December 28th, 2005

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Good Morning!

I continue to wake at 1:30. This time I went back to sleep, though, and now, I am awakened by an amazing downpour. I get up to watch and listen. Wow!! Quite the winter storm, again!!
I have read that the ancestors try and contact us around two  in the morning, and I wonder now if that is what this waking up is, my ancestors trying to explain why all of this is important for me.
I continue to read of new cancer treatments which will eliminate chemo. I appreciate that there is so much research trying to eliminate what all oncologists and people seem to agree is barbaric. I am trying to stay with that this will ultimately allow me to be stronger, as my white blood cells are really getting a work-out.
I again request white and red blood cell count visualization as I will have my blood test on Friday. I am requesting early this week, getting a head start on the whole thing.  I'm beginning to figure this whole thing out.  Plan ahead!   : )

So, this morning, from Pablo Neruda's "Book of Questions" -

    "What is the distance in round meters
       between the sun and the oranges?"

If you have an answer, let me know.     I am still contemplating!!

It seems like it could be no distance, that they are one and the same, or perhaps, a very interesting distance, full of dimension and quivering veins.   Perhaps one-half of a round meter, or the length of a simmering meteor's rain, or a comet's boxcar and cool engine train. 
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Morning Thoughts -

I woke this morning, thinking of the mountain lion I saw one wintery late afternoon. I headed out to the headlands as the sun was beginning to set, and I was circling round as the sun was nearing the ocean, when I looked up and saw a mountain lion sitting erect on the highest spot to watch the sun set.  We both watched, and then, I proceeded along, alone, back to the car.  The feeling of that shared experience has stayed with me these last ten years.  I read of how animals experience awe.  This morning I felt it as connection.  The mountain lion and I, one with the sun, the sea, the land.  There was no danger in that.  We both were full; we were fed.

Jane and I talk this morning.  She suggests this lull between Christmas and New Years is a lullaby.  Isn't that a lovely way to contemplate it?

Here is my poem on the subject of this interval of time, that is so full and so empty, all at the same time. 

accordian time -

the time between Christmas
and the beginning of the new year -
a time expanding in the dark
and rain,
like a slinky folding and unfolding,
flopping, gathering itself together,
and flipping down the stairs -


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Pears Paired!!

Jane wrote this, this morning, and that reminded me of Stanley Kunitz's poem on pears, so we have Jane and Stanley today.   Hopefully, you have a wonderfully, juicy winter pear sitting nearby as you read these two poems, because if you don't, you are going to have to rush out and find one. 


In the nameless
and forgotten time
between the holidays
when the weather no longer
keeps me huddled close
to the hearth
and I must carry on
business as usual
inspite of the rain

it is the pears that continue
to glow with promise -
each one perfectly ripe and
mellow as moons
in their straw basket.

They anoint my breakfast
nestle in the lunch salad
celebrate the evening
in close communion
with the remaining cheese.

They come every year
the pears
unsigned but I suspect
from a friend
who can ill-afford the gift
and yet once they have arrived
there is nothing to do
but eat them with deep gladness.

Ah, that is so beautiful.  I am going to pause, and let this poem have its own posting on the blog.   The scent of pears is overwhelming, ambrosia of the gods and goddesses.    Stanley will be in the next posting.    I don't want to overwhelm with the beauty and scent of pears.  

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the other half of the pair -

Stanley Kunitz:

My Mother's Pears

Plump, green-gold, Worcester's pride,
    transported through autumn skies,
       in a box marked HANDLE WITH CARE

sleep eighteen Bartlett pears,
    hand-picked and polished and packed
       for deposit at my door,

each in its crinkled nest
    with a stub of stem attached
       and a single bright leaf like a flag.

A smaller than usual crop,
    but still enough to share with me,
       as always at harvest time.

Those strangers are my friends
    whose kindness blessed the house
       my mother built at the edge of town

beyond the last trolley-stop
    when the century was young, and she
       proposed, for her children's sake,

to marry again, not knowing how soon
    the windows would grow dark,
       and the velvet drapes come down.

Rubble accumulates in the yard,
    workmen are hammering on the roof,
       I am standing knee-deep in dirt

with a shovel in my hand. 
    Mother has wrapped a kerchief round her head,
       her glasses glint in the sun.

When my sisters appear on the scene,
    gangly and softly tittering,
       she waves them back into the house

to fetch us pails of water,
    and they skip out of our sight
       in their matching middy blouses.

I summon up all my strength
    to set the pear tree in the ground,
       unwinding its burlap shroud.

It is taller than I.  "Make room
    for the roots!" my mother cries,
       "Dig, the hole deeper."

There is something about this poem.  I always want to cry.
It is the mastery of Stanley Kunitz and the poignancy of those pears. 
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offering for today -


Standing at the kitchen stove early in the morning, looking past it through an open window, I feel sleepy, unfocused, fragmented, waiting for the coffee water to boil. An impulse to pray arises in me, but the thought of God remains as vague and unfocused as I feel myself to be at that moment. I am not in the mood for words. A few months ago I was in India, and now, without consciously thinking what to do, I find myself raising my hands in front of my face and putting palms together, the way Indians do in their gesture of respect. Quickly, my emotions change. I become aware of a stir of energy throughout my body. My hands, palms still together, move downward until they are in front of my navel. I feel centered for the first time since arising, and the tree leaves outside the window begin to sparkle. During this little rite, which I have never performed before, no words pass through my consciousness. Theologically, there is either nothing or everything to say about it. Some, including myself, will call it prayer, others not. In any case, it was a short and subtle ritual of transformation.


from The Magic of Ritual
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from Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners -

A Christmas truce, a New Year's prayer
by Jim Wallis

"Silent Night," by Stanley Weintraub, is the story of Christmas Eve 1914 on the World War I battlefield in Flanders. As the German, British, and French troops facing each other were settling in for the night, a young German soldier began to sing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht." Others joined in. When they had finished, the British and French responded with other Christmas carols.

Eventually, the men from both sides left their trenches and met in the middle. They shook hands, exchanged gifts, and shared pictures of their families. Informal soccer games began in what had been "no-man's-land." And a joint service was held to bury the dead of both sides.

The generals, of course, were not pleased with these events. Men who have come to know each other's names and seen each other's families are much less likely to want to kill each other. War seems to require a nameless, faceless enemy.

So, following that magical night the men on both sides spent a few days simply firing aimlessly into the sky. Then the war was back in earnest and continued for three more bloody years. Yet the story of that Christmas Eve lingered - a night when the angels really did sing of peace on earth.

Folksinger John McCutcheon wrote a song about that night in Belgium, titled "Christmas in the Trenches," from the viewpoint of a young British solder. Several poignant verses are:

"The next they sang was "Stille Nacht," "Tis 'Silent Night'," says I.
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky
"There's someone coming towards us!" the front line sentry cried
All sights were fixed on one lone figure coming from their side
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he bravely strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's land
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well
And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell.
We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own
Young Sanders played his squeeze box and they had a violin
This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night

"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"
'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone for evermore."

My prayer for the new year is for a nation and world where people can come out of their trenches and together sing their hopes for peace. We here at Sojourners will carry on that mission, and we invite you to continue on the journey with us.
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Thoughts -

The nurse from my insurance company checks in with me to see how I am doing, and usually, in my stoic way, I say all is fine, considering what I am going through, but today, I decided to say I was having a really hard time, and had actually considered quitting. She was very firm on how important continuation is, on how I have made a good start, and I need to finish it out. I guess if my insurance company doesn't mind the cost, and is paying someone to encourage me to continue, it must be worthwhile. I am trying to work on my attitude today, as I rest my very sore, for no reason that I can understand, feet. She said Christmas is the hardest time, as we are out of our routine, and, the misery of it, somehow seems more obvious. That makes sense, I guess. : )

I read an unusual book, for me, today, the autobiography of the 26 year old Valentino Rossi, possibly the best motorcycle racer racing today. The book is titled "What If I Had Never Tried It." He attributes much of his success to his mechanic Jeremy and it seems that may well be so. The attitude of Valentino and Jeremy seems, ironically enough, like what is needed to carry me through chemo. Somehow, getting through a motorcycle race and chemo seem to have similar components - attitude, vision, support of the team.

So, I am gearing up for my blood test on Friday, and my chemo treatment on Tuesday. Valentino's number is 46, and he has all sorts of superstitious rituals and such. I have my treasures that I take with me, my angel, my "Protect This Woman" shield, and my special shawl. Maybe I need a number. I think the only number that makes sense is ONE! I choose number one, and will figure out a way to have a "one" somehow emblazoned on my being. I will prepare as carefully as Rossi for a motorcycle race, or as carefully as Jerry Rice prepared for a football game. I see it is the same. Challenge Ho!! Only five more to go!!