Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recuperation/Recovery # 5, including A Celebration Breakfast

Background to this post:

I woke up this morning at 5:06.  I had slept since something after three.  For me this was a good stretch of sleep.  I didn’t turn on CNN, or CBCNW, or CTVNC and actually wondered about putting my head back down to sleep some more; after all, I had already watched the stiff little marionette figure of Paul Ryan address the predominantly blond female and mostly pudgy and nondescript male inhabitants of/participants in the 3-day RNC infomercial and listened to the commentaries of the insipid Piers Morgan with his assortment of beer drinkers at the CNN Grill as they analysed Ryan’s lies (like accusing Obama of closing the Janesville GM plant when it  was actually the Bush-monkey who did), his half-truths, empty platitudes, and assorted pandering to whatever the party strategists figured was needed last night.

I decided to snuggle down, and let my own mind and body decide whether more sleep was the answer.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I had things on my mind and that I could do some more sleeping later before E. came over for EFT so I sat up, slid my feet into my sandals, noted the brightening bluish light to the east, collected the debris from my 3 a.m. snack, and headed downstairs to prepare a new picnic for this new morning, the second last day of August, with its touch of summer’s end in the air.

Before I ate anything I thought of the deck of cards in a drawer and played a game of Patience on the dining room table.  The game was taught to me by my grandmother and I played it in her memory (she died in 1970 the same week Lorraine and I were married, during the October Crisis), and in memory of her daughter, my mother, who died on August 27 of last year (see RECUPERATION #3).  If you understand the game at all, you will recognize that I had one move left to make (in column 2), but after that the game was finished, four diamonds up.  Then I was free to eat.

It is now 6:43.  The sun has risen and illuminated our bedroom, shining on my Egyptian fabric piece and Lorraine’s Tunisian desert photo, and on the chakra garden that has been with me more than two months now.

Actually it is now 2:22 p.m. ADT, an auspicious sounding time, and I have just woken up, after a morning when  I have eaten some, slept some, drunk some, and been treated to a celebration breakfast (see Recuperation #6, not yet written, on the amazing and immediate effects of vemurafenib, a new drug for treatment of metastatic melanoma  like mine, produced by Roche and provided/sold as Zelboraf).
I have just looked at my sitemeter, which reads 482 visits this month (you are reading a non-viral blog here!), noted that our son JE was one of two visitors to the site today, read Fareed and Saleha’s kind e-mail from Kabul, signed on to an Avaaz petition, and photographed a message of love from my 5-year old granddaughter. 

And now it’s time to get to the post:

RECUPERATION #5 – Remembering who you are:

I believe it is important to remember who you are and to understand the continuity of self from as far back as you can trace it to the present moment in order to be more present in the world, whether it is the recuperative journey I am travelling in/on at the present or any other activity/focus/perceptual awareness I am engaged in (if I am starting to sound prescriptive or tendentious or proselytizing here, please forgive – or, at the least, humour – me for the moment).

In my EFT session with E. this morning, she finished the session with” “Backward visualize to a time when you were at optimum health, and bring that forward to now.”  I did what she suggested, going back to a summer 30 years ago when she was just three, and felt a stream of energy move through my body from my feet to my head, and it was a good thing.

I have not been reading a lot on this journey (other than Al Jazeera online and The New Yorker), but I have been exploring over the last few days some areas of my bookshelf for some treasures from my past and present that help remind me who I am and have been. 

Although the list is long, I’ll try to keep the entries precise, and please remember that these entries are descriptive of my recuperation/recovery process and not prescriptive – you don’t actually have to look at any of them.

Here’s the list:

THE LINES OF MY HAND by Robert Frank (1989) – look in the section “IN NOVA SCOTIA Canada” for “words”, “for my daughter Andrea who died…”, “POUR LA FILLE” on the following page, “sick of goodby’s”, “4AM MAKE LOVE TO ME   4AM MAKE LOVE TO ME”, and “HOSPITAL” that includes this message: “THE WIND WILL BLOW THE FIRE OF PAIN ACROSS EVERYONE IN TIME”.  Go there if you like.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED by Anne Carson (1998), another great novel, this one in verse.

UNDER THE ICE by Alden Nowlan (1961), inscribed in blue marker, “For my son, Johnnie, with love Alden Nowlan”, and I wonder where is Johnnie now and think of Frank’s works about Andrea (mentioned above) and any works he made about his son Pablo (both of Frank's children were young when they died).  I also remember finding the section in the Dalhousie University stacks in 1964 where Nowlan’s books were lined up and I remember living inside them for days.  This book is from my late father’s collection and I do wonder if he bought it with me in mind.

DANCE OF THE HAPPY SHADES by Alice Munro (1968), a wonderful bunch of very short novels.

PLAINWATER by Anne Carson (2000), a gift of poetry and prose given to me by my old friend Udo (a small prescriptive note: read “Water Margins: An Essay on Swimming by My Brother – pp. 245-260 – before reading NOX).

NOX by Anne Carson (2010), a book of loss housed in a box.

THE COLOUR OF THE TIMES: THE COLLECTED POEMS OF RAYMOND SOUSTER by Raymond Souster (1964) found down the stacks shelf from Nowlan, another place to live for a few days.

THE POETICS OF THE NEW AMERICAN POETRY, edited by Donald Allen& Warren Tallman (1973).  A companion piece to the one above.  It was edited by Warren, who was on my thesis committee and who organized a memorial service at UBC for Charles Olson at which I wrote a short poem involving the moon that night, the constellation Orion, and The Aspy Fault which is a connecting earth line between northern Cape Breton and Gloucester and read as part of the service.  I never met Olson.

HIS IDEA by Robert Creeley, photographs by Elsa Dorfman (publication date is shown as 2 March 1973, my 28th birthday), includes the following: 

"Note read re
letter of Lawrence’s

to Mrs. Aldous/Huxley? That
films are obscene

if when the young
man and woman come home,

they masturbate one by one.

Not so --
if they make love.”  

I did meet Creeley.

LETTERS FROM THE SAVAGE MIND by Patrick Lane, “a loon/without wings/wanting to fly/recording letters/from the savage mind”, “This book is for Red Lane/The/Carnival/Man” (1966).

And there are two additional books not included in the image:

FIRST VOICE by J. E. Field (1991), with the following dedication:
It also included a longer personal inscription in blue ballpoint.

THE COMPLETE POEMS: 1927 – 1979 by Elizabeth Bishop (1995) with “At the Fish Houses” (pp. 64-66), “Cape Breton” (pp.67-68), “First Death in Nova Scotia” (pp. 125-126), and “The Moose (for Grace Bulmer Bowers)” (pp. 169-173), as well, of course, as “One Art” (p. 178).


Friday, August 17, 2012

RECUPERATION #4 -- Guardians

When I became ill in Calgary the night after we arrived in June to begin our working vacation with family there, it was Lorraine, my dearest love and closest guardian, who drove me to Emergency, got me into a wheelchair, negotiated the necessary reception information, and had the presence of mind to say to the examining physician that my haemoglobin had dropped over the past couple of years.  I never would have thought of that – all I knew was the acute pain in my abdomen – and we would likely have waited quite a bit longer before they got me on a gurney for the CT scan that determined where that pain was coming from so that the experts could fix it.

From that early morning situation in Foothills Medical Centre Emergency until this evening, nine and a half weeks later, when the same guardian whispered in my ear that I should wake up because my brother was coming over to play crib, she has been there always, from the very beginning,  my number one, my love, my nurse, my angel.

And she hasn’t been the only one.  Our kids, our adult children, who came to Calgary because I was ill and formed a protective web around me, were also my fierce close guardians and remain so even if they cannot always be sitting at my bedside or rowing the boat with me or holding my hand on the couch as we reminisce.  Their sweet songs and jokes and reminders about pills and smoothies and EFT sessions and the love in their eyes has consistently sustained me (and helped me to laugh at myself in this illness dilemma!).

I have tried to describe to others the close and close-knit layer my family created so immediately and so easily out there in Calgary and how they held me, this small presence in the hospital bed who was often not very sure where this all was going, together when I needed to be held together.  I haven’t spent a long time thinking about what might have happened in the absence of their presence, but I do know that I would have felt lost and wandered much longer.

I could write much more here, talking about the rest of the guardians – one of them could well have been you – who have asked how I'm doing, brought comfort and stories, stuck needles in me, said whatever words they find to say in moments of great doubt and worry, made me laugh, sent me messages, made food for me, helped take care of my family guardians (especially Lorraine, the number one caregiver/guardian in this picture), launched my boat, planted a garden for us, and just showed how greatly you care.

You are my guardians and I do owe you!

Big time!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

RECUPERATION #3 – Belief in Magic

Here I am on a Sunday in Nova Scotia beginning to write a blog post on magic and the belief in it as part of a recovery/recuperation process for serious diseases. 

Yesterday was a good summer Saturday for Halifax, sunny skies, occasional cloud, high of almost 30, and only a light breeze off the cool ocean, a good day for a swim, so we headed for Chocolate Lake.  All three of our children were there, along with our three granddaughters (aged 4 to 7) and two daughters-in-law.  All this was magical enough for me as I came down the steep roadway on Lorraine’s arm to the beach area and set up my folding chair in a bit of shade.  I felt like an old crock (I was an old crock!) among all of the beach-loungers and the splashers and swimmers, but I was at the beach in my suit, possibly going to have my first swim of this season.

I made it, this skinny old guy being helped into the water by his son and daughter and even got in before she did  and got to splash her as she continued to hesitate.  What I didn’t expect, however, was how hard it was to swim.  For one thing, my flotation was gone, and for another my skinny arms couldn’t move me fast, but swim I did for a couple of metres.  Next time we go, Lorraine said, we’ll bring a pfd.  Great, I thought, that’s how I learned to swim about 60 years ago (only they were called lifejackets then). 

So where’s that belief in magic?  All I’ve written so far, I think, concerns mainly physics and physiology.

Actually I didn’t particularly believe in magic myself until yesterday afternoon after the swim when we went to my mother’s grave at St. Phillip’s in Purcell’s Cove (she died at 90 last August 27).  This was the girls’ first visit to the grave and they brought special rocks, including one from California, and sea glass they had collected in Purcell’s Cove to place on the stone.  Then they gathered flowers to arrange as well.

When it was all arranged and photographed, I asked if anyone there had ever found a four-leaf clover, and E., the 5-year old said, You mean like this? and picked one from the grass right next to the grave.  

It was perfect.  Several of the adults said they’d never seen one before.  Now that was magic!  It was a wholly magic time.

And then tonight, just as we drove down into Purcell’s Cove, an osprey hit the water right next to the car and lifted off with a fish.  If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

So #3 on the list of recuperative strategies (they are in random order) is a belief in magic.  I’m a believer!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RECUPERATION #2 -- Yesterday, Monday, was a busy day, and I cried several times.

The first was early in the morning.  I had watched CNN late on Sunday when Anderson Cooper  interviewed a British reporter who was inside the Free Syria Army about the battle for Aleppo (“the mother of all battles” according to Bashar and/or Maher, the last and perhaps the craziest of the coldblooded al Assad killers still clinging to power).  The news for what seems like aeons has been declaring that  the FSA could never win against the huge armaments of the Syrian military, yet here they were, not being massacred as so many had been predicting.  The account of that reporter of the spirit of the FSA as they defeated a heavily armed military outpost in Anadan, plus reading the insightful and hopeful account of the battle, Tarek Barshawi’s “Victory for a Free Syria”, moved me.

Watching the TV report and reading the Al Jazeera analysis/opinion piece did affect me deeply Sunday night, but what actually made me cry was trying to tell my drowsy beloved as she struggled from early Monday morning sleep this good news, this something we could try to hold onto after being immersed in Syria’s conflict of cruelty and possible hope for over seventeen months now.  So I cried for Syria (tears of hope and heartbreak and outrage) as I told her.

Later in the day, after unsuccessfully looking for live crabs under the draped seaweed of Cleveland Beach while family was delighted to be on the sand and in the sun swimming out in the waves (a first for our Ontario granddaughter), Lorraine and I were explaining things about my recent illness to an intelligent, sympathetic, and knowledgeable young naturopath.  I started to tell him that one of my other doctors had said I was doing really well.  Saying so made me cry.  Don’t know why exactly -- I mean it was good news -- but it did.  I cried as I started to tell him and my Lorraine filled in the details while I snuffled in his office.

Even later in the day (early evening), I opened an e-mail from one of the smartest, dearest,  most capable young people I know  Her name translated into English means "emotion", which is one part of what I love about her.  She wrote from Türkiye of her struggle to find words to write to me (she had recently had word of my illness). 

Here’s part of what she wrote:

I can only hope that you are doing better now. I'd read somewhere that in Greek mythology, when people wanted to make wishes, they'd offer a lock of their hair to the gods. I don't know how true that is but I've buried a lock of my hair in the Artemis temple for you. I don't think health is her forte, but she is supposed to watch over young women and since I am one, it seemed only appropriate to give it a try.  

The Artemis I know best is the giant broken statue at Claros near Ephesus and she’s a tower of strength. So it doesn’t matter what Artemis’ actual forte is -- just having my powerful young friend bring the power of Artemis into this picture makes me cry again, even as I reread her message this early Tuesday morning.

So.  Crying yesterday.

I’ve told you of three significant times in one day.  There were more as you might expect – it was a day that included tears.  Of love, of distance, of closeness, of hope and of healing, of joy. 

A day like that has to be a good day and good cries like that have to be part of the recuperation/recovery process I have lately embarked on!