May 17th, 2006

Book Cover

Good Morning!! This is the day!!

I feel like a little kid on her first day of school.  I could hardly sleep and I am up and ready early, goodies bought and ready to share, and I will stop for cookies on my way.

Yesterday Dr. Poen - I always want to type poem - spoke of what a privilege it is to work with people who have been through chemo and are going through radiation, I think I "got" what a "special" group I have been in, and will always be in.  Most of us were, I believe, raised to fear cancer, but, here it is now  a chance to live the juxtapostion of being inward and outward, out in waiting rooms and medical rooms, and traveling all about, even as there is time and recommendation to cocoon, rest, reflect.  In that connection with ourselves and others, we live.  Even if I had died, this would have been worth it, but as Dr. Poen said yesterday I am here to live a long, long time. 

I am blessed by this experience.  I feel myself in a state of grace today as I reflect on all that has come together to give me this experience.

Of course, I am already receiving requests for money.  : ) This building is funded by philanthropy, and I appreciate that I can donate in the names of those I love.  Clearly, it is a place of Love.

And yet, how does one really thank these people?  What can I say?

I read this Editorial in the NY Times today and am deeply touched.  I feel Andrew  Rosenthal touches on many things, but one is moving out from under the shadow, no matter how wonderful that shadow, of our parents.  There is a day when that must be done, when we truly feel we are the elder now, while appreciating fully all that has gone before.  I think that is what I am feeling today, like a child,  and, also,  all grown up.  I have grieved and grieved the deaths of my parents.  I grieve the deaths of those I love, and yet, today, I feel and see each one of them, standing there, clapping joyfully, with all I have done and become.  



Editorial Observer

I Never Wrote for My Father

Published: May 17, 2006

Funerals have a way of reframing memories. After the burial of my father, A. M. Rosenthal, who ran The Times for nearly 20 years and wrote a column for 13 more, I recalled the day I met President George H. W. Bush, not long after I became a White House correspondent.

He was angry and would not answer. He said he was "not gonna be sandbagged in the Oval Office."

On the way out, Marlin Fitzwater, Mr. Bush's spokesman, helpfully noted that my introduction to Mr. Bush had gone badly. He explained that Mr. Bush was unhappy with my father for writing in his column that Mr. Bush had appeased the Communists on China and (oh, great!) on Lithuania. "The president doesn't differentiate between you and your father," he said.

I sputtered that the White House owed me for five years' psychotherapy. I'd only just begun convincing myself I was my own man in my father's field, and now I learned that The Leader of the Free World could not tell us apart?

It was naïve, of course, to think I could hide that little coincidence of a last name. Dad was not just seen as the embodiment of The Times; he saw himself that way. During the tumultuous year 1968, my father said I could not wear an Army fatigue jacket because anti-Vietnam protesters wore them. "When you go out," he said, not for the first or last time, "you're representing The Times." I was 12 years old at the time.

Still, I tried to walk around as if I were not really Abe's son, first at The Associated Press, where I was a national and foreign correspondent for nine years, and then at The Times. (I even left the middle initial, M., out of my byline because my father's initials were so famous.)

I started to get the point that hiding in plain sight was not working when I noticed that I hadn't received any checks from WQXR, the Times radio station, for a weekly radio spot. It turns out that WQXR was sending the $70 checks to A. M. Rosenthal, instead of Andrew Rosenthal.

I called my father, outraged. He had been happily cashing the checks. He said he hadn't known why WQXR was paying him, but "when someone gives me a check, baby, I cash it."

I should have found the whole thing funny, but I didn't. Then about a year later, I got a check for a reprint of my father's classic 1958 essay, "There Is No News From Auschwitz." I sent him a copy of the check stub with a note: "When someone gives me a check, baby, I cash it."

Dad thought it was hilarious. And I've long since realized that I overreacted on the "Abe's kid" front. But since my father died, I've realized something else.

When I read his obituary to my children, their amazement at his accomplishments was matched by my amazement at how much I had forgotten, even discounted. Then colleagues began sharing their experiences of my father.

They said what I knew, that he could be stubborn, unreasonable and prone to anger. But what they held onto was how sure he was in his vision for the paper, how filled with exuberance and a certainty about journalism that he freely bestowed. I received dozens of stories about how he'd shaped a reporter's career, how he'd traveled around the world to get a correspondent out of trouble, how he'd stood up equally to K.G.B. generals and to U.S. officials, how he'd helped young people become better journalists, how he'd changed The Times and the newspaper business.

Jose Lopez, a photographer and photo editor, said the first time they met, Abe Rosenthal told him, "Always be the hawk; never be the blackbird that sits on the wire."

David Sanger said when he'd been a news clerk laboring to become a reporter, he'd come to his desk one day to find Champagne and a note: "For an explanation, see the executive editor." Abe had promoted David, and wanted to celebrate with him.

"I wouldn't argue that he was always the easiest boss," David wrote. But, he said, my father "knew how to infuse you with his sheer joy of reporting and experiencing the world."

Alan Cowell recalled how Abe Rosenthal flew to South Africa in 1986 to argue the authorities out of expelling him. John Burns, whose courage is endless, said Abe "set the trajectory of my life." Maureen Dowd reminded me that her mother had kept letters from my father framed in her home until the day she died.

In an era when journalism is commoditized, digitized and endlessly televised, I feel the loss of that passion, drive, emotion and energy. I also feel regret — not for sometimes pushing my father away as I tried to be independent. I know I was right to wait until he'd retired as executive editor before joining The Times.

But I missed something big.

I never got to work for Abe.

Book Cover

My Poems for Today!!

The Day of my last Cancer Treatment

 

Today I stand

in a field

like a horse.

No, not a field,

there are no fences right now.

This is a chance to gallop, canter, and trot,

while knowing how fully

we are herd animals,

each needing to ground and fill our spot.

With wolves, the omega is grieved the most,

the whole tribe gathers, sorrows the loss.

The alpha only leads, but the tail

tells where we’ve been.

The tail is scribe.

 

We live a planetary guide,

each one of us important in the tribe.

 

There is no way to judge the value,

of the line-up

of Mercury, Venus, Mars,

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus,

Neptune,  Pluto,

though for each of us,

the Earth is Clearly Heart -

 

 

 

is there any more

how could there be

the richness I’ve been given

such treatment, love, and care  -

the rest is gravy,

and gravy

goes

everywhere.   

 

 

 

Book Cover

From Jane Today!!

Dear Cathy,

Here are the two that came today...one from your horse and another to let you know that the old landlord has died.  Also below, a Stanley Kunitz...because he still is here in  his being gone.    xoxoxo    - J  

Those of us who have been following the blog,   remember the "old landlord."  

Jane's Poems:


------------------------


The horse does not follow the story.
His ear cocks to the buzzing bee.
He fills the space on earth quartered by his feet.
The incomprehensible shivers beneath his withers.
When he runs he knows he is flying.




The old landlord has left the building.
The clock factory has run out of time.
The time-share in Paris is closed for the season.
It is the desk in his house looking down from the hills that knows he has gone.
He has made good on all his handshakes.
His contracts, clear as breakfasts order in a diner
Have been served.




And here is a magnificent poem by Stanley Kunitz.  Jane and I are seeing it for the first time with his death.  That feels right.  It is his good-bye and hello.
Jane says of reading Stanley Kunitz - "Just let it fall in your ears."


King of the River



If the water were clear enough,
if the water were still,
but the water is not clear,
the water is not still,
you would see yourself,
slipped out of your skin,
nosing upstream,
slapping, thrashing,
tumbling
over the rocks
till you paint them
with your belly's blood:
Finned Ego,
yard of muscle that coils,
uncoils.

If the knowledge were given you,
but it is not given,
for the membrane is clouded
with self-deceptions
and the iridescent image swims
through a mirror that flows,
you would surprise yourself
in that other flesh
heavy with milt,
bruised, battering toward the dam
that lips the orgiastic pool.

Come. Bathe in these waters.
Increase and die.


If the power were granted you
to break out of your cells,
but the imagination fails
and the doors of the senses close
on the child within,
you would dare to be changed,
as you are changing now,
into the shape you dread
beyond the merely human.
A dry fire eats you.
Fat drips from your bones.
The flutes of your gills discolor.
You have become a ship for parasites.
The great clock of your life
is slowing down,
and the small clocks run wild.
For this you were born.
You have cried to the wind
and heard the wind's reply:
"I did not choose the way,
the way chose me."
You have tasted the fire on your tongue
till it is swollen black
with a prophetic joy:
"Burn with me!
The only music is time,
the only dance is love."

If the heart were pure enough,
but it is not pure,
you would admit
that nothing compels you
any more, nothing
at all abides,
but nostalgia and desire,
the two-way ladder
between heaven and hell.
On the threshold
of the last mystery,
at the brute absolute hour,
you have looked into the eyes
of your creature self,
which are glazed with madness,
and you say
he is not broken but endures,
limber and firm
in the state of his shining,
forever inheriting his salt kingdom,
from which he is banished
forever.
                   Stanley Kunitz
Book Cover

and so it is -

Jane from Marin Cancer Care calls.   It seems they thought I was coming in at 8:30, my usual time.   They forgot to tell me there was a space at 8:30 and to switch from the 12:00 on my sheet which was for this extra day we were hoping we wouldn't need.  How funny.  I could be almost done by now, but instead it will be more like 12:30 before I am finished.  That is okay!!  I still need to get cookies.  I am a bit diappointed though.  Imagine being done!   I am afraid to imagine it on one hand, and on the other.  Yippeeeee!!     You can bet I'll be there early today.  I am very excited.  Yay!!

Mandu has his head on my hand.  He likes to warm my hand as I type.  He is also suggesting there might be better things to do than type, like pet him.  He is purring though, so I guess all is okay.  
Book Cover

the poet Gary Young -

Jane took a poetry writing workshop with Jane Hirshfield at Tassajara and met a group of women there, who still meet, and sometimes hire a poet to lead them.  This month it was Gary Young.  I was not familiar with him, but just checked him out.  He has some wonderful things to say about life and death in this article.  Read if it you are inspired to do so,  and/or if you  want to be even more inspired. 

http://www.metroactive.com/papers/cruz/05.15.02/young-0220.html
Book Cover

Ritual -

I dress carefully for today, as though I were a priest or priestess.  I comb my hair.  The ritual is important.  Grooming ourselves means we are well, and I am well.  I am well!!

Jane asks today what this means, that this treatment is done.  My understanding is that since my tumor was estrogen positive, and I am now on Arimedex which cuts off all estrogen production at the source, that I am just fine.  I am as I was, though hopefully, a wee bit wiser, kinder, and more patient.  We shall see.  : )

I feel I am going to a holy rite, this last treatment, and I bought beautiful votive candles holders and candles to take with me today, to honor this holy rite.  This has been my church, my place for sustenance and healing.  The candle holders are the lovely colors of today - pale yellow, blue, green, and red.   The candles are white.  I got a stuffed bee, that is all sparkly and when you squeeze it, it giggles.  I picture him/her floating over the lily pond.  I got decks of cards, 52 Things to Try Once in Your Life, and 52 Ways to Celebrate Friendship.  Hasn't that been what this journey has been?   Each day has been something new I've tried, and this is a true celebration of friendship at the deepest levels.  Lyla's has Thank you's  in chocolate and chocolate hearts, wrapped in red and gold.  I have some of those.

I am glad I have this time to prepare for today, my last treatment, my stepping out of one, lovely world, and into another.  I remember now a dream I had years ago, where I lifted up a man-hole cover, and peered out on a wide, flat plain.  Perhaps that is what this is for me now.

Steve says in 1999, there were a few buildings in Dubai.  It was desert and flat.  Now, it is something else.  He is amazed!   Seven years.  Perhaps, my plain will be as transformed as that of Dubai.  Certainly wealth has flooded my way, true wealth.  I am a wealthy, grateful woman indeed, and, with intention,  in deed!
Book Cover

Ah, awe - ahhhhhhh!!!

I am done!!!

What  a day!!!    When I made an altar for the goodies I brought, and lit the candles, I said to Steve, the nurse, that  it felt appropriate since I realized it is like a church.  It is a healing place.  He said I pray for you all every day.   Am  I touched?   You bet!!

It was lovely, and my giggling bee was a hit, and is now on the mirror so when people walk in to the radiation room,  they can squeeze his tummy and hear him giggle.  The candles are still lit.

There was one amazing hitch.   I went in and laid down perfectly.  I have it figured out for the 33 rd time, so there is no need to adjust and they mark away and set it all up, and leave the room.  There is a little clicky sound as it  programs, and then, today, everything dies, except the lights which come on because they are on a generator.  Unbelievable.  So, I lie there with my arm up, and they go to get the physicist who fixes it, and away we go, but, for more than a moment, I thought tomorrow was going to be the last day, not today.  I could only laugh.  It seemed so funny, and that is what I am noticing.  I am laughter.  You know how Tibetan monks are always laughing?  The Dalai Lama is always chuckling, and I remember being outside the monastery at Tengboche at 13, 000 feet in Nepal, and hearing all this laughter.  I think they worship on the belly laugh.  Well, I like it.  It is my new path, and this has given me quite a belly with which to laugh.  I am JOY!!

As an aside, I learned in this whole thing, that when they do reconstructive breast surgery, they use the tummy, so they don't want women to get too thin.  I am not worried about being too thin, but found it interesting to know. 

Also, today, I rolled my eyes back when I was lying there, and what did I see?  There is a dragonfly up there, in the marsh, a copper one, attached by a magnet to the metal that defines the ceiling.  Amazing!!   Now, I can fly, and there is no bee, so my bee is perfect, though he is reflecting in the mirror and not the pond.

I met Chris for lunch at Noonan's in Larkspur Landing.  Jeff and Jan had hoped to drive down but she got jury duty at 11:15 today,  so Chris and I had a wonderful celebration.  I had two glasses of yummy French champagne at $13.75 apiece.  When are you ever going to have so much to celebrate?   I feel worth it.   At this point, I am quite an expensive venture.  I am hoping I don't have much else of this magnitude to celebrate any time soon.  Our waitress was wonderful and joined in, even bringing a plate for some goodies I got at the bakery.

I am satiated.  I thought of driving north to see Jeff and Jan, but this is just enough, and everyday is a celebration.  I have time.   I have time!!  I have time!
Book Cover

Evening comes -

I take a nap, and I will miss my excuse for it.  Each person at radiation  tells me I will miss radiation and them,  and that I am welcome back anytime.  I can just come sit in the waiting room if I want, they say.  It is hard to imagine my doing that, but, who knows.  For now, I am grateful to be away.  I read the notes on my graduation certificate.  I am touched.

I do see that I am an elder there now.  The women in their hats and turbans are thrilled to see me with my hair.  Just by being, I offer them comfort, and hope.  They see their hair, too, will return.  

I think of radiation world, and I do feel the beautiful web they weave for us.  It is a happy group of people who always seem to have time to talk and listen.  I have never felt rushed.  Of course, I have also waited, but I think I needed to wait.  I needed that time. 

I sit in the chair at home and look up at the book shelves and two books beckon to me.  I open Sue Bender's book Everyday Sacred to these words. 

    On the day of their marriage, Yvonne and her husband were given a rare and gorgeous antique Hopi vase.  After the ceremony someone carried the vase on a tray with too many other things, and dropped it.  The bowl broke into many pieces.

    "A perfect moment," she smiled.  "The bowl was only whole for the ceremony."


    I consider that.  In this moment, all is whole for me, and soon I will again break apart into pieces, and that, too, is okay.

    In Bhutan, in the 1970's, the king proclaimed gross national happiness more important than gross domestic product.  That sounds good to me. 

    Another line from the Sue Bender book is with me.  I don't think we have time to waste being unhappy.  Again, I consider.  I think there is a place for sorrow and reflection, and I think there is a place to move on.  I feel like in these last few days I am holding a door open to a place where all can be, like many kinds of flowers in a field. 

    I read from Stanley Kunitz's book "Passing Through."  Instead of a foreward, he writes Speaking of Poetry.   I copy his words here.  They are comfort for me tonight, as I consider his easy passage to a different kind of day and night.

    Stanley Kunitz:

       The writer today, said Albert Camus in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize, "cannot serve those who make history; he must serve those who are subject to it."

       How true!  And yet one finds to one's dismay that the poetic imagination resists being made the tool of causes, even the noblest of causes.  The imagination lives by its contradictions and disdains any form of oppression, including the oppression of the mind by a single idea.

       Poetry, I have insisted, is ultimately mythology, the telling of the stories of the soul.  This would seem to be an introverted, even solipsistic, enterprise, if it were not that these stories recount the soul's passage through the valley of this life - that is to say, its adventure in time, in history.

       If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn. The moment is dear to us, precisely because it is so fugitive, and it is somewhat of a paradox that poets should spend a lifetime hunting for the magic that will make the moment stay.  Art is that chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence. What is imagination but a reflection of our yearning to belong to eternity as well as time?

       In an age defined by its modes of production, where everybody tends to be a specialist of sorts, the artist ideally is that rarity, a whole person making a whole thing. Poetry, it cannot be denied, requires a mastery of craft, but it is more than a playground for technicians.  The craft that I admire most manifests itself not as an aggregate of linguistic or prosodic skills, but as a form of spiritual testimony, the sign of the inviolable self consolidated against the enemies within and without that would corrupt or destroy human pride and dignity. It disturbs me that twentieth century American poets seem largely reconciled to being relegated to the classroom - practically the only habitat in which most of us are conditioned to feel secure. It would be healthier if we could locate ourselves in the thick of life, at every intersection where values and meanings cross, caught in the dangerous traffic between self and universe.

       Poets are always ready to talk about the difficulties of their art. I want to say something about its rewards and joys.  The poem comes in the form of a blessing - "like rapture breaking on the mind," as I tried to phrase it in my youth. Through the years I have found this gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life-enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable.  Does one live, therefore, for the sake of poetry?  No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of life.


                                Stanley Kunitz in 1995, when he was 90 years young.  

   
Book Cover

Stanley Kunitz -

Stanley Kunitz writes THREE SMALL PARABLES FOR MY POET FRIENDS.   I place the first one here, because it reminds me of the cancer experience.  I now grow a new tail, to replace the one that has been sacrificed.

Stanley:

    Certain saurian species, notably the skink, are capable of shedding their tails in self-defense when threatened.  The detached appendage diverts attention to itself by taking on a life of its own and thrashing furiously about.  As soon as the stalking wildcat pounces on the wriggler, snatching it up from the sand to bite and maul it, the free lizard scampers off.  A new tail begins to grow in place of the one that has been sacrificed. 
Book Cover

courage -

It occurs to me now how courageous you all have been.  I am getting all the kudos and praise right now, but you have been here with me, plugging along.  We should all be drinking champagne tonight.  We are all amazing!!   Yay!!!
Book Cover

I come to these words.

The Dalai Lama says,  "It’s best not to get too excited or too depressed by the ups and downs of life."

I agree.  I do feel this as a calm celebration.  Chris and I shared some tears today, bittersweet ones, and  I am calm.  When the computer went down for the machine today, I stayed calm, knowing I could just come back the next day, perhaps forever.   Perhaps, Groundhog's Day was to be mine, and that would be okay.

When I left, Kirk was playing Solitaire on one of the computers.  I think of that, one person playing Solitaire on a computer, rather than using a deck of cards, touching and flipping cards.  I have been touched throughout this, as I had to be physically manipulated, and placed, and drawn on with different colored pens each day.   I hope that we never get so advanced that the machine does it all.  I think the physical touch and the people, people caring, are an important part of the healing.   May we all stay in touch, and aware of touch, our keys on the keyboard and the smoothness of the Ace of Spades as it lies down with the Ace of Hearts.


Book Cover

for women -

In Ariana Strozzi's book, Horse Sense for the Leader Within, she says that "Ninety-eight percent of the women I work with live in a story that they are not good enough."  Now, it could be that she is working with an unusual group of women, since that seems like an unfathomable statistic, but she actually works with some pretty high-powered women on developing their leadership skills. 

Everytime I type Ariana, I think of Arianna Huffington and her flamboyancy and her blog.  I keep reading how our minds are triggered toward one thing which is why it is so hard sometimes to get out of the box.  Chris and I saw a short video one time where we were told to focus on people passing a ball.  A person in a gorilla suit walked through the ball game and hardly anyone saw him, because they were focused on the ball.  I read about a similar experiment in Scientific American this month.  When Chris and I did it, some people were adament it was a different film, but seen slowed down, it was clear we had missed what was obvious. It is time to open our eyes a little more clearly and see what we often don't see.  It is also time for women to change their mind-set.  We are more than good enough.

I have dealt with many women in this healing procedure.  Women initiated a good deal of the support systems.  Francine discovered that working with the breath protected the heart and lung.  It is celebrate nurses day.  Let us celebrate the nurse in ourselves, the healer, and know and demonstate and feel how good we are. 

Ariana Strozzi quotes George Leonard from his book Mastery.  The idea is "that leadership is a practice that we mature into as we progress in life."

    George Leonard's words:

       "How long will it take to master aikido?" a prospective student asks.  "How long do you expect to live?" is the only respectable response.  Ultimately, practice is the path to mastery. If you stay on it long enough, you'll find it is a vivid place, with its ups and downs, its challenges and comforts, its surprises, disappointments, and unconditional joys.  You'll take your share of bumps and bruises while traveling - bruises of the ego as well as of the body, mind, and spirit - but it might well turn out to be the most reliable thing in your life."
Book Cover

continuing with Ariana Strozzi -

Ariana Strozzi points out that fear is a biological necessity for survival.   She says we need to feel our fear, and, then, feel what we are afraid of.  The "underlying animal fear for survival drives us unknowingly and, unless examined, becomes a contraction away from life.

She quotes Peter Koestenbaum, in an interview in Fast Company, 2000.   He says:

    "One of the gravest problems in life is self-limitation:  We create defense mechanisms to protect us from the anxiety that  comes with freedom.  We refuse to live our full potential ... We limit how we live so that we can limit the amount of anxiety that we experience ....

     No significant decision - personal or organizational - has ever been undertaken without being attended by an existential crisis, or without a commitment to wade through anxiety, uncertainty and guilt.

     That is what we mean by transformation.  You can't just change how you think or the way that you act - you must change the way that you will.  You must gain control over the patterns that govern your mind; your world view, your beliefs about what you deserve and about what is possible."
Book Cover

with such a day -

I say goodnight to this day with this little ditty of a poem.  Sleep tight!


Stretched on the stars tonight,
    a jungle gym of light,
I climb and savor the view,
Where all is new and bright.