as a mystical experience. It's difficult to explain, but I suddenly--and for a period of months after--"knew" the unity of opposites. Not as "joy in pain", or even just "death as necessary to life", or that kind of thing. In a moment of gnosis, I saw opposites as the same thing.

I wish I could have that knowing back. Intellectually, of course, I can experience yin and yang, but I want to know the circle again. We all need to know, truly know, that we are the seed of our own death. Life gains so much more meaning if we come to that understanding. And so I am left, again, with "ripeness": the moment of perfection is the moment of death.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

That's me in the corner...

Wow! I guess it's been a really long time since I posted.

A huge number of things have happened since then. The biggest is that I had my PET/CT scan, just four months after the last one this time, and it seems the tumor in my sternum is growing.

Of course, I knew this would happen, but I was hoping there'd be more stable time. The good news, however, is that since I started treatment at Hartford Hospital in April of '05, they have acquired a new technology called "intensity modulated" radiotherapy. The reason I couldn't have radiation before is that the older technology would have caused major heart damage, since my heart is right behind the tumor area. With the new technology, the radiation oncologist says she should be able to limit or altogether avoid exposing the heart to radiation.

I have a CT scan scheduled for December 13 to measure the parameters of the tumor. After that, there will be a few appointments to plan the "attack", and I'll probably begin radiation toward the end of this month.

Treatment will be daily for five weeks, which is problematic, especially since the hospital is 35 minutes in the opposite direction from where I work. But I've told the agency board my situation, and they've been very supportive. My concern is that they don't really understand what's at stake if I can't do all my hours. But I'll just have to do the best I can.

So I had a little pity party today. It's the first time I've cried since the doctor told me the news on November 28. So I probably needed to do that.

On another note, above are a couple of pieces I've done recently. The dark one is a sort of 'holiday' piece which will go up on eBay tomorrow night, as well as being part of a collaborative poster created by my Art Squared eBay group. The part that's supposed to look like a group of city buildings is actually a fractal graphic; I've been having fun with a free program called Xaos. The red one is called "I Am Woman", and features, among others, Annie Oakley with a better pair of legs, Angela Davis on a Wanted poster, and me, down in the lower left corner, losing my religion, I guess.

But I always get it back.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Brand new Tarot cards

These are cards I haven't tried to sell, ones I've been working on specifically for the Hygienic Art Gallery Holiday Show. (FYI, they don't have to be holiday-themed--just small format and under $150 in price.) I would welcome constructive criticism of these. I'm not sure they're actually finished...

So whaddaya think?

Three Digital Tarot Cards

These three images were sold on eBay in the ACEO size. I'm very pleased with the way these came out, along with the Magician, which was posted in my October 2 blog. I'll show you the ones I've been working on for the holiday show in the next post.

Harm none

My sitemeter tells me that some of you haven't given up on me.

I know it's been a very long time since I've posted. I'm busy. Very, very, busy.

I'm now working as interim executive director for DNEC (what's a DNEC? it's the Disabilities Network of Eastern Connecticut), where I worked for about eight years before changing jobs in March 2005. I'm a little afraid of publishing anything online about the circumstances surrounding my sudden change in employment status, so I'll let this suffice: they needed me. I mean needed me. And I am thrilled to be able to help.

I'm only working 25 hours a week; I limited my hours because I do have to have my regular cancer treatments and other things that would make it difficult to work full time. Fortunately, one of my co-workers has been promoted to managerial and supervisory duties, so I think I'll make it through until February, when I have to leave in order to keep my Social Security Disability. I will be sorry in many ways to go, but I'll clearly need a good rest by then.

The Wiccan faith has a sort of golden rule that says: "Harm none, do as ye will", sometimes quoted as "An [if] it [or ye] harm none, do as ye will". This is interpreted to mean that you shouldn't do anything to harm someone, and if you're not harming anyone, you can do anything you want. I call myself a pagan rather than a Wiccan, but I think this rule has its merits. I interpret it somewhat differently, though. I interpret it to mean that you can do what you want if it's not harmful, but if it might cause harm, then you need to consult other things besides your own will before you make the decision whether to do it or not. I don't believe it is instruction to never cause harm.

Why? Because harm is necessary. In the circumstances surrounding my new job, harm was done in order that the greater good, in this case the viability of the organization itself, might be preserved. I have compassion for those who were harmed. But DNEC has to survive in order to help individuals with disabilities receive the supports and civil rights to which they're entitled. And as I said, I am extremely happy--and grateful--to be part of this process.

'Nuff said about that! I have also been doing a reasonable amount of art work, despite my tendency to collapse when I arrive home. Last week I picked up the self-portrait I did for the Hygienic Art Gallery's breast cancer show, and the gallery manager, Maurene, told me it had gotten a lot of comments from people on how "powerful" it is. That emboldened me to ask how one gets in other shows there, and the upshot is that I have to produce 12 pieces for their holiday show by November 12! I've decided to enter 12 5" x 7" prints of my digital tarot cards. You've seen my Magician (October 2, the post entitled "Two more small digital collages"), but I'll post a few more for you to see in a separate post. Comments are very welcome! Some aren't finalized, and I could use some help in figuring out how to improve them. Thanks!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Words for Death

Late last year
Annie Franklin
at the tender age...
Lifestar landed in the burning grass
But there was no need for a rescue flight.
It got sixty full seconds on the evening news.

On the side of the road
near the spot
where she
joined the choir invisible
(bought the farm,
bit the dust, paid the piper,
shat the bed)
is a small white cross
festooned with plastic flowers
of every hue
(and some you can't imagine)
On the cross
are these words:
You are loved

El Día de los Muertos está viniendo pronto...

Déjelos Comer Las Uvas

Monday, October 02, 2006

...and another Halloween digital ACEO

Two more small digital collages

The image on top is my second digital tarot card, The Magician. I really like the way this one came out.

The image on the bottom is called "Raven's Doubt"; it's something I just did for fun to join in with the current Halloween ACEO (card-size) art craze on my eBay lists.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Life is Funny

This is another current eBay auction titled "Life is Funny". This is a 4" x 6" digital postcard that I did for the CaaT (Complimentary Art and Things) eBay group for a theme on clowns/jesters/circuses etc. I always seem to find the dark in the most cheerful things.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


It occurred to me that it's been a while since I put any of my art on my blog. This piece is currently on eBay. It's entitled "I", and is an ACEO (card-sized) piece I did for the Nibblefest Art Contest (NFAC).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A different note...

For those of you who read the last post, here's the good news. I had been worried about a gradual increase in pain in my sternum, and had planned to tell my doctor at my scheduled treatment today. Before I could mention it, he asked if the wisdom tooth I'd had a root canal in (to minimize the risk Zometa treatment causes, of osteonecrosis of the jaw) had pretty much settled down, because he wanted to put me back on the Zometa. Then he asked if I'd had an increase in achiness in my breastbone. He said that many women notice that if they go off the Zometa. So the increasing pain that I feared meant that the cancer was worsening may in fact be simply because the normal reforming of bone just slowed down with the withdrawal of Zometa. I felt somewhat reassured. I resumed treatment with Zometa in addition to the Herceptin today.

And I had an amazingly creative time as I sat in the infusion room. I wrote a poem that will be part of a breast cancer-themed artwork, and also wrote a poem about a significant experience I had several years ago, which can be a stand-alone poem but which I'll also probably put with an image, possibly an altered vintage postcard. Here it is.
For the She-Wolf and Her Pups

PUTNAM and THE WOLF - Plaque at Wolf Den
Following her tracks through one day and night in the early snow of December 1742 to the Connecticut River and back, the early settlers of this region here discovered the den of the she wolf that had for years devastated their flocks and had so far eluded all attempts at capture. After all other methods had failed, when both servant and dog held back, Israel Putnam, 70 of whose sheep had been slaughtered, at 10 o'clock at night, with a rope tied to his feet, first with a torch, again with a musket, entered this cave, and by the light of her angry eyes, shot and killed the marauder, and entering - a third time, dragged forth the body of the last wolf in Connecticut.
On a gray day
in November
We walked the rocky trails
by Mashmoquet Brook.
I saw witch hazel
thin, long petals like yellow ribbons
shivering in small bursts of breeze;
armies of chattering chipmunks
calling, distracted,
skittering over the she-wolf's den.
I heard low growling
that no one else could hear.
Perhaps what Firewalker
of the North said
is true.
"You walk
with cat spirits, May",
he said.
Apart, I prayed.
Forgive me, young ones,
I mean you no harm.
Forgive me.
................................---May Terry

In the pink? Or in the dark?

Okay--so a number of you didn't know what the hell I meant by that little verse below. Has May lost her mind? Or just her ability to write?

I am tired, so tired, of pink ribbons. We all smile and wear cute pins, and "celebrate" survivorship. Except that my survival will be severely limited, and I find it hard to celebrate when 40,000+ women in the U.S. alone die of this disease every year.

So why, oh why, do I set myself up to be reminded of the feel-good, arguably useless public waving of pink grosgrain? I heard that the Hygienic Art Gallery, which used to be the Hygienic Restaurant, where my mother worked in the early 1970s (until she was fired for being too outspoken), was having a special show in cooperation with a breast cancer awareness organization. They solicited work from artists who've had breast cancer, or their relatives and friends, which covers just about anybody. I did a self-portrait, which looks rather like me, but not like someone who's celebrating surviving breast cancer, and entered it in the (non-juried) show.

The show opened last night. I wanted to be able to tell everyone that it was a wonderful experience, but it fact I felt totally isolated, and, ultimately, not proud or gratified, but angry. The art was less pink and fluffy than I had expected, but there was something about it all that made me want to scream, I'm dying! This isn't about celebrating! This is about a disease that has a lifetime risk factor for women of 1 in 8, and which can be helped to a limited degree by routine mastectomy and breast self-examination. Breast cancer gets (shamefully) many more research dollars than lung cancer, but many fewer than AIDS, which killed 15,798 in the U.S. in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available. Socks in Walmart with pink ribbons on them may make us feel good, but make miniscule amounts of money for breast cancer. Much breast cancer money that could go to research goes to awareness campaigns instead. In my estimation, this is a dubious use of resources.

I never thought I'd be a 54-year-old curmudgeon, much less a bitch. But some things just bring it out in me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

In lieu of posting unpleasantly on my email lists:

Everything's ducky!
I'm so lucky!
I'm pink and fluffy
And I never get huffy
And I never whine
I just say, "I'm fine",
Been sayin' it since the
It'll say it on my tomb!
She was brave, it'll say,
'Til they put her away,
It's sad she's gone,
But she makes a great

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Letter to Mr. D. L. Witherspoon


Spend all your time waiting
for that second chance
for a break that would make it okay
there's always one reason
to feel not good enough
and it's hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
oh beautiful release
memory seeps from my veins
let me be empty
and weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

in the arms of an angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort there

so tired of the straight line
and everywhere you turn
there's vultures and thieves at your back
and the storm keeps on twisting
you keep on building the lie
that you make up for all that you lack
it don't make no difference
escaping one last time
it's easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

in the arms of an angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you fear
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort there
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here
........................---Sarah McLachlan

Dear Mr. Witherspoon,

I just read your story called "Choice" on your website at .

I see that it's seven and a half years old. I haven't quite figured out what you're about, though I did go to your home page. I just felt compelled to write to you.

My son Adam is a heroin addict. He refers to his "wife", "Angel". One of his cellmates once said, "Hey, I didn't know you were married, man!" I didn't know there were prison inmates more naive than I am.

Adam was first hospitalized at age seven. He was suicidal and having auditory hallucinations. Once the crap was sorted out, and the clearly bogus diagnoses discarded, he was left with labels of Tourette Syndrome (the famous tic disorder), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (an autism spectrum disorder), and dysthymia (how they decided a seven-year-old who puts a knife to his throat was dysthymic, I'll never know). He's gathered quite a few more since then, some probably close to the mark and some not, but none more devastating than the diagnosis of heroin addiction.

I wish he had the ability, or the strength, to choose. What he has going for him (or not) are high intelligence, acute ability to sniff out bullshit, and an almost incalculable sensitivity. What he has working against him, besides the stubborn unwillingness of the culture to accept addiction as an illness, is the feeling that only heroin can give him, that he really belongs in his skin and in this world. He calls it his "full body orgasm".

After leaving the rehab he was paroled to several months ago, he is back to shooting up--how frequently, I don't know. This beautiful and bright boy, just 26 years old, is in danger of losing any chance he had to a satisfying life. Mr. Rogers said, "You can never go down the drain." I guess he never met Angel.

Seven years ago, you wrote about a choice. Do you still see it the same way?


Monday, September 04, 2006

How Birds Die

I was sitting, waiting in my car, in the gravel parking area of a small farm stand in a rural town near mine. My friend had gone inside to buy a bag of birdseed.

To my left were thick woods, tall trees of maple, oak, and shagbark hickory, and dozens of other species, no doubt, if I'd gone in to look. A cool breeze seemed to come from the dark shade below the treetops, the wood moist even in the arid month of August. As I turned to look straight ahead, I saw a man digging a post hole on the edge of a meadow bright with goldenrod and Joe Pye. The sound his shovel made when it hit the ubiquitous Connecticut rocks was the only interruption to the birdsongs filling the air.

One small, gray bird caught my eye. He soared, then came down and flew horizontally over the meadow. Then suddenly, he dropped to the earth.

The man looked down, then up again, then down. My head followed his the way heads do in a tennis match. The man moved to where the bird went down, but seemed to find nothing. The bird did not rise from the earth.

That's the way I'd like to go, I think--in mid-flight, drop my body like a piece of baggage to the ground below, and keep on flying.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Past and Future Memories

I stopped a couple of days ago on my way home from work to browse around in the Glastonbury Barnes & Noble. That's usually a mistake, of course, since I buy books I could get cheaper elsewhere, or even (God forbid) borrow from the library. But it feels so good to do it, sometimes I just can't resist.

I love memoirs. I suppose they're a kind of autobiography, but they usually emphasize the intimate details that make up our emotional lives and bind us together as travelers on the same journey. Everyone has a story, and if you listen hard enough, you'll find most of them fascinating.

That being said, I have to add that there are "trends" in memoir-writing that, I suppose, sell better because it's reasonable to expect a few salacious moments in the pages that comprise them. One of these is incest.

Don't get me wrong. I would not for a moment minimize the pain of those who've been through the experience of being victimized by an older relative who ought to be able to be trusted. In fact, I've been through that experience myself. I'm an "incest survivor". However, I'd never imagine that my story, if confined mostly to that experience, would be very interesting or even useful to other survivors. There are such books. I don't believe there's a need to add more to their number.

So, I ignored the three--or was it four--new books by incest survivors and looked for something more interesting to buy. There were several books by African-Americans concerning their experiences dealing with the white culture. Some are probably quite good, but since I couldn't guess which ones, I passed that category by. I've read many memoirs on mental illness and addictions, and some are excellent, notably "Darkness Visible" by William Styron, "The Beast: A Journey Through Depression" by Tracy Thompson, "An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness" by Kay Redfield Jamison, and "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp. I find these books fascinating, but like some books on incest, some of them sensationalize or romanticize the subject. There's no need to add anything to such profound experiences as serious mental illness or substance addiction.

Some are just amazing, like "The Liars' Club: A Memoir" by Mary Karr, and "The Glass Castle: A Memoir" by Jeannette Walls. They make you wonder how some children survive their childhoods. I'm reluctant to spend money on this type of memoir, however, unless I can be sure they're reasonably good. In the end, I settled on a book called "After Long Silence", by Helen Fremont, who was raised in the Midwest as a Catholic, and learned in adulthood that her parents were Polish Jews who had narrowly escaped extermination in Nazi Germany. It got 4 out of 5 stars in 63 reviews on Amazon. So we'll see.

I also picked up a book called "DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences" by Rick Strassman, M.D. DMT is dimethyltriptamine (if I remember correctly), an endogenous psychedelic compound similar or identical to those in ayahuasca, peyote, etc. Strassman does not, however, dismiss the genuine spiritual, transcendent nature of such things as out-of-body experiences, mystical states, near-death experiences simply because they can be tied to--"explained by"--a chemical. He feels that such experiences are a eye to things we can't perceive with ordinary sensation and perception. I'm finding his discussion very interesting, and beginning to think that an experience with a psychedelic drug, or entheogen, as some call them, may be something I'd like to have before I die.

I'll keep you posted.

Three Eyes: a digital ACEO

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Collaborative Effort

One of the eBay groups I belong to is called Independent Writers Artists & Musicians (IWAM). As you might imagine, it's mostly visual artists, since many fewer writers and musicians have anything that's actually hawkable on an auction site, or in a store of any type.
The site moderator was trying to think of ways to encourage more participation by writers and musicians, and I came up with an idea of writing a haiku and asking if anyone would like to illustrate it. Here's my fluffy haiku:

It is time to draw
the battle lines; I fear the
cats have declared war.
An artist who calls herself Faethe responded, and agreed to give it a whirl. She sent me a copy of the final product, which you see here, and which she'll put up on eBay. When I created the haiku, I was thinking of the cats declaring war on us; I love her interpretation, though. Do a search on her stuff on eBay sometime. It's really good.

COUNTENANCE: a digital collage

Friday, August 04, 2006

Okay. I'll stop after this one.

You Are 60% Weird
You're so weird, you think you're *totally* normal. Right? But you wig out even the biggest of circus freaks!
How Weird Are You?

The toilet paper rolls are cute, don't you think? You know, as is usual, it was very easy to tell which answers would increase your weirdness quotient, and which would decrease it. Many of the "non-weird" answers I gave are very different from what they used to be. I've learned how to behave in public, and to get along with all kinds of people (though most of them think I'm somewhat weird), because in the long run it makes it easier for me to do so. The inner extreme weirdness, however, cannot be stamped out.

Only 84%? I'm hurt.

You Are 84% Open Minded
You are so open minded that your brain may have fallen out! Well, not really. But you may be confused on where you stand. You don't have a judgmental bone in your body, and you're very accepting. You enjoy the best of every life philosophy, even if you sometimes contradict yourself.
How Open Minded Are You?

Thought upon awakening...

I have not done a tenth of what I could have done for my fellow human beings.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Little Collage: "Being...blooming...becoming"

Remember me?

Wow! It's been over a month since I posted last. It's been a busy month, and one full of struggles.

My son had an unpleasant encounter with a "counselor" at Lebanon Pines, the long-term rehab facility he had been paroled to. Adam was pushing his limits, as he is wont to do, and the counselor decided to make it a power struggle. She lost her temper and told him to get out. He did.

This actually happened just before I left on my vacation to Provincetown--I just haven't had the heart to write about it yet. In the past six weeks, Adam has managed to get involved with some sort of "spiritual", cultish group, which made him mumble more or less incoherent things about true freedom and drink a lot. Somewhere in there he also shot heroin. Then he entered the detox program at Natchaug in Mansfield, and left rather earlier than he should have. Several days later, he regretted doing that, so he got himself committed to the psych section of Natchaug, on a 15-day "PEC" (physician's emergency certificate). He resisted the urge to ask for a probate hearing so he could get out before the 15 days were up, but then they let him go, saying his insurance (SAGA, CT's "general assistance" or welfare) wouldn't pay for him to stay any longer. The last time I talked to him, he was depressed and angry. Apparently something happened between him and his girlfriend. And so it goes.

I try not to let this stuff make me want to swallow rat poison, but sometimes it's hard.

The other thing that happened is that my CT/PET scan results seem to indicate that there's clearly an area of active cancer in my sternum. Both my oncologist and the radiologist think that perhaps I never really was in remission--that the "intense uptake" they've seen on the last three scans has always been cancer, rather than healing bone, as they initially thought. The good news is that the CT part of the scan indicates that the area hasn't grown at all in the past year.

And that is good news...but the whole thing was a shock, and then I was pretty bummed out for several days. I'm back to feeling like I have to hurry, hurry, hurry, to get everything done I hope to do before I die. It's like the goddamn sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

But I don't mean to whine. I know I'm lucky that the treatment is holding the cancer in check. Dr. Schauer, my oncologist, spoke to the radiologist about possible radiation to the sternum, but they agreed that since the cancer's stable, there's no good reason to subject me to a treatment that would almost surely damage my heart and lungs, since they're right behind the malignant area. So at this point my treatment isn't going to change at all.

Well, that's the update. I'm going to upload some of the art I've been doing over the past month, and then start writing my cute/acerbic/philosophical/chatty posts again. So if you've managed to slog all the way through this post, take heart; we'll soon be back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A little game

Another one of those things where you fill out info then tag someone. I rather like them. They're a fun way to learn a bit more about yourself and others.

I AM: proud of the things I've done this year
I WANT: to be the best person I can be
I WISH: I didn't have cancer
I HATE: stupidity (and by that, I don't mean the words or actions of people who don't score well on IQ tests)
I MISS: my mother
I HEAR: songs all around me, and in my head
I WONDER: if the world will ever come together
I REGRET: screwing up so badly with my kids
I AM NOT: someone who wastes a lot of time beating around the bush
I DANCE: when others are standing still
I SING: when I'm happy, sad, scared, angry, connecting with the earth, or in need
I CRY: not enough, anymore
I AM NOT ALWAYS: self-disciplined
I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: art, magic wands, herb salves, kitties happy
I WRITE: poetry that I sometimes feel good about
I CONFUSE: anger with sadness with fear
I NEED: to take better care of myself
I SHOULD: stop "shoulding" myself, and just do what I need to do
I START: each day over many times, in little moments
I FINISH: then try to let go
I TAG: Carrie Czerwinski

There. Now, wasn't that boring?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Death and Taxes and Planetary Suicide

It seems pretty clear that the planet is getting warmer.

My question is, why don't Americans care?

You might think they're just stupid, to insist there's no proof. There's no 'proof' that gravity is real either, but that doesn't make me want to jump off the Arrigoni Bridge. You'll get no argument from me that Americans are stupid, but this has little to do with native intelligence or the lack thereof. They simply don't want to face the fact that they may need to sacrifice any of their luxuries for the sake of something--anything--else.

There are other reasons too, of course. Americans are aggressively stupid. And they are proud of it. We know about Ph.D.s, right? "Piled higher and deeper." American anti-intellectualism runs deep. We prefer to be stupid. We don't need anyone with book smarts telling us that if we don't start behaving differently, our great-grandchildren won't have water to drink, and will have to wear gas masks for a trip to Cumberland Farms.

And then there's war. War allows us to be Patriotic. Patriotism is an easy, feel-good emotion. Who can resist that lovely rush when our troops gather for the last time before they board that plane to the desert? Anything that feels that good just has to be right. And it's downright treason if you question why we're sending young people off to their deaths.

We force our politicians to be shortsighted or risk being out of a job. Little Johnny goes off to college next year! How dare you raise my taxes! He'll need a good job to afford drinkable water and the latest fashion in gas masks. And when his expensive home on the Greenwich shore is flooded, it'll cost a mint to move inland. Those people who raise taxes--those (sputter, sputter) liberals--get those guys out of office!!

I have a theory about why Americans don't want to sacrifice to save the only planet we have. It may sound farfetched, but I think the fear of death is at the root of it all. Ram Dass, who turned out not to be such a silly fellow after all, said, "Death is not an outrage". And yet we are outraged, as if the universe owes us something different from the fate that befalls all the 'inferior' creatures like plants and animals. After all, God made us "a little lower than the angels", and crowned us with glory and honor. He gave us dominion over all those creatures. We're demigods, really, and we ought to be able to live forever.

We are angry. We deserve more, don't we? The children will deal with the problems we leave, just as we dealt with what our parents and grandparents left us. With the amazing technological advances that are sure to come, they'll probably be living in paradise.

So we grab, and grab, and grab. I'm guilty too. I probably have only a few years left to live, and I sure as hell don't want to spend it without the means to enjoy life. And yet...

I feel responsible. Damn, damn, damn. No likely reward, either, if my suspicions about an afterlife are true. But I feel a part of a spirit of life, that has flowed through our DNA and our breath and blood and bones since the first protein bubble formed in the primordial soup. I can only be who I am, giving of myself to that flow. To stop would be hell. It's not about me, it's about life. It's about my beloved Mother Earth.

Consciousness isn't all it's cracked up to be. Damn, damn, damn.



SEA: a fat postcard

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Scrub pines, and sand dunes, and sea--oh, my!

Shopping in Provincetown

Back, and back, and back

It's been such a long time since I've written anything! I have new news (John and I just got back from five days in Provincetown); moderately new news (my son left his rehab place after getting pissed off at a "counselor"); and old news (I keep meaning to write about seeing my childhood friend Pat for the first time in about 20 years).

Not to mention the fact that I'm going back to work tomorrow!

But I'll start with a couple of pictures from the trip. The first, as you can see, is John and me (with my new haircut) at the Cape Cod Light in North Truro, just south of PTown. The beach there is beautiful, maybe even more so than the PTown beaches. Of course I brought home a bunch of rocks, each of which seems miraculous to me. I'll incorporate them into my various little shrines and garden spots.

More pics coming--Blogger doesn't like it when I try to put too many of them in one post.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reality checks

Today was my Herceptin infusion. Reality always breaks through on those days.

There are days when people can ask how things are going--am I still doing well (they know I'm in remission)--and I'll sort of draw a blank--what are they talking about? Of course I'm still 'NED' (no evidence of disease). What do they expect?

There are days when I wake up in the morning and it doesn't immediately occur to me that I have an incurable illness. I might not think about it all day. Reading the breast cancer list ( tends to bring it all back, and I've started to check in there only about twice a week. The bcmets list is out of the question.

Having a port (click here if you don't know what that is: is a constant reminder, mainly because mine tends to itch, and both it and the line that goes from it into my jugular vein are visible bumps in the skin. It'll be there until I die.

I keep trying to live in the present, and most of the time I succeed. Like most people, I have now--today--but unlike most, I don't have a future. When someone talks about what they're going to do when they retire, or how they're saving up for a trip to Europe in five years, I think I'll probably be dead. That can be depressing.

But--better news! I saw my son for the first time in a couple of years this weekend. He was paroled last month, on the condition that he spend a significant amount of time in a rehab. He's at a place called Lebanon Pines, which has a brook running through it, nice grounds and woods around it. It's clear he's forgiven me. I don't pretend to understand how he can do that so readily, but it's a sweetness that's always been part of him, down below and behind the rage, cynicism, self-destructiveness and other parts of his personality that have seemed to define him the last few years. It's also clear he's trying very hard to change. He may make it after all.

He sang several songs he's written. My daughter and his girlfriend, who were both there, seemed to have heard them before, but I hadn't. He is truly an amazing lyricist. He and his sister sang a couple of duets, as well. It was so wonderful to hear her sing again...if I ever wonder if maybe it was my bias that made me think she was so good, all I have to do is hear her again. She has the warmest voice I've ever heard.

They are bright, good kids. If I could have one wish, it would be that they would turn out happy, productive people. I love them both.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Moby (no relation)

Okay. I'm here today to do my part.

I've been asked by (I'm not claiming special consideration, I think they asked a lot of people) to post the link to a little instructional video about internet neutrality. It seems Congress would like to destroy it, just as they've allowed the independence of other media to be destroyed. PoliticsTV did a little video about it:

It's sort of cute, even if you don't know who Moby is, as I didn't. After I watched it I signed the petition, and moved on (ha ha!). I'm hoping you'll do the same.

I've been somewhat detached from myself for the past couple of weeks, so forgive me if I haven't spilled my guts all over you lately. It'll happen soon enough.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Writers and writing

I really like blogging.
I was never able to journal. I couldn't communicate if I wasn't talking to anybody.
I think I'm a good communicator, which to my way of thinking is close to synonymous with being a good writer. In "Little Women", Jo was told, by her father, I think, "Write as you speak". That's the best advice anyone has ever given on writing.
Good writing has little to do with grammar, though it does have to do with diction (choice of words and their use), and syntax (the patterning of words and phrases). Conscious and deliberate use of bad grammar can be a very effective writing device: for example, "I ain't never done it, and I sure ain't startin' now", as opposed to, "I've never done it, and I'm sure not starting now". The latter is rather flat. The first packs some punch.
I really didn't start this entry intending to give a lecture, but as long as I'm into it, I can't help adding a bit more. Here's a pet peeve: the idea some people have that the bigger the words they use, the better the writing. I had a boss once who had a sort of inferiority complex. He was the manager of a school system's buildings and grounds department, and I was his administrative assistant (glorified secretary). One morning I had been dealing with a crisis involving a roof leak that had led to a classroom ceiling falling down in a few spots. When the boss came into the office, I told him about the situation. By then the poor long-suffering maintenance guys were there, waiting to be told what to do, and to find out what they should tell the school's principal. My boss considered the situation for a few seconds, and told the guys, "We will effect repairs in as expeditious a manner as possible", or something like that. I said, "Brian, do you mean we'll fix it as fast as we can?" Anglo-Saxon is almost always preferable to Latin, when you're trying to keep the other person's attention, especially if your Latinate verbiage sounds as silly and phony as it did here.
And now I intend to contradict myself, which is my privilege. While I will always maintain that so-called "correct" grammar is not an integral part of good writing, I think that in order to deviate from that grammar effectively, unless you are a true 'naif' and writing guilelessly in your own dialect, you need to learn the standard grammar first. This is similar to learning the four-bar phrase (not necessarily in an academic setting, just hearing and understanding it) before you play jazz. Otherwise, you won't have control of the language you're using.

And now I degenerate into a "kids today" type rant, except that I don't think it's the kids' fault...why do so many young people graduate from high school thinking the plural in English is formed by adding "apostrophe s"? Why do they think that "it's" is the neuter possessive? Why do they think that it's always more high-class to use the word "whom" than "who" in any sentence? (As in "I welcome any one whom wishes to participate.") I can only think they're not being taught right. So they leave high school unable either to function in a world that expects a reasonable degree of literacy, or to communicate.
There are lots of writing sites on the net. Here's one:
Now, the writer of this page, which leads to her blog, may well have been abused as she says she was. If all goes as she hopes (and she survives the libel or slander suit her adoptive mother would be foolish not to bring against her), she will have her childhood adoption annulled and be adopted by neighbors (at age 35). She is writing a book about child abuse, about which she notes:

Please help me to help others deal with the issues of child abuse...
You are more than welcome to peruse my port to see my work!
My book is in progress, and most of it shall come from my port here.
Peruse my port? Perhaps she means browse. The book, she says, "shall" come from the writings on her site. She's been taking writing lessons from Jane Austen, which is great, as long as you know which aspects of Jane's writing to emulate. The use here of the archaic-sounding word "shall" ain't one of 'em.
My, my, I have gone on, have I not? I must say, I do enjoy listening to myself write. I'm lousy at a lot of things, but writing ain't one of 'em! In closing, may I suggest that you visit the website of the 2006 Weblog Awards?
I read the blogs that won last year for best writing, and I think I'm competitive. If you'd like to nominate me or cast a vote for me, I'd be right grateful ma'am...or sir...or Missus or whatever you call yourself (sorry, I've been re-reading "To Kill a Mockingbird"). And I promise I'll try not to bore you to death in my next posting.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Poem: Concertmaster


Gathered around
a central violin
is a multitude
of ways and wages.
One solid, single note--
as if the norm were



--the unison
that brings God down
from his holy hammock
in the skies.
. . .
inevitable as mundane Monday
or Bach
as pure as profane Sunday
could well be.
. . .
The rosin squeaks along the bow
and the hands are tired.
Arthritis creeps upon them daily.

But that long, sweet note
she holds at night in sleeping,
‘til the rough chaos of shifting chairs
comes ‘round again

in the shiftless light
of morning.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Memorial Day, 2006

People do not die in wars
There are blood and lymph
and bones and weeping eyes
and gnashing teeth.
People do not die in wars
there are always mothers, fathers,
children who can't fathom,
wives or husbands,
whispering verbs of love and loss
to empty beds.
People do not die in wars
as heroes, only.
There are moments spent
remembering and seeing,
wishing, begging,
taking one last look
and knowing that they know
as only humans--heart, brain,
gut, and reaching arms--
as only humans can.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

All The Fine Young Men, by Eric Bogle & John Munro

They told all the fine young men of when this war is over
There will be peace and the peace will last forever
In Flanders Field, at Lone Pine and Bersheeba
For king and country, for honour and duty
The young men fought and cursed and wept and died
They told all the fine young men of when this war is over
In your country's grateful heart we will cherish you forever
At Tobruk and Alamein, at Bhuna and Kokoda
Like their fathers before, in a world mad with war
The young men fought and cursed and wept and died
For many of those fine young men all the wars are over
They have found peace, it's the peace that lasts forever
When the call comes again they will not answer
They're just forgotten bones lying far from their homes
As forgotten as the cause for which they died
Ah young men, can you see now why they lied. sung by Dolores Keane

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Poem: Prayer in April


Simple meets my skin, and
Mother Earth my satin belly.
Lie with Gaia, lady in waiting,
feel the fetal fits and starts
in the fecund dirt below
the slowly greening grasses.

In my pale and withered phase
take my straight and solid temper;
let me feel that pure impulse to thrive,
in breast and bones, veins, ligaments, lymph courses,
thoughts and songs, and bitter cleansing tears.


Another poem: ENOCH

Black Enoch
is a mountain
troubling to be moved.
His ragged clothes are
priestly vestments--
heavy burden
and reproach
to the keepers
of the world's coffers.
Questions in the air
approach and settle 'round him
like a thick night fog
that will not move
until a cataclysm--
bolt lightning
or a sudden wrongful death
or clear wild cry
from miles of dark despair--
shatters the still air,
so new winds can blow.
He could be blind,
or deaf, or dumb.
It doesn't matter.
His sad and patient eyes
are a beacon
to lost souls among us
who keep watch
for such a light.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Outside of the box

This is my new assemblage piece, called "Getting Out". It came out exactly as I wanted it to.

Inside the diamond

I've never had the kind of life that allowed innocent enjoyment.

I carry a number of pieces of baggage with me, including my childhood poverty, the "white trash" syndrome; sexual victimization; the "fat child" syndrome; and the various roles I learned to play in my family of origin, including sickness, flakiness, helplessness, neediness, and invisibility. The stories are boring; you've read them all before. No doubt, if you keep reading this blog, you'll read them again. I won't be able to keep myself from talking about them forever.

Anyway, having two children who are heroin addicts who won't speak to me, and having been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer which will kill me sooner or later, I have a hard time with much of American culture.

Including baseball games.

I never thought I'd be interested in sports, but I have been following the UConn Huskies basketball teams. Basketball, especially on the college level, requires teamwork and smarts. Not to mention finely tuned athletic bodies.

Baseball, on the other hand, allows beer bellies, and requires excellence in one or two skills. The most important of these seems to be spitting.

Baseball players, in case you haven't noticed, practice a form of spitting that can only be described as "projectile". This projectile spitting happens much more frequently than a play in the game. Sometimes I think if they run out of saliva, they must be shooting out gray matter.

Watch them sometime. Most of them manage to shoot the spit out at a ninety degree angle from their mouths. I find myself wondering if they are all required to practice this, and/or if they have small openings drilled in their front teeth by some unsavory dentist.

This is a secret, folks. The elephant in the living room. The only picture I've been able to find of this projectile spitting thing is from 1997. It involved some guy named Roberto Alomar, who played for the Orioles, spitting in the umpire's face. He was suspended for five days.

I did find one discussion on this phenomenon. If you're interested--it also shows the picture of the uncouth baseball player in the act of spitting--you can go here:

And as Rocky the Squirrel says, now for something you'll really like--at least I hope--I'll load my new assemblage piece in the next post.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


The room where I have my treatments is one of several that line an outside wall at the Gray Cancer Center. Each room has four to six recliners where patients sit while poisons of various types are infused into their veins.

(Well, that's a little dramatic. My treatment isn't a poison; the nurses don't even have to worry about it splashing on them. May it continue to work!)

The outside wall is mostly a big window to a very small courtyard. This wall is continuous with the walls of the private clinic where I used to get treated before I went onto Medicaid. The private patients' courtyard contains a beautiful iron sculpture of birds and vines, and a feeder that's patronized by many different species and varieties of birds, including finches, sparrows, cardinals, nuthatches, and, on the ground, mourning doves and pigeons. Where I sit now, there's no bird feeder--hence, no birds.

There are pretty plantings, though, of tulips just now shedding their petals, bright azaleas in red and mauve, and other flowers I can't yet identify. Behind them is a Japanese maple with lacy leaves, bowing to the ground.

The purpose of these plantings is to keep us attached to life, even those of us who are trying to separate. My nurse has the same goal in mind when she talks gaily to the gaunt, jaundiced man in the chair next to me, or the little old lady who has just been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I think she's scared. I still can't help being irritated, though. I want to tell her to shut up.

I may be going back to work. That's an act of living, even more so than building my Artemis garden or doing my art. I'll be doing some part-time hours in the same job I retired from, since Cathleen, who replaced me, has requested that her hours be reduced. I think I'm looking forward to it; I'm definitely glad that my Medicaid spenddown (sort of a copay that the recipient must spend before coverage kicks in) will be going away. I just have to be careful not to make so much money that I lose my Social Security Disability.

Much of the time, even when I'm actively taking part in the sweet, mundane things of ordinary life, I feel detached. It's as if I'm standing to the side, watching myself live. I can't stop doing this. I just try to forgive (and forget) myself and move on. And forgive others, who aren't living so self-consciously--the people with a future.

I am grateful, though, and grateful I'm grateful.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Last ATC: Gaia Weeps

She doesn't look exactly as I picture Gaia, but hey, I'm working on it.

I do like these ladies with leafy hair. If I ever go bald from chemo again, I think I'd like a wig made of leaves. Leaf goddess wannabe.

Another Earth Goddess ATC

One ATC (Artist Trading Card) for a Swap

Here's one of the cards I've done for a swap I'm taking part in, on the PaganATC group at Yahoo. The swap title is Great Earth Mother Goddess.

Tomorrow I'll try to get the other two up. Plus I might post some actual WORDS in this thing. What a concept, huh? Good night.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Leaf Goddess

Mother's Day

Today I spent some time surfing blogs, as I often do. A link on one random site led me to PostSecret: I've been there before, but today I found some Mother's Day comments that made me think.

Some postcards are from mothers who were admitting, possibly for the first time, that they don't like being mothers. Some are from children who are saying, out loud, that they love their mothers, and some from kids who are saying they don't. One card said, "I buy funny cards so I don't have to lie and say I love her". So what's the feeling that keeps you sending the cards?

Mother's Day is right up there among my least favorite days of the year, the others being the day my first baby died (at one day old), the day my mother died, and the day my ex-husband and I dropped off our then-seven-year-old son at the first of many institutions he was to live in. Come to think of it, the day I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer isn't one of my favorites, either.

My son, Adam, just got out of jail. I can only hope he finds a way to stay out. I hope his sister has sense enough not to feed and water his anger and blame for his parents. I have doubts.

Here's an old poem, written ten years ago.
Harkness Beach, 1996
I am mother-of-pearl among
gull-shattered, blue-black shells
around me.
Spiders sprint, dissolve beneath
the underside of stones.
I have no ear to hear
nor fear
to harm them;
I, lonely woman
seeking clues in these, the tinyest, empty homes.
I gaze into a mussel shell
no larger than a grain of rice.
Each fragile sheath once housed a life
not so different
from the cells
my womb once held.
The many-colored whelks and curious snails,
false angel wing and delicate pelican's foot--
each held a piece
too common, and now gone
to the greedy urge
of the sea.
Perhaps it is that same cold tidal fee
that pulls my sons and daughters
far from me.
Down on all fours--
panning for gold jingles
and learning how to see--
I fear the quick false move
when pink or bright mauve, glimpsed too late,
is swept forever from this quiet scene.
A dog approaches,
retreats in happy foolishness to see
I am a human thing.
This is a yearly pilgrimage.
This spring I take
dozens of perfect, salt-clean
whelks and colus,
of seed-soul bereft
and with them
moon-white fragments of the mother-of-pearl
the busy gulls have left.
Perhaps in some far time
when I am changed
(and joined to life-blood of the still impenitent sea)
some aging, shell-shocked child
will visit me.