February 23rd, 2006

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Good Morning!!

I am WELL!!!   Hip Hip Hooray!!  

Here are my morning poems.

Such a Day!

What a morning!
A crescent moon beamed,
yes, beamed, in the sky.
Just that, enough excitement for all of my days.
We see what we are trained by our environment to see.
Native forest people when taken out of the forest
can’t see the hill or the plain.
They see blues and greens differently.
Could you find 30 words for snow?
Could each of us describe our dreams,
our morning coffee,
the way the spoon leans,
from air to liquid,
and stirs in cream?



Sometimes, The Moon Is Made of Green Cheese

The sun just touched a section
of the needles of the redwood tree,
striking a new green,
never before seen.

Never before
has the sun touched the tree in just this way,
and it won’t happen again.

My eyes take in this new green.
My brain registers.
It is bright,
like the morning moon,

Now I see why the moon
was thought to be made
of green cheese.

“Say cheese,” said the moon
to the tree,
and the tree
reflected back green,
and the smile of the cheese.

The moon,
wiggled its nose,
both enchanted and dismayed,
at a curious new smell,
inflating and coloring its cheeks,
now vibrant in reflecting the sheen,
from the smile,
of a tree,
saying cheese.



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Jane's Poem of the Day!!

It was a sunny day.

I wore a pinafore and waited by the locust tree.

You said to wait there.

Or the sky was overcast but warm.

My dress was blue gingham, smocked along the bodice.

I couldn¹t find you, so I left.

A teacher found me.

No, I walked home.

That night you laughed at me.

Or maybe you just said

"I told you to meet me after school."

I know the trees had called to me through the window.

Red leaves falling like airmen from the sky.
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Memory -

Today, when Jane spoke of her poem, she said she was trying to remember her first day of first grade. The memory is tangled. She believes her older brother by fourteen months, was to bring her home. They were extremely close. She, however, got caught up in the beckoning of the trees.

When I commented on the last line of her poem, she said the memories of World War II were still in their neighborhood play. Bombs over Tokyo, and such.

We had lamented the day before that children today don't have those neighborhood gatherings. I said we played Tag, Captain May I, and Red Light, Green Light. I remembered only innocent play, but, then, I remembered one day, the neighbor boy, Billy Beckman, tied me to a tree. I was captured. He was going to scalp me.

My much younger brother saw this from afar, and picked up a rake, and came running. The Knights of the Round Table have nothing on him. He attacked the much older Billy Beckman with the rake. In his eyes, I was in danger, and, in fact, I was tied to a tree, and Billy Beckman was a bit of an unknown. He was a very serious guy. Who knows?

Anyway, my memory is that Billy Beckman went to the hospital after having his scalp opened by a rake.

I sit with that now. My brother, like you, has been incredible support for me through this, but I had forgotten his heroic rescue of me that day. I kept that full head of hair, until now, but I must admit I am coming to appreciate that I have quite a finely shaped head and a healthy looking scalp. I am glad my brother saved it for me that day.
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Meeting Difficulty!

In the book "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" by Terry Ryan is an inspiring woman who manages joy, though much of her life is spent in an iron lung.

A friend of mine has recently learned that her very good, long-time friend has ALS. A mutual friend sent her the following email as a way to comfort her. She wants to remain anonymous, but here are her words. I thought they were inspiring for us all.

Her words:

I guess I never told you about the most influential person in my life that taught me the true lesson of "living" and "dying". I was in S. California in 1973, totally distraught because I had not found "Place" as I had intuited it. So I ended up substitute teaching, bidding my time til I could get the hell out of there. I didn't really want to be a classroon teacher again and DEFINITELY NOT in S. California where my whole professional life had begun. So my second assignment was in a 4th-5th combo class of a teacher who was mysteriously ill (she had
literally fallen off her chair one day while reading to the kids). She was one of those exceptinally gifted teachers and her kids loved her; what an act to try to sub for! But I thought it would just be a week or so...(this was early January.)
In those days ALS was still not an easy diagnosis at all; so her tests went on and on...and I remained subbing...her kids missed her a lot. One day she came to me after school and told me that she had been diagnosed with ALS...and what that meant. Only I and her family knew at this point. She would
not be returning to the classroom... We discussed how to communicate this to the students. By this time Nancy was already using a cane. Anyway, we decided that she would come to the classroom, we'd have our circle, and she would share her diagnosis and it's prognosis with them. The kids were great. This became a lesson on illness, supportive love, living, compassion, talking about death and dying.
Of course we kept in contact with Nancy via letters, student made cards, etc. I took a field trip or two to nursing homes and had the kids interact with the residents. I can't recall for sure, but I think Nancy may have come back to visit at least once. Nancy's family treated her very realistically... such as wheeling her into baseball games and her teen age son's school activities, to the Hollywood Bowl and concerts in the Los Angeles Chandler Pavilion, etc etc. They gave her a life...
Nancy was interested in journaling the progress of her illness...She lost her ability to write after awhile so her husband, an engineer type, created a photovoltaic cell on a headband..for after awhile the only part of her body she could control were the muscles on her forehead and a little neck movement..She would focus the light of the cell on the keys of the typewriter her husband had rigged up on a over-the-bed stand in front of her and she typed her messages, her journal, recipes for ALS patients, etc.
I would send Nancy audio tapes from Eureka, often made at the coast with the waves thundering, or here at the waterfalls; she would send me her "shorthand" replies... When I had my housefire I wept at the loss of Nancy's letters! I think Nancy lived about 5 years after her diagnosis. Yes, her five surviving years were years of total dependency, but she kept giving, kept teaching, kept inspiring her family and friends. She wanted to give vital information to the ALS community of other patients and the medical field which was doing research and providing treatment.
I am sure much has changed since 1974. I now have another dear woman diagnosed with ALS... She and her husband were the parents of some of my La Puente students that I have known since 1968. She was just diagnosed in 2004...she is probably about 60. I last saw her last year... She had lost the use of her hands and arms, but still had great spirits; she had to be fed by her husband, bathed, dressed, etc etc. It is really hard on her husband who is now about my age, over 65. The constant caregiving takes a real toll and the caregiver needs respite. The limbs go and leaves one so helpless.
There are terrific ALS groups... support groups for caregivers; support groups for patients; lots of ALS services for theraputic aids, newsletters, etc. Much has improved since Nancy's funky communication device in '74. I can truly say that Nancy's modeling of what LIFE is all about...what one can offer as a living human being, though totally dependent and seemingly uncommunicative, has been an enduring and lasting inspiration. She remains the most inspiring person who has touched my life. I check myself when I whine or snivel or wish for...... Unfortunately I have no patience at all for complainers. Her approach to her dying was one of dignity, even patience and resourcefulness.
She truly lived every day, breath and moment fully.
We all are terminal. How to we approach each day...? Living fully and ready to gracefully let go if death were granted immenently? in a week, a month, a year?
Read the book Tuesdays with Morrie. I understand there is also a movie.
Annie is ready to give you many gifts...lessons of living and dying.
Cherish those lessons. Celebrate the gift of your friendship and what you can continue to offer her in love, stories, visits, laughter etc.
Don't diminish her life with pity or panic or fear. Share all the things you have enjoyed with her and acknowlege what you are still learning from her and enjoying with her. They are just different, perhaps. And take the ultimate lessons from her... what it is to live fully and not fear death.
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Well-said, I thought!

Bush and Blair Have Brilliantly Done bin Laden's Work for Him
By Simon Jenkins
The Sunday Times UK

Sunday 19 February 2006

Is Osama Bin Laden winning after all? Until recently I would have derided such a thought. How could a tin pot fanatic who is either dead or shut in some mountain hideout hold the world to ransom for five years? It would stretch the imagination of an Ian Fleming.

Now I am beginning to wonder. Not a day passes without some new sign of Bin Laden's mesmeric grip on the governments of Britain and America. His deeds lie behind half the world's headlines. British policy seems obsessed with one word: terrorism. The West is equivocating, writhing, slithering in precisely the direction most desired by its enemy. He must be roaring with delight.

On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al-Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro-Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting Bin Laden as a cosmic threat.

Indeed if ever there were a case for collective restraint it is in response to terrorism. The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology. A bombing is an anarchic gesture calling for police and medical services. It becomes a political weapon only if publicized and answered with hysteria. A killing is so staged as to cause over-reaction, violent response, mass arrests and a decay of civilized values. Bin Laden's intention in 2001 was to portray the West as scared, emotionally vulnerable, over-reactive, decadent and careless of liberal values. The West has done its damnedest to prove him right.

I distrust "basket" analysis but events do sometimes rush in a certain direction. Last week alone brought new revelations of torture by American troops in Iraq. British soldiers were filmed beating demonstrators in Basra. British ministers sought new powers of detention without trial, a national identity database and impediments on free speech. A sectarian leader became prime minister of Iraq and British marines were flown to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. The United Nations demanded the closure of Guantánamo as a torture camp. The European media indulged in an orgy of finger-pointing at Muslim religious sensitivity. Muslim extremists reacted on cue.

Were I Bin Laden I could not have dreamt that the spirit of 9/11 would be so vigorous five years on. I have western leaders still parroting my motto that "9/11 alters everything" and "the rules of the game are changed". I have the Taliban resurgent, financed by Europe's voracious demand for oil and opium. I have the Pentagon and Scotland Yard paying me the compliment of a "long war" of indefinite duration. My potency is said to require more defense spending than was needed to contain the might of the Soviet Union.

There is now a voluminous literature on the politics of fear and its distorting appeal for democratic leaders (this month alone, David Runciman's admirable The Politics of Good Intentions and Peter Oborne's The Use and Abuse of Terror). The 9/11 "changes everything" mantra began as an explanation of a national trauma and a plea for sympathy. It was hijacked to validate the latent authoritarianism of democratic leaders.

America asks the world to believe itself so threatened as to require the kidnappings of foreign citizens in foreign parts, detention without legal process, the curbing of free speech and derogation from all international law. It asks the world to believe that it must disregard the Geneva conventions and employ foreign dictators to help it to torture at random. It uses the same justification for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The world simply refuses to agree. Only cringing Britain appeases such actions and calls them merely "anomalous". There are madmen aplenty, but they do not constitute a war.

Even America's most robust champions plead that this is all grotesquely counter-productive. What is frightening is not the evil of much American foreign policy at present but its stupidity; the damage it does to its own objectives. What was terrifying about Soviet power in the cold war was not its mega-tonnage but the incompetence of those controlling it.

America and Britain claim the right to invade foreign countries in defiance of international law. This requires at the very least a defensible moral superiority. Americans take this supremacy as read. Moral high ground comes with apple pie and the flag. Yet this supremacy, already questioned by many Americans at home, is in chronic disrepair abroad. Young Europeans and Asians no longer remember the second world war and do not see the world Washington's way. Their belief in America' s wealth is secure. Their belief in its values and their relevance to foreign countries is evaporating, blown away by relentless American belligerence. Last year's BBC poll of 21 countries gave a majority that declared George Bush "a threat to world peace".

The result is to cripple America's effectiveness as diplomat and power broker. Take Iran. The emergence of any new nuclear power is alarming. Yet it was tolerated in Israel, India, Pakistan and Korea. Partly because of its isolation, Iran now seems certain to develop a nuclear potential. To respond by increasing that isolation and thus the paranoia of Iran's turbulent and unstable rulers is daft. The sensible realpolitik must be to give Iran no reason to turn potential into actual power, let alone to want to use it.

I doubt if there is a world leader who would nominate America as best qualified to handle Iran in its present sensitive state. The war-mongering of the neocon ascendancy - the calls for bombing and the constant listing of targets - seems to mirror the fundamentalist mullahs behind President Ahmadinejad. American policy in the Middle East is so counter-productive as to be the problem, not the solution.

In desperation British and German leaders turned last week to the new "multi-polars", Russia and China, for help with Tehran. This suggests a world moving towards new axes, seeking new leadership and distancing itself from American myopia. The spectacle is similar to the free world's isolation of the Russian Comintern in the mid-20th century.

Such a recourse is fool's gold. China and Russia are no more likely to exert sustained influence on the world stage than did Europe's fragmented diplomacy over the past quarter century. Both have trade interests in Iran and much to gain as brokers of power in the region. Neither is a substitute for America. Neither carries the moral suasion of open and competitive democracy. Both face rumbling insurgencies on their frontiers. Yet the West turns to them in its hour of need. That is the measure of America's collapse.

There never was a "terrorist threat" to western civilization or democracy, only to western lives and property. The threat becomes systemic only when democracy loses its confidence and when its leaders are weak, as now. Terror attacks are for the police. For George Bush and Blair to demand a "long war" against Bin Laden and, by implication, a long suppression of civil liberty is ludicrous. Western civilization is not some simpering weakling that cowers before a fanatic 's might, pleading for leaders to protect it by all means, however illegal. It has been proof against Islamic expansionism since the 17th century. It is not at risk.

The American president and the British prime minister have spent half a decade exploiting Bin Laden for political ends, in thrall to their security/industrial complex. They have relied on terrifying their electorates with new and bloodcurdling threats, with what Runciman calls "spook politics". But they will pass. The half-baked "message" laws passed by Britain's limp parliament last week will fall in disuse. The vitality of British and American democracy has always been its ability to produce antibodies when truly challenged by an internal or external menace. The West will rediscover its self-belief and restore the liberalism, properly defined as freedom that it once exemplified to the world.

Bin Laden is not going to win and never was. But Bush and Blair are giving him an astonishing run for his money.
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There are days -

Today, I had an appointment at 1:00 with the radiation oncologist. I went calmly confident and alone, feeling I am used to all this stuff by now. They asked me to update what I had filled out upstairs for chemo. I thought what could have changed since November, but much had changed. I was so scared when I went to chemo, I had checked a 6 for anxiety. Today, I checked a 1. I felt good. My blood pressure was normal. She came in and seemed perky, and loved my attitude and said I would do super at radiation. Of course, she also came in and said new findings showed that I needed to have another operation to remove more lymph nodes. I said, "No way! I'm not healed from the last one" She then went through a three year finding, and another 12% number, and blah, blah, blah. She is going to put my file into the Tuesday pile to make a new decision based on the new findings released in December.

It is odd because I had been wondering why a friend of a friend had more lymph nodes removed, and is doing chemo. Now, I know it is because of these findings released in December. If I had been seven weeks later in my diagnosis, they wouldn't have even given me a choice, not that it sounded like much of a choice today. She did say if I didn't do the operation, they would really target my lymph nodes with radiation.

I was feeling a bit unsettled, and so, decided to mention that when I took my shower in the morning that my breast seemed to be a little red and swollen. She checked, and in that time period, it was now totally red and hard as a rock. She quickly called for a sonagram, and so, I went from her office to the sonogram office, and had an incredibly painful sonogram, and then, waited in my little piece of cotton for a "procedure," which was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. Well, I finally found my tears. I was shaking all over and crying. She did try numbing three times, but the sonogram was painful, and going in with a needle was unbelievable. I left after 6:00 and still had to pick up my prescription for antibiotics.

Ever had a day where you felt like you were being tested? This feels like it. I tried to explain to the radiation oncologist how I was raised, and why all of this is sometimes troubling to me. She could not understand. I can tell she thinks if she gives me that 12% statistic, I will grab for it, and maybe I once would have, but now, I feel like all these percentage points I keep adding up most be over 100% by now. Today, she said there is an 8% chance it will recur anyway, even if I do it all, including the operation. That plus my 3% for dying of "other causes" makes 11%. She seemed offended when I said it seemed like a crap shoot. She told me about all their new machines, and I understand that they are top of the line. They have a machine so that if you have the type of heart that doesn't drop when you lie on your back, you use your breath with it, so that your heart isn't damaged during radiation. That was comforting.

I did notice the new meditation garden is finished. That is lovely, and I know these people are trying as hard as they can to save us, but, at some point, each one of us is going to have to ask ourselves what we are being saved for. When does our contribution stop?

When I was in so much pain with the removal of the pus from the abscess, they kept telling me how much better I would feel. I didn't even know I had it. I am so used to discomfort that I had not even felt what was going on with my breast. I have been focused on my feet, and the unpleasantness there. Today, I was reminded of my oncologist's words, "There are no good days in chemo." I realized that there are days of more or less pain, but it is like there is always something nagging, and so it is hard to pay attention to everything.

There could be many reasons for the abscess, but what I think is this. I had my fifth free massage on Monday. He asked if he could put some special healing oil on my scar. I think that was a mistake. Also, they said the blood vessel that was broken from the biopsy is weakened, so any touching can cause this problem.

Well, there is one bit of brightness. In all this time, Steve and I have not even gone to a movie. I have stayed out of all crowded places since Cirque du Soleil. Well, Jan, got tickets for the two of us to see Rachel Naomi Remen Saturday night. If you don't know of her, read her books. She is a wonderful woman, a medical doctor, and a pioneer in alternative health care. To ensure I won't get overtired, Steve and I are even spending the night at the hotel where she is speaking, a Sheraton in Petaluma, 20 miles from our home. Well, I still felt some concern about being in a group, but now, I am on antibiotics, so, I should be okay.

What a zoo. I guess in this moment, I can laugh, perhaps, because I was finally able to cry. I should have taken someone with me to this appointment. It was an overwhelming amount of information. That would have been enough, the news on the operation, but then, the sonogram, and the "procedure." It felt over the top, and I am here. I continue to survive, so, there it is, and, in this moment, I am again calm.

Take care, everyone. Take care! Our time is precious here. It is very precious indeed!
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and then there is this -

I returned home tonight to the following email. First, some background. I met Jan Chiaramonte at her son Thom's wedding. I knew she was following the blog. It was such a surprise when Steve came home Friday night with a quilt she has made just for me, and the quilt was perfect in every way, and still is. 

She also said I had inspired her to write a poem. I place the poem here, because the words are as comforting and as warming as the quilt.

    A quilt is comfort, love.
    The womb.
    A Mother's arms
    A Father's shoulder
    A lover's embrace.
    The Spirit's cocoon.

She sent this to me today to give some background on the quilt.

"You know, I believe the quilt nearly made itself for you. I knew at once that it was to be a flannel quilt, although I had only made one once before for Doris. They have been very popular with quilters for the last 3 or 4 years and the fabric industry has responded with so many beautiful flannels. I asked Thom to check with Steve about your favorite colors and the answer was earth tones.

I went to a large fabric outlet in Orange County where I shop frequently and came to these flannels within 5 minutes of being in the store. As a matter of fact, they were in the first row I looked at. I knew they would be perfect and put 4 bolts in my basket. I then proceeded to go through the entire outlet to make sure I didn't miss anything and, of course, they were the best.

I decided when I saw the fabric that I would quilt leaves, flowers, grasses in the squares. It seem right. This type of quilt is made differently than the traditional quilt and you have to quilt each square separately to anchor the batting. I had such a good time "drawing" the designs with the needle. I didn't know about your blog until I was well into the quilt. Then when I read your entries and how in tune with nature you are, the descriptions of sunlight and trees, I just thought..."yes".

I believe there is an energy source. I believe that if we stay open, it takes us where we are to go. I have always found answers in the most unlikely of places, but have become so used to it that I don't find it surprising all that much. Chick just shakes his head sometimes.

All of that is to say that your quilt was meant to be. And so was the poem. It's the only time I've been even tempted to write one. I read your blog about the quilt and the poem. They are both yours to do with as you wish."

And so, I place the poem here, and her words on how the quilt came to be.  There are so many blessings in all of this for me.  I see it all that way, and today, surprised me.  I have become calmer, and somehow, I was calm for this, and, I was brought to tears of pain, and, so it is.  In this moment, I am cozy as can be.  I hope you are the same.