25 July 2015

How deer sleep

video

A doe decided to take about a 2 and a half hour nap in front of my trail cam last night. Oh man. Her portrait was taken every time she lifted her head...she slept in one to two minute intervals. Yikes. I have restless nights, but not like that. You never actually see her sleep in this series of shots, but she must've rested her head between each one. It makes me exhausted just watching her. Yawnnnnn, I think I need a nap right nowwwwww...

20 July 2015

Warriors

It has been four long weeks since I sent in the DNA samples, a test to see if I am a perfect match for my brother who is fighting an aggressive cancer, likely brought on by his exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war.

In the meantime I have gone about acting as if everything is normal. I go to my drawing classes on Mondays, yoga 3 times a week, tai chi on Thursdays. I stay in touch with the kids. I manage the over-dry yard and lousy garden. I cook interesting things for myself while my husband is gone to Japan with a class that he leads. I avoid all images of death, harbingers of ill luck. But it's like a radio has been turned on in the back of my brain, and it plays incessantly....noise...noise that I defend myself against.


Then last week in figure drawing class the model who showed up, smiling, was a breast cancer survivor. She was so beautiful. The radio in my head went silent.

I must regress.

My brothers were like the three musketeers, a unit, until Jim (on the left) died in a motorcycle accident. Jon, in the middle, and Jeff on the right, grew up to be drafted into the army. Jon, assigned with the terrible task of driving ammo trucks, signed up for an additional 6 months of duty to prevent his younger brother Jeff from being in the even-worse job of infantryman.  There is a law that says siblings don't have to be in war zones at the same time.

Decades later Jeff pleads with doctors to let him be the donor of stem cells to cure Jon's Agent Orange cancer, but they say he isn't a match. Jeff cannot repay the favor of life. My heart bleeds for him.



But can I?
I carried candles in peace marches. I did not join the army. And I am a female. But I want to take the DNA test anyway.





Sometimes close, sometimes at odds, Jon and I are are a strange twosome in this battle. Our personalities are unlike.



This morning while I was in yoga  a voice message came from Wisconsin. I am a full match for my brother Jon. Sometime in the next 3 months I will give my stem cells to him. A nurse will call me in a week or two.



Today I skipped figure drawing class and stayed home to imagine myself in "warrior two pose," where I feel strongest of all. Invincible, really. I drew myself over and over.




Can you imagine how happy he was when I called to give him the news? He volunteered the information that perfect-match-blood-cells will hunt and kill cancer cells in his body, like soldiers. After all of these years, I too have become a warrior. At long last it is a war that I am prepared to fight.


26 June 2015

Red

 Today is the day for the color red. It is the color of passion and anger, fire and strength, courage and danger, radiance and joy.



But today, most of all, it is the color of blood. At least for me.



Decades ago one of my older brothers drove ammunition trucks for the US army in Vietnam. His extended tour of duty exposed him, probably through drinking water, to chemicals in the defoliant Agent Orange. This carcinogen wreaked havoc on the people of Vietnam. It was indiscriminate, causing terrible cancers to soldiers on all sides of the war.



My brother is in the last stages of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood; his doctors wonder if I am willing to undergo DNA testing to determine suitability as a donor of blood stem cells or bone marrow.




 If I am a 10-to-10 match, my brother has a 25% chance of ridding himself of the cancer that is killing him. If you were a betting man, you wouldn't place money on the two of us.



Never the less I swabbed my cheeks this morning and went to yoga, taking the return envelope along, planning on putting it in the mail after class.




 It is everything that I am, but it may not be enough. The envelope containing all of my most basic information, my DNA, ticked like a time bomb on the seat of the car while I lay in savasana, corpse pose, at the end of class.



It will take about two weeks to determine the status of my DNA. In the meantime there is nothing more to do than to breathe in the expansiveness of summer, to see the earth in full bloom, and to be grateful for the world as it is. We will wait and see what happens: passion and anger, fire and strength, courage and danger, radiance and joy. Life-giving blood. Red.


16 June 2015

Things in the path

We've had a few long trips this spring involving a little rain and a lot of sun, both metaphorically and for real. What's been going on closest to home? The world series of little stuff.


Last week Ed and Reub and I found a turkey egg in the path. I'm pretty sure a predator had chosen it for breakfast, but nobody worries about a shortage of turkeys around here. An egg can be spared for the wandering raccoon, the foraging coyote, the crow above, and maybe the bobcat in the brush.
Score: Predator 1, Turkey 0


Rabbits have destroyed most of the lettuce and all of the peas in the garden, but still. Still they are cute.
Score: Rabbits 10, Myself 0
 

This iridescent beetle was in the path when we took a hike in the Cascades. It could be a wood borer and I don't know if that's good or bad; it might be both.
Score: Wood borer 1, World 1



And this lizard was up there too, sunning itself on an observation deck, pretending to be a mere stick.
Score: Lizard 1, Predator hawk 0



Strange marks in the trail behind the house showed up after the most recent rain: the imprints of wings, etched in the mud when an owl swooped down to catch a rabbit or mouse. I don't know who won or lost in this drama but there was surely a victor of one sort or another.

Score: Unreported and likely still in play



One rainy afternoon on the way to the coast we came upon a herd of elk resting in the downpour. They could have found a more sheltered place, right? It has never occurred to me to go sit out in the rain like that, but sometime during Oregon's wet season maybe I'll give it a try. They may be onto something.
Score: Elk 1, Rain 0


Sea lions napping on the pier are a common sight in Newport, OR
This I get: seeking a dry spot when surrounded by water.
Score: Sea lions 1, Ocean 0




Dryness is relative; it's pouring rain on the sea lions, too. But I bet they feel dry, happy there on the hard rocks in the pouring rain.

Score: Sea lions take all.

18 May 2015

Welcome

What an amazing day. The glass-topped table outside contained hundreds of interesting new inhabitants that you could watch from above. Clusters of teeeeeeny tiiiiny newly hatched spiders on the underside of the glass.


I reached under and touched them. They spread everywhere, with long strands of gossamer streaming behind.  Itsy-bitsy new lives.


They were so small, no larger than a pinhead. I wondered aloud what something that little could eat, and John said they ate very very small sandwiches. I was unable to give a better answer.



 What will they accomplish in their tiny mysterious lives? I don't know, but it is probably more important than you or I could guess. All baby spiders shall live.




In this whole wide world, who else was born on the 18th of May, 2015? In the year of the mountain sheep, 2015, the day that Mt. St. Helens awoke in in 1980, the day that Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was first read in London (1897), the day that Montreal, Canada, was founded in 1642?



Our third grandson, born at home in a little apartment above a garage in New Jersey. Welcome to this world, little beautiful one. We do not yet know your name, but your presence on this planet may be more important than you or I could guess. May you live a long and happy life.



11 May 2015

Rhodie overload

 In the midst of rhododendron season I just ran across an article by a landscaper commenting that rhodies "have been out of style" but are now trending back "in." I was surprised. It was like learning that denim was out but is now back in...I had completely missed the dip.


 I first met up with rhodies while living in Alabama, where I also loved azaleas every spring.



 These are crazy, over-the-top blooms. When did they go out of fashion?



 When we moved to western Oregon I was so happy to see rhodies thriving in the climate here.



 They look like they'd be a lot of trouble, but they are sooo not-fussy. They love the wet winters and do fine in the warm dry summer. They don't seem prone to insects and disease.



 Not having a green thumb, these are plants that will actually grow well in my yard. The deer don't bother them, and one doesn't have to baby them like rose bushes.




I'll take them over roses any day.

06 May 2015

Mother's day

My mother died last month, and now I see "Mother's Day" in front of me, that charming, antiquated day which persists year after year,  a holiday that was nearly rescinded after Anna Jarvis, its originator, protested that it had become too commercial. Still, you should call your mother, maybe send her some flowers. At the very least you should give her some thought.


As I process her death, there is a lot that flits by, both good and bad. In the end I've decided that none of us should be held accountable for our first and last ten years. The garrulousness and intractability of those years, well, that is not who we are, or were, not really.


With my brother Jeff, and flowers in her hair
My mother was a beauty, and none of the rest of us were ever as gorgeous and self-sacrificing as she was for most of her life. I have always been perfectly ok with that.



Me and my grandfather. I am in jeans. But one side got wet.
The memories of her useless one-on-one singing lessons directed at me, or the countless times we struggled over how I should dress...they are funny to me. I could never help being myself, and she always respected that, with a sigh. Hey thanks, mom, I know you were just fine with how I turned out. I still hate most dresses.





Still, I have a weird love for the reality TV show America's Next Top Model, and I always watch Project Runway. My mother looked great in everything she ever wore. How fun would that be? But she never complained about ending up on a rural Wisconsin farm, isolated from everything. That is the single most amazing fact about her.



My mother, age 17, kissing my father.
I miss my mother. And that is all.