23 November 2015

Road trip

 That's why I love road trips, dude. It's like doing something without actually doing anything.
John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

 Recently returned from northern California, I've been looking at the 500 photos taken along the west coast's iconic Highways 1 and 101.  It was a road trip for me because I had no real destination, simply a trip. For John it was perhaps a little different because he was heading someplace.

Yorick tribal lands, Requa, CA,
So it was John's destination paired with a dream-like set of places towards which I steered the car.

Prairie Creek State Park: Redwoods on the Rhododendron Trail
 November is a good time to see the redwoods, so moody and majestic. I couldn't stop photographing them and they deserve their own post.

 This is Elk, CA, north of San Francisco.

 The toll online for our passage on the Golden Gate Bridge: $7.25. Do commuters pay this every day? Maybe they get a deal of some sort.

On cannery row in Monterey the window of our room overlooked crashing waves. The water was crystal clear and every day there were sea otters, pelicans, and cormorants.

Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge
 John's destination: a guitar summit featuring a whole menu of overarching guitar talents. It was a lot of fun for me although I am merely a listener, not a player.

I was just along for the ride, but what a visual treat this trip was. 

There are another 492 pictures; which ones speak the loudest? Sometimes it's hard to decide and so nothing gets posted, but I think there may be more to share about this trip. Pretty sure.

07 October 2015

Kind of good news

One's brain contains a teeny tiny landlady. She leases rooms, and although you chat with her on a daily basis, she sometimes goes ahead with contracts that you can't control. The head becomes occupied by strange neighbors.

For the last couple of months a lot of my head space has been given over to the likelihood of donating stem cells to my cancerous brother. Despite all odds, our DNA is identical, and he is in the end stages of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood probably caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. I was identified as his best last chance.

So I've been reading up on what a donor might expect, even visiting a helpful doctor last week, at the urging of a friend. There has been a certain amount of tension. I hate needles, but want to do this thing.

My brother called last night, and now the waiting is over. His primary oncologist does not want to give the green flag for such a high-risk transplant, preferring to try a brand new drug that he believes will keep my brother going for another year or two. This is kind of good news.

Oh man. Isn't cancer a bitch? Such a roller coaster. Up and down, up and down. I'm not giving it the time of day anymore. It doesn't even get the back burner from now on. The landlady has evicted it from my head space.

That is, until we deal with it again later. Then I will gather courage and go forth with battalions of healthy blood cells, kicking cancer's ass in my brother's body.

Until then, just carry on. 

Finally, this is a video of a band my husband John plays with, at a recent gig. John is on the left, playing the dobro:

It tells you to love one another
Your sister and your brother
Live right, 'cause you know
That you reap just what you sow

And so to have no regrets
And to find what you're missin'
Bow your head and listen
To this sermonette.

13 August 2015

Down by the bay

"Down by the Bay" is an old children's song popularized by Raffi in the '80's. Remember?

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say:
"Did you ever see a......(fill in the blank with a rhyme...) down by the bay."

We just returned from Netarts bay, Oregon, and here are a few new verses for that old song.

Did you ever see a dune by the light of the moon?

Did you ever see the ocean all in motion?

Did you ever see a bird who had the last word?

Did you ever see a cliff with a rift like this?

Did you ever see a light flash all night?

Did you ever see a path all full of wrath?

Did you ever see an ATV outrun a tsunami?

Did you ever see egrets without any regrets?

Did you ever leave the sand with an empty hand...

...down by the bay.

25 July 2015

How deer sleep


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


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


 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.