The Wild Hunt

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I have to be up for work in 4 hours. It’s not enough sleep. So I’m going to write.

Today was chemotherapy again. Again. I just ignore it as best as I can. Sometimes it’s easy.

Today was not one of the easy days though.

I accept this. This, too, shall pass. I learned I must be patient and not look at the Wild Hunt as it nears. Close my eyes and ignore the glamour. The true meaning of glamour. The inability to look away, the hypnosis of terror. You can’t stop your ears from hearing or your senses from purling in fear, washing up like filthy foam squeezed out of your atavistic old brain.You will deny this truth. That there is a Wild Hunt.

It is in me.

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The Wild Hunt. It’s an old legend, who knows where it came from. Ireland Scotland France Germany, there are versions of it everywhere. The hunt of the faerie Queen with her court of young men. With sharpened teeth and screams for blood, they roam on wild nights, seeking who knows what. Sometimes, finding a weak person, alone and ill, they will steal you away.

One can hear the hoofbeats of the drunken horses and the shrieks of laughter and sexual ecstasy. The Wild Hunt…I was wondering last week, during a long drenching rain, late at night….I wondered. If I heard them.

The ground was warm. It’s been so hot here. Brutal for we Pacific Northwesters. 80+ degrees…no wind. Still and hot. For days on end. Then wildfires…always the wildfires in the mountains. We all look up at the sky and pray that the rain will make it over the mountains to the east and put out the fires.

This time the rain came. Our collective prayers were answered. It was late at night. It had been building up and building up…all day you could feel the dampness, a breathe that was warm and wet, gentle. Not even enough to stir your hair. But as darkness fell the clouds coalesced and dispersed, came together and faded away. The moon was huge and it lit the clouds. You could hear ‘sheeeeeee’. The sound of the big trees. But to me it sounded like ‘Sidhe’. That’s how you pronounce it. At least the very few times I heard it. Sidhe.

Faerie.

I went into the field beside the house, feverish maybe. I couldn’t get cool enough in my bedroom. The wind was coming from the wrong direction, exactly the wrong direction. I could feel it if I leant out the window but I wanted to have that cool wind rush through me. Cool me off. Brush me clean. And then I heard the rain coming. It’s so lovely. That sound. When it’s been so hot and you hear it heading towards you…you would have ran out too.

I didn’t put on my slippers. I couldn’t find them in the dark of my room and I thought I would just step out onto the verandah. Just feel the wind and rain. Just for a moment…

…and when the rain came, it was warm. Soft. Just some drops. Big and warm. They made a sound as they hit and splashed up. I wanted to be in the field. On the grass. The ground itself was like a heating pad, the grass was warm, the dirt soaked up the first drops like an open mouth. And so did I.

It felt so good.

I only was few drops, a gust and then the moon went out like a snuffed candle and the rain crashed down. A wonderful hard summer rain. I think I screamed and laughed. It felt so good.

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Then I heard a sound like drumming hooves. It was the rain hitting the ground. Of course it was. The scream was an echo of my own shriek, that echo of desperate joy, that seeking scream that made me want to run. No where. Just run. Find it. That thing. FIND IT!! There was something there. I needed to find it.

But the first step I took reminded me that I don’t run these days. I stepped on a stone. A pebble…something. It brought it all crashing back onto my shoulders. I was sick. I have neuropathy in my feet. It was exquisite pain.

And the hoofbeats seemed real now. I couldn’t run with them or away from them. I didn’t even know if I was scared. I just stood there with my eyes closed. I waited.

I wanted to turn around and see the Wild Hunt stream down the field from the forest behind the house. I wanted to see the silver horse and the Queen, with her feral sharp teeth, her inhuman eyes, glittering and see her mouth, opened in a howl of ecstasy and rage. To be the object of the Hunt.

To feel the glamour.

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But what if I turned and it wasn’t there? I preferred not to turn around. I stopped on the steps. I want to believe that the drumming was the hoofbeats of the Queen’s Court, that the sound I heard in the wind whipped trees, ‘sheeeeeee’ was actually ‘Sidhe’. That’s what I wanted to believe.

Because I have a portacath. It’s all too real. It’s a long, flexible, slender type of needle, for lack of a better word, that goes into the vein near my heart. There is a slit opening in the skin of my chest near the top of my right breast and the port loops up over my collarbone and disappears behind it, slipping down into the big vein.

I have an infection in the portacath. Which leads to my heart. They can’t wash it out or open it and clean it or touch it even. They don’t want anything to go into that vein so close to my heart. They just want the antibiotics to work. Antibiotics when I have a suppressed immune system. Hah…They won’t risk the infection taking hold, they can’t stop the chemo right now…so now I have to be so careful. So so careful.

All these drugs, they make me feel sick. They make me restless and nauseous. Exhausted and thirsty, dry as a desert stone. Empty feeling. Unfocussed. Unmotivated and uninspired.

Ugly.

But I heard the Wild Hunt and I turned away. It was beautiful.

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Pull The Other One…

You ever had one of those ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me’ days?

One of those days that begin to snowball into a couple of days…and then a week?

One of those weeks where nearing the end of it you can’t do anything but laugh or scream or jump off the ferry? Not that it would do any good. They train for that kind of thing on our ferry system.

I am having a week of incredible bad luck, and at this point I’m wondering if this isn’t proof that there is a God and He has a really strange sense of humor. I mean how can things go SO consistently wrong unless someone up there is waiting to see if I crack? Just waiting to see if I can still be grateful and pray with thanks for the lovely wonderful things that have happened to me in the past. Can I be grateful? Can I retain my sunny outlook? Or will I suddenly start laughing and not be able to stop?

This week, if it could go wrong, it did. With fireworks and bells and whistles.

I had a simple cleaning at the dentist. Easy peasy…no problem. Except no one told the hygienist that. She decided that I was getting the SUPER deluxe UNDER your gums cleaning. The kind of thing one normally leaves to a trained periodontist. Yes. She was about 20 yrs old. Maybe.

She stuck me with about 4 needles of numbing agent-all in the wrong spots and far too quickly. My left side of my face was numb to the eyeballs and she managed to numb out my nose and then wash extra novocaine or whatever it was DOWN MY THROAT so that was scarily numb. Then she hosed a bit more into my sinus cavity attempting to wash out whatever bit was left from NOT GOING INTO MY GUMS!

That’s when she got to work. With something that sounded like a drill, and pointy implements that she stuck under my gums until they bled. Then she suctioned out the extra water/saliva with a freezing cold blast of air on my sensitive teeth, followed by icy water. At this point I was pedaling an invisible bicycle gripping the arms of the reclined chair with a mouthful of implements and going “MPffmmmHH!!!!”
‘Do you need more numbing?’
‘I don’t know…I’ve never been in so much pain during a cleaning. That novocaine isn’t having much effect.’ (But it sounded like ‘I Oh mo yat movopain irt habin ush uhfuc.’)
‘Oh, you have sensitive teeth…hold on.’
And she stuck more novocaine into my mouth. Now my entire face is numb, my tongue is numb and I’m scared of her. She has the prettiest eyes and she looks SO sweet…but she’s an alien. She has no empathy. I begin to see her eyes are cold, I think at one point they were glowing.
It was exquisite pain, the kind that you think you can overcome and are reminded second by second that you can’t. But you do. I did. I sat there and sat there until it was over. Finally. One hour and 45 minutes of this.

When I got out to my car I sat there drying my weeping eyes and looking at myself in the rear view mirror and wondering what the HELL JUST HAPPENED!!! Why didn’t I STOP her?! Can you believe it? I’m an idiot.

Then there was the surgery I had to have, the nurse put the IV into the wrong arm, then forgot to draw blood…chemotherapy didn’t go well, I got bad news…you know what….I’m not even going into it. Suffice to say THAT day at the dentist started the whole ball of wax to melt and ruin day after day. After day.

I don’t know why. This is day 8 of late ferries, gasoline spills, bad waiters, strange customers, a guest, a good friend, that came days early-before my surgery- they were supposed to come for a two day visit, today, the 3rd, NOT on the 1st!!, do you know how awkward that was?

‘Oh…you’re on your way NOW? Really, you’ll be here in two hours? No no, that’s fine…’

Shit…they forgot about my hospital visit and I came home sick as hell and unable to do anything but lie in bed. The two days turned into a week and their little dog ate my teeth last night.

Read that over again. I had to. I have to wear a plate to replace missing teeth , don’t ask how this happened, it was a series of unfortunate events among many more and the result is that my teeth, my FRONT teeth are chewed up in pieces and I have July 4th, dances, bbq’s, guests and no front teeth.

My life….

…. and I can only laugh.

Tonight is July 3rd. It’s the Winslow Street Dance. I’ve GOT to go. Something’s gotta give, am I right? I’ll have a great time, I’ll dance to Michael Jackson-they ALWAYS play Michael Jackson- and I’ll finally remember all the moves to Thriller or someone will toss off a firework and it will land on my head and set my hair on fire. I could just stay home and hope for the best.

But that’s never any fun, is it?

Happy Fourth of July to all of you out there that celebrate. Lift one nice cold one up for me and hope that this is the mighty hump and that I’m over it!
Plain sailing, clear skies and NO LITTLE DOGS!!!!

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Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time there was a girl. Nothing she did was forced upon her. She had choices. Fun. Love. Happiness. Then it all began to crumble around her and because she had no experience of the horrible things that life could throw at her she was flummoxed. She tried to find answers to questions like ‘Why would a man who said he loves you, hit you?’ But there was no answer and so she left him. She floundered and made things up. She wouldn’t tell anyone the truth about her life. She said ‘It’s okay. I got this.’ She said it a lot even when she didn’t. She’d smile the whole time. People liked her.

Even when she’d go to her torn up, cheap, falling down rental house with a tarp on the roof. She would smile all the way up the driveway and up the back porch stairs, because someone tore the front stairs off years ago and there was no front door. She’d smile her way into the house and then sit on her sprung sofa, with the sharp edged linoleum floor that never got clean, and she’d cry and cry and cry. Because she didn’t have this. She didn’t know who to ask and for what. She would cry and take bathes. Sit on the back porch and look over the fence and hope no one came to disturb her because she was tired of smiling.

Then she left. One day she packed one suitcase, loaded her 3 cats into the front of her 1985 Dodge pick up truck, and she left everything she owned behind. It was time to start a new life. Start off with nothing again. She had nothing, now she had nothing again.

And for 6 months it was wonderful. She got a job she liked. She found a tiny 450 sq ft house in the driveway of a mansion. A gate house. It had a porch and was surrounded by pine trees. She painted it green and raspberry and hung up curtains.

Then there was an accident. It killed the best man she’d ever known. It almost killed her sister. It tore up her family and it tore a gaping hole through her shiny new life.

She went back to the town and arranged his funeral. It was the hardest thing she’d ever done. No one was there to help. He had family, he had hundreds of friends but everyone was so shocked that they were immobile. And the sister was going crazy. She wouldn’t talk. She wouldn’t answer questions. Her brothers and her mother and her sister were all there but no one talked to her. Every day for 5 days she would get up and start doing things that needed to be done. It’s not easy to bury a man.

The girl had sat beside his coffin in the funeral home alone, waiting. For something. For someone to come. But no one did. She handed them the clothes she’d brought to dress him in. The ones she remembered he liked. His favorite hat, his shorts, his tee shirt. She wondered if that was right. She remembered him teaching her to fish in the river wearing that very pair of shorts and hat and that tee shirt. They left her there and she sat for a long time and finally she said good by to him and she told him she would take care of his wife and she left.

She drove to a lake and watched the clouds in the water. Then she got up and smiled. Yes, it was time. She arranged payments for the services and made notices and drove around putting them up in his home town. It was up the valley a ways. She put the notices on telephone poles and in bars and grocery stores, smiling when she thought someone was looking at her. She was trying not to cry.

When there was nothing left to do she sat in the parking lot of the funeral home and waited for them to bring him out in the urn she’d found at a store. It wasn’t a real urn. It was a Chinese vase. And she’d found a lid made of ceramic that they could glue on top. There wasn’t much money and she didn’t know how to get any more. So she waited. It was in a parking a lot across the street from a Circle K quick mart. She just sat for hours watching people go in and out. And finally they gave him to her.

And as she drove home, back to the town that was once her home, with his urn on the front seat beside her, it was still warm. And she talked to him. All that long drive home she talked to him. And when she got to the sisters house she got hit and punched and screamed at because the sister couldn’t handle her grief and there she was with her husband in a jar. She had to leave at midnight in her truck and go park in the dark on a dirt road and try to think of a reason not to just drive over the edge.

And when the funeral was over, and there were so many shocked and grieving people, the Mom decided there was no chance for grief or goodbyes. Not for her. She didn’t see her sister or her brothers again. The Mom and her, they left early in the morning the next day when it was still gray and dim. It was time to leave. Immediately.

And so she swallowed it all down again, all the grief and sorrow and terror and she drove and drove back to the place she was living and she went into her raspberry and green house and she realized that the second half of her life was going to be about crying. Eventually she brought her sister and her niece away from that little town and got a bigger house and they lived together. She knew there were things that were going to be taken away from her. She needed to work more to pay the bills. To support her family. She needed to be careful. There was no time for travel or vacation or writing or painting. No. All the time, loss was the new lesson she was learning. It was going to be rammed down her throat. She would accept loss. Small losses, big ones, didn’t matter, things would be taken from her. It didn’t matter if it was dignity or pride, it was going to be taken. She lost her beautiful niece. She cried and when she stopped, she would smile and smile.

It wasn’t enough.

She started bleeding one day and it didn’t stop. She lay down on the bathroom floor and looked at the beautiful, cool linoleum and she was dying. She didn’t call out for help. She didn’t do anything. She lay there bleeding.

And her dog found her and got her sister to come and there was chaos. The new life she was making for her widowed sister, the nice clean rental house they’d found, the excitement of moving in, even that had fallen apart. It was gone.

She had stage 4 ovarian cancer and it was all through her. There was surgery and radiation and chemotherapy and she got sicker and sicker. Then her dog died. Then her cat died. Then the other cat died. It was all too much.

She smiled in the face of all this shit storm because that was the only thing she knew how to do. She is still smiling. She was smiling when they told her it had come back. She was smiling when they told her there was more surgery and new drugs. She is still smiling. There is no difference between smiling and not smiling.

I just lean out the window and look at the field. I’m so terribly tired. I’m not sorry about anything. Not anymore. I feel empty. I am hollow.

Now, I am in chemotherapy again. I am on new drugs. They are terrible things, these drugs. They make me feel as if I have the flu, while suffering the worst hangover I’ve ever had and I tried to fix it with a few grams of cocaine.

And my boss talked to me about smiling. She wants me to smile. She said I needed to be nicer to the customers at work. Two days after chemotherapy, after all this news, she told me to smile.

Really.

Once upon a time there was a girl and she used up all her good times when she was young…and in the end there was nothing left to do but smile.

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The Good Ol’ Hockey Game

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It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As a Canadian I feel as if I should care more. As if I have an obligation to care about hockey. After all, it’s OUR sport. Or so all Canadians are meant to feel. Me? I’ve never followed hockey.

Except if a team I liked was in the playoffs. And I was working in a bar. And scheduled to work that game. Then I watched hockey. Between orders. Later in life, I’d watch hockey if there was a party. I love party food. Usually no one even noticed that I pretty much stayed near the snack table and drank all the tequila. Once in awhile I’d ask someone a surreptitious question that I thought wouldn’t highlight my complete ignorance too much. Like “Are you allowed to kick it in?” And they would give me a startled glance.

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(But not this year because the Montreal Canadiens are out. Again)

Still, every year I dutifully turn on the Playoffs and sit there wondering what the hell is happening. My friends know. My family knows. They think I know too. I don’t disabuse them of the notion that I’m following the game. All I’m actually doing is eating snacks and yelling when they do. I’m a social animal after all.

“And Bonjourman passes to Bougre. He flips it to Haprabeau who sends it over to Wathernaksh who skips it into the neutral zone. There’s an icing call and everyone gets a piece of cake and some tea.”

No. Apparently not.

Neutral zone…I perked up for a second. I know what the neutral zone is…it’s where the Klingon’s are not supposed to be but always are.

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But no. Apparently not. No sign of Klingons or Romulans. Not even Gorns.

Anyway, I sat watching in bemusement. As usual there is a lot of passing, fast skating, crashing into each other. Some fighting, some gloves torn off, some very deliberate shoving into the side wall. Which is called a ‘board’. And shoving is called ‘checking’. So checking into the board is…whatever. A foul? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. I can’t tell what the criteria for a foul is. Someone loses a helmet. Another one breaks his stick. Lots of talk about blue lines, neutral zones…it’s all happening so fast I really can’t believe someone hasn’t lost an eye. Just from sheer speed. Or getting kicked in the face with a skate.

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There’s some talk about a crease. I perk up again. I know what a crease is. It’s that thing on the side of my face in the morning when I have to get up too early.

No. Apparently not.

I shout ‘Kick it in!’ and everyone looks at me for a second. I eat some cake. It seemed like a good idea to me, kicking it in.

Apparently not.

I go in the kitchen and have some cheese and stack up some plates, lick the icing off from around the edge of the cake plate. Wander back into the living room. The BlackHawks score. This is a bad thing.

I get blamed for it. Somehow. I sit for awhile and then see a kitty walking by. Must pet kitty. I take kitty to another room and try and get him to sit on a fuzzy green blanket. He usually loves that blanket but he gets all cactusy and pointy and sproingy so I let him up.

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(Now he has to wash everything ALL over!)

I return to the room. The BlackHawks score again. I get some dirty looks…it’s decided that every time I leave the room and come back the Black Hawks score.

I eat some pineapple and yell ‘Kick it in!’ trying to get into the spirit of the game. It certainly seems easier that flailing around in front of the net with a stick.

After awhile I realize something is happening. There must be. It’s a big world. So I get up and go in my room and look out the window. I love doing that.

I hear a massive groan from the living room and come back in. There’s a commotion in front of the net. The Black Hawks score. Again. The living room is silent 5 pairs of eyes staring at me. (I’m counting the dog-he was also giving me a look) They ask each other if anyone saw me leave. They ask me to sit down and not move. So I do.

Then I realize I have to pee. It’s a tie game. Kings 3 Black Hawks 3. I sneak out thinking I can be back before they know I’m gone. I come back in the room and the Black Hawks score.

And they win.

What the hell? They should be grateful. They get to watch game 7 tomorrow.

Why Do You Write?

What am I working on?

I’m wrapping up (HA ha…sigh) a novel right now. I started it on Nov 3rd during NaNoWriMo. I didn’t write 50,000 words in 30 days. I wrote +75,000.
I’m not bragging. It completely got away from me. It was like being dragged backwards through a hedge by a Great Dane.

I didn’t have it planned out at all.

A summary. “A successful woman writing a torchy historical romance trilogy grows to hate her characters and kills them in the final book. Not everyone is happy with that decision.”

Now the blissful early days of me saying ‘Ooh, a writing contest. That sounds like fun…’ are behind me. And I’m paying for it. Turns out I know how to use the language but I don’t know how to write. There’s something, there must be something, that makes this easier to keep track of, right?

I have to get the ending right. I’ve gotten everyone just where I want them. (It’s like herding cats) The denouement is at hand! But…but…wait a sec. I have another idea. I’d have to re-write whole chapters, sure I would, and introduce another character and it could use some editing, of course. But it could be done! It WILL be done.

Right now, I could end it in 5 pages. Why don’t I just end it? I don’t know….

SO…I decided to put it aside to percolate. Right now I am working on a young adult novel on behalf of my tween niece who is fascinated with all things magical.

It’s very fun to write it but I am not making the same mistake twice. Oh no…not THIS time. I’m going to plot this thing. I’m going to have a list of characters and NO ONE is going to come wandering in and screw up my nice neat plot line. Unless…unless it’s a really great character. And the plot calls for some action. But only then…

How Does My Writing Differ?

This is an easy question for me.

My writing doesn’t differ.

There are a million other writers who struggle everyday to put what gives them joy into whatever language they speak best. Whether it’s a cookbook or a mystery novel or a blog, I’m not different. I struggle to find the sweet spot. I grapple with the intricacies of the english language and walk around swearing and staring out the window and drinking too much. Sometimes I pretend I have a cigarette. God, I miss smoking.

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I’m not Tolstoy. I’m not Austen or Cather or Faulkner or Pynchon. I’m not Thomas Hardy or Henry Fielding or Salman Rushdie. No. Because I’m not destined for greatness. The hand of God (or whichever deity you prefer) has not reached down and touched me with genius.

My writing is sometimes about how much the same we are. I write about love, joy, heartache, fear, sickness and the mundanity of the day to day. The stultifying frustration of routine.

Those things, unfortunately, I know about.

So, like millions of other writers, I escape. I do just what I shouldn’t do. I write about what I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to experience magic first hand. Unless you’re talking about the guy doing card tricks on the Amtrak to Portland OR. I couldn’t tell you how to behave if you come upon a body in a locked room. Personally, I’d immediately feel as if I were guilty of something. If a tall, dark, handsome stranger gave me a penetrating stare, I’d look over my shoulder to see who was behind me.

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So I pretend. I pretend there’s a special place somewhere here on Earth that magic happens.

And I’m there to see it unfold.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I write what I do because…ha. I just sat there for 15 minutes staring out the window. It’s a good question.

ummm…it’s the only way I can experience magic.

The horrid, boring blender that life dishes out can be slightly mitigated when I write. I know that because other writers have taken me out of my scary, nasty, real cancer life and transported me places I’ve never imagined.

I want to DO THAT. I want to forget this day. I want to pretend I’m well, and young and beautiful.This isn’t MY life, this one with illness and poverty and exhaustion. Fuck it. I want to write the joke that makes you laugh out loud on the subway car. I want to dress beautifully and fall into the rooftop pool and be rescued by a millionaire.

I didn’t know I could write until I started this blog. And at the risk of sounding falsely modest, I can’t really really write. Not like my heroes. On the other hand, I got a bit of a late start. I didn’t try writing until I got sick. I know there ARE a few tricks I wouldn’t mind having up my sleeve. But in a nutshell?

I write to make magic real. To make love real. To make adventure real.

It’s a fantasy. But it’s real to me.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

If there is any method to this madness-or what authors and experienced writers call process- it has escaped me. I believe you need to know what you’re doing to have a process. If I had a process maybe I would be calmer, clearer, more able to look people in the eye without thinking ‘YOU look like the kind of person who squirts whipped cream in the ear of a total stranger.’

And I think that look worries some of those who don’t know me well.

I think of it as a Divine Lightening Bolt from somewhere out in the ether ( I picture this guy).

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He occasionally reaches down and fries my circuits. I can’t think of anything but my characters. ‘How did they end up like this? How do I get her out of the raging, storm tossed ocean? Really, Laura?! Someone threw a rock? Seriously? Who fired that shot? Jesus! Everyone STOP IT!’ They fight and argue and quibble and refuse to DO WHAT I WANT! What kind of process is that? I used to think writers who said that were jerks. So, I’m a jerk.

My goal for the new year is to learn a process. It sounds like heaven. No more waking up at 3am and thinking ‘hmmm…if she ran through the woods in a southwesterly direction she’d end up at the cabins. She could HIDE there until….”
and so on.

Please God. Give me a process. And I’m not talking about my hair so don’t get any fancy ideas!

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This interesting process was begun by the lovely Kate at MaisonBentley. She included in me in this Blog Hop and in return I would LOVE to hear what Nate over at Corvidae in the Fields has to say about his writing.

Since there must be two on this Blog Hop-and I can’t resist….I have to send this Andra Watkins way. She’s published a fantastic novel recently called ‘To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriweather Lewis” and she walked 444 miles of the Natchez Trace by herself and is probably busy working on her new novel. But I would love to hear what Andra over at The Accidental Cootchie Mama┬áhas to say about her writing.

What a girl wants and what a girl needs…

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and thought over what needs to be said to myself. Because that’s what this is, a note to self. So I don’t forget why I’m doing this.

Because I’m back in chemotherapy, starting next week. And surgery again to put the port back in.

Yeah, it came roaring back, that bad ol’ bitch. Just as I thought ‘Spring…time for planting.’ ‘Summer. It won’t be like last summer. I’ll walk everywhere, maybe get a little color in my face and go back to work full time.’ and, worst of all, ‘In the Fall, I’ll take a train trip to New Orleans. See New York City and D.C. Visit some Civil War sites and pay my respects.’

That’s what I thought was going to happen.

Then the numbers jumped up a lot in March. We tried oral cancer treatment. It had no effect and the numbers jumped to the 1000’s…so I go back into the chair. Back to the 8th floor. Back to sun sensitivity, exhaustion and neuropathy and side effects like losing my hair.

I can’t work enough to not be desperately poor. I can’t walk very far. I’m tired. Not physically as much as mentally. I sit and look out the window at the grass and birds and I can’t imagine ever feeling well enough to want…to want more. I want BIG things. I want travel and parties and dinners out and road trips and friends sitting around drinking and talking…I WANT my life back.

I want to WANT to go to karaoke sing and make people laugh. I want to WANT to go to Seattle and roam around the amazing brew pubs and fantastic restaurants. I want to WANT to go out dancing in high heels, drink cocktails, and look up surprised to find out it’s closing time. I just want those things to seem enticing again.

Instead, I lean out the window and listen to birds. I watch the sun pass overhead and I lie in bed and get my head straight. I don’t want any of those things. Not those big things. Not really. I just want to be clear. To be very clear. I need to accept this.

All the plans I made…they’re still there. I can do them. Just not this summer.

I am ready for this. It took a while to get there mentally. I spent the last couple of months wondering what I had in my life that made this fight important. Not just to forestall the grief of my family. Why am I fighting? Me?

Seriously. You think of these things.

Is it worth it? What do I have to live for? How long do I have? What if I’m dying? Have I done everything I can, everything I want to do?

It’s not a question of self pity. Far from it. These are questions you ask so when it gets bad you know why you’re doing it. You need to be very, very clear as to why you’re fighting so hard. You can pull these hopes and dreams of the future out of the back of your mind and shine them up. Look them over. I already know why I’m doing this. Now I know.

Because some things are worth living for that are small and manageable.

Things like a small, clear stream tumbling over rocks.

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It’s cool in the shade and it sounds beautiful. That’s my sketch pad there.

The smell of coffee, a chestnut tree in full bloom, train whistles, and dog smiles.

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cat nudges, cold mountain lakes with clouds reflected in the water, lilacs.

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Chet Baker, a new book that catches you right away, fresh oysters and cold dry rose wine.

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Patios and umbrellas. Grass under my feet, peaches, the sound of a motorcycle roaring past, an open winding road with the ocean crashing nearby, sweet peas…there are so many things.

I needed to accept that I’m not getting better. Not yet, anyway. I needed to find the things around me that replace the big things. So, I’ll take it.

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Today, I started with a cat nudge.

Joy

Okay…it’s been a tough few weeks.

I thought I had this cancer on the run and it turned out I didn’t. I got some bad news and it threw me. Threw me bad. Like a mean horse, it threw me and stomped me and there aren’t any rodeo clowns here.

I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to get on that horse and ride it out. Again. And there isn’t an 8 second rule here. It’s more like a 8 hour rule. I try to get through 8 hours. I try to work as if I’m not on cancer drugs. I try to work for 8 hours as if I’m not sick and tired and exhausted. I get through that 8 hours and then I set myself up to get through the next 8, and the 8 after that.

I try to sleep, eat, work and feel joy. Joy is why we live, isn’t it? Joy is my guardian angel. So I’ve spent the past weeks searching for sources of joy.

My source has shrunk down to small rivulets. Small doses of joy. You have to concentrate when you don’t have a river flowing past you. The river narrows to a small, incredibly clear stream. Only the tiniest, most lovely little nuances can slip through the clog, the blockage. Violets. An orange cat sleeping in the sun. A great book. A fine glass of wine. Sunshine. Misty rain. Ferries in a foggy morning. They don’t last. Joy doesn’t.

Short. Small. Reduced. No expectations.

Small doses. Life reduced to small. I’ll take it. And the intervening hours? I pretend.

2 minutes of a flower with a dew drop that is holding a rainbow. 15 seconds of the smell of turned earth. 8 minutes of silence and fog. 1/2 hour of a warm cat sleeping on my lap. I’ll take it.

I’m not happy. I’m not.

Did I mention that a mink got into the hen house? A couple weeks ago, when I could least deal with it, a mink, of all the damned things you could think of, guard against, a mink got in the henhouse. It killed 5 chickens. My pets. My little darling chickens. Joni, Elvis, oh never mind who it was, they got their heads torn off. It was bloody and horrible. Their sad, yellow feet sticking out of the towel before we buried them. My sister saw the mink. She didn’t even know what she was looking at. It was IN the henhouse when the door was opened. I had to go on line and look at pictures until we saw what it was. And even then I didn’t believe it. Mink?! Here?! Apparently we have mink here. And they can get though chicken wire.

So now it can’t. We framed the entire house in hardware cloth and dug it down. Now every night we can hear it trying to get in. So far so good. We have a live trap. Baited. Haven’t caught it yet. A mink. For god’s sake, I’m going to wear that mink someday.

And today…my drugs make me feel awful. I don’t want to write about it. I was thinking “What the hell, how long will it go on…how long can I do this?” and my uncle showed up with 3 watches. A Cartier Tank, a Phillipe Patak and a Tag Heaur (I can’t spell it, it’s a good watch though) Carrera. For me and Mom and Liza. Because time is so lovely and precious.

He didn’t know I am back in treatment. He just thought a $3000 watch would cheer me up, I guess. It was so out of left field. He has money but it isn’t like we’re close. Auntie Shirley, Dad’s sister, died, last year when I was in the hospital. He has come to visit and he bought $10,000 worth of watches. I’ve never owned anything so expensive. And guess what?

It cheered me up.

I have a nice watch. I took the Cartier Tank.

We bought 6 new baby chickens.

I made moussaka and souvlaki. I drank fine wine.

Joy.

Maybe I will start writing again.

Maybe I can get though more than 8 hours without clenching my fists, shutting my eyes and enduring.

Maybe I’ll plan a trip to Greece. Take some time to look at the chance of joy in my life up coming. Plant some flowers.

Joy.