Eyjafjallajökull

photo by David Karnå
Eyjafjallajökull – Image: David Karnå

Watching the news last night, about all the flights grounded because it is too dangerous to fly through volcanic ash clouds, got me thinking… Years ago people used to respect the power of Mother Nature and they did their best to live in harmony with it. It seems like today we are determined to carry on with our plans with no regard whatsoever for the weather, the seasons, the climate, or natural disasters.

One of the things I loved about reading Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken was how Sigrid Undset portrayed the characters waking up in the middle of the night and knowing what time of night it was by the subtle sounds they heard outside and the feeling they got from the depth of darkness around them. Imagine being that in tune with the earth!

In Jane Smiley’s book, The Greenlanders, a mother poignantly explains to her son why his grandfather doesn’t have to do any chores:

After a long day, folk rest at night. After a long summer, folk play games and sit about in the winter. After a long life folk sit about the fire and stay warm, for the chill of death is upon them, and even the thickest bearskin can’t keep off the shivering.
~ Jane Smiley
(The Greenlanders)

Life is a mixture of positive and negative things, a delicate balance. On a walk in the woods we see the process of death and decay right along new growth and mature life. It’s more natural than a garden, where unwelcome plants are weeded out, and dead ones discarded as soon as possible. Once we went to a butterfly conservatory where my young friend asked a curator how long the butterflies lived. Usually a day or so was the answer. What happens to the ones that die? They’re swept up every morning. So all we see is the beauty, the dying part is hidden from our awareness.

I’ve been hesitant to blog the past couple of weeks because so many “negative” things are disrupting the rhythm of my life, and it seems a shame to whine about it. But perhaps negative things can be discussed without whining? More as part of the ebb and flow of life? Sometimes I think we pay a price for trying to carry on as if nothing has happened. Maybe we need to go to bed when it gets dark early, maybe we were meant to sleep more in the winter. Maybe we need to accept the universe and stay home when Mother Earth says we should not be flying…

Our little spaceship creates some very big dark clouds sometimes. So why should we expect to sail through our lives without limits on our plans and our share of disappointments and grief to endure? Yes, it would seem I’ve got a rather large dark cloud following me lately, but in the words of my favorite songwriter…

Isn’t it strange how we move our lives for another day
Like skipping a beat
What if a great wave should wash us all away?
Just thinking out loud
Don’t mean to dwell on this dying thing, but looking at blood –
it’s alive right now, deep and sweet within, pouring through our veins
Don’t beat your head, dry your eyes
Let the love in there
There are bad times, but that’s okay
Just look for love in it

~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫

It Might Get Loud

Storytellers… I love listening to musicians and writers talk about their lives and the creative process. Last night we watched It Might Get Loud, a documentary about electric guitarists Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, representing three generations of great music. All different in their approaches yet appreciative of each other’s experiences.

Jack White, The Edge, Jimmy Page

Some of the clips featuring songs from Jimmy Page’s Led Zeppelin brought back memories of listening to the radio as a teen in the 1970s. The Edge’s stories about the strife in Northern Ireland tugged at the heart. And Jack White, the youngest of ten children, is such a quirky, inspiring and intense personality. (Yes, I’m a fan!) I used to read the lyrics from White Stripes album notes to my elderly father, who loves music but vehemently objects to electric guitars. Dad loved the lyrics and said they sounded like they would be great for the messages on the inside of greeting cards.

My patience was rewarded at the end of the movie, when they collaborated to play and sing The Weight by Robbie Robertson.

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny,
And… and… and… you can put the load right on me.

Watching, I could not help making comparisons to a writer’s forum we went to a few years ago when Kurt Vonnegut was still alive. He was on stage with Joyce Carol Oates and Jennifer Weiner, again three generations, discussing how they go about writing. Following are Tim’s thoughts about that night:

It was interesting that the older the author the less they used technology. Kurt Vonnegut bemoaned not being able to find a typewriter and more, and on the other end of the spectrum Jennifer Weiner has a blog and uses her computer exclusively  It was fascinating also the differences in how they viewed the creative process. Kurt said he just did it for the money and that delivering a manuscript to the publisher was like getting rid of a large tumor. Conversely, Joyce said that she feels the words flow out of her and that she has to stop now and then and remind herself that there were other things in life besides writing. Jennifer seemed to have fallen into writing, but was neither pained by it nor obsessed by it.

Bernie

The past few days have been stressed with still another false medical alarm, although this time it was Tim’s… To deal with the stress I’ve been distracting myself by adding and adding to my quote site and family history site, and have not felt much like writing anything new here. Today after receiving good news about Tim I came home to find that a third cousin I’ve never met before had found the family history and wrote me a lovely comment. Our grandmothers were cousins, but because they were both an “only child” they felt they were more like sisters. What a wonderful surprise to have at the end of a difficult day!

3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Above is a new picture I took of Bernie a couple of weeks ago, on one of our walks. I decided to dig out my story about him from last year and post it now that it is spring again.

The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 19 April 2009:

4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

This cat is named Bernie, a delightfully domestic old fellow who is still in touch with his inner bobcat. He was born in New Mexico and is at least 17 years old. My sister and her husband adopted him from a shelter while they were living there. They also adopted an iguana named Lizzie and a spider named Olivia – all of them had the run of their hovel, which is what my sister affectionately called their very modest duplex. When it came time to move back to Connecticut Lizzie and Olivia were left behind to other good homes, but Bernie was brought to the land of trees and snow…

It was quite an adjustment for him. He is a very athletic outdoorsy sort of cat who used to love running just for the sheer joy of it. When my daughter’s cat was living there with him for a while he would try and get her to play tag, but she just looked at him like he had to be kidding… He enjoyed exploring the woods, but his main objection to Connecticut was the long snowy winters here. Whenever it snowed he would go from window to window yowling, hoping to somehow spot a landscape without snow. My brother-in-law took pity on him, and to this day shovels a few paths through the snow so Bernie can get his exercise without too much contact with the white stuff.

A few years ago he was taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a problem with his eyes. They think he may have Lyme Disease, but whatever it is it has gradually robbed him of his vision. They give him eye drops every day to slow down the progression, but he is now blind. He does very well, though. He still catches mice – we can’t figure out how. He gets around the house pretty well because most things stay where they are, but he bumps into people, my dad’s wheelchair and stray laundry baskets or shopping bags inadvertently left in his path. He seems to take it all in stride, though.

Since he had a run in with a fisher they aren’t letting Bernie outside by himself any longer. They’ve also had two coyotes near the house. He gets several walks a day with whoever is on hand to escort him. Last week Bernie and I took a walk and had a good time exploring the bushes, flowers and trees. And I got this picture of him coming toward me, only possible because he doesn’t run anymore. He walks very carefully, but doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself. I admire his spirit of acceptance and adaptation, making the best of things.

full moon flood

Six inches of rain for us from this storm! Connecticut is having its worst flooding since 1982. We live at one end of a road that cuts between two salt ponds. Our son and daughter-in-law live a mile down at the other end of this road. (Shea took the first picture from her end. I took the rest of the pictures from our end, which is just around the bend in Shea’s picture.)

We both live up on relatively high ground so we’re safe and sound. The white high water mark pole in the second picture is to measure storm surges in case we ever get a hurricane again as bad as the one in 1938. We’ve been instructed that we would need to evacuate if a category 3 or higher hurricane were ever to make its way here. What an exciting day it has been!

My daughter-in-law Shea wrote on Facebook:

OK just got back from rescuing my sister from work… She had to walk through water above her knees in order to get to us.. Got home and found out that the National Guard has all three ways to get to my house blocked… One of them was nice enough to move the road block so I could drive through the bumper high water… GO JEEP!!!!!

rails-to-trails

3.20.10 ~ Janet and Barbara

Yesterday we had a taste of summer. Low 70s! Janet took Tim and me on an adventure through her neck of the woods. First we took a hike on the Old Airline Trail – can’t remember which section – that runs across eastern Connecticut. It’s one of those Rails-to-Trails projects. We crossed over a very tall viaduct and were treated to lovely views, although everything is still brown and gray from winter. The trail also cut through some hills so we saw a lot of water from the saturated earth dripping down the moss and rocks bordering much of the trail.

3.20.10

Next stop was the Hebron Maple Festival. By then it was lunch time and uncomfortably hot in the sun. It was a relief when we got to the chainsaw woodcarving demonstration that was tucked in the woods on a back road, and of course we bought some real maple syrup!

3.20.10

And finally we stopped at Tangletree Farm in Colchester where Roger had been joyfully riding his horse, Tsultan. Janet introduced us to all the horses in the barn, including a new foal. He was born on Saint Patrick’s day, so his name is, of course, Patrick. He was very busy nursing so I couldn’t get a better picture of him!

Also, I did a brave thing, brave for me. I fed Janet’s quarter horse, Cruiser, a couple of carrots and actually petted his nose! When I was in eighth grade a girl in my class fell off a horse, broke her neck, and died one weekend. It was such a shock to come back to school on the following Monday and hear this news! And back in those days they did not have grief counselors come to a school to help students cope with their losses. The whole episode left me profoundly afraid of horses. But I have a feeling that this may be about to change.

Needless to say, we were pretty tuckered out by the time we got home last night. Today we’ve been catching up with computer stuff and a stew is in the slow cooker, and dinner is smelling good!

gaia community shutting down

To live is to change, to acquire words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.
~ Barbara Kingsolver

Well, here I am again! Time to change things around again. This afternoon I was stunned to learn that my beloved social network, Gaia Community, will be forced shut down at the end of this month, because of the economy. When breaking the news our director, Siona, aptly quoted Dr. Seuss:

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

But the tears came anyway. For a year and a half since I found this wonderful “place,” full of amazing like-minded friends, I’ve never felt happier spiritually, and never more connected.

But all is not lost! As the afternoon turned into evening and I chatted with one of the first of my friends found on Gaia, we began to comprehend that Siona had found another place for us all, Ning, and she set up a Gaia network for us there. It won’t be the same, but at least we will still have a place for group discussions and a place to stay linked to one another. For those of us who like to blog she suggested WordPress. So this is where my blogging will land after all!

I will be adding my old blog posts from Gaia to WordPress over the next couple of weeks. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is where I can keep my quote collection. Oh, and how to add pictures to this blog. But surely I will figure something out sooner or later. For now I must turn in for the night…

false alarms

The following thoughts about mammograms are completely subjective, as I try to process my third false alarm from one of these images. If this keeps happening it will be ever more tempting to abandon the practice of getting one every year. Yes, mammograms are supposed to be responsible for saving countless lives, but I cannot help wondering how many other lives have been repeatedly thrown into a tailspin by one false alarm after another.

My mother’s breast cancer was found “early” on a mammogram in the autumn of 1987 and was thought to have been caught in time so that a lumpectomy would be all that was needed. Three and a half years later, after the lumpectomy, and then a mastectomy, and many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she died in the spring of 1991, age 59. It was awful for all of us, including her elderly parents. This family history seems to make my doctors hyper-vigilant about any possible little thing seen on my mammograms.

In the autumn of 1995 I had my first suspicious mammogram at the age of 38. I froze with fear until an ultrasound was done and it was determined that it was “just a cyst.” I was told that I have fibrocystic breast disease. After doing some research and seeing a naturopath, I began taking evening primrose oil for help with the cysts and it seemed to work for a several years. Eventually I tapered off from taking it… and then… in the spring of 2008… another suspicious mammogram. But this time there was a cluster of calcifications that called for closer inspection with a stereotactic biopsy – outpatient surgery. This time the wait for test results was longer, and the surgeon left a little piece of titanium in my breast for future reference, to show where the tissue had been removed, just in case. We rearranged vacation plans and sat on pins and needles until the negative results came back, four days later. Phew!

Well, now less than two years later still another suspicious mammogram to panic over. This time I was told there was something there about 2 cm in diameter and I was scheduled for an ultrasound and then a surgical consult. This sounded pretty ominous and so our lives have been unsettled and on hold again.

Monday I went in for the ultrasound and a very kind technician pulled up my digital mammogram on the computer monitor to see what it was she would be examining. I could see the little speck of titanium and I asked her to point out to me the new trouble spot. She pointed to an oval-shaped object and as I focused on it I noticed there were two other ovals nearby in the image. So, I asked her what about that particular oval was a cause for concern. Something about a defined edge, but the other two ovals seemed to have edges that looked just as defined to my untrained eyes.

Well, it turned out to be “just a cyst, and not even a solid one.” That’s it??? All these rattled nerves and a week of sleepless nights for a benign cyst??? My reaction has been a dazed combination of relief and exasperation. There’s got to be a better way. On the way home I asked Tim to stop at a store where I picked up some more evening primrose oil. Maybe it will work again. Tim made all the phone calls to the kids and my sister so they could stop worrying and I took a long nap. Tuesday I started to get, not surprisingly, a post-stress migraine, so I took a Zomig and slept most of the day. Today the wind is howling and the rain is coming down heavy – perfect weather for another nap. Maybe it will take a week of afternoon naps to recover from a week of sleepless nights, but eventually I’ve got to get myself together again and carry on and somehow be willing to submit to still another mammogram next year… Just in case…

another start

With recent health concern a source of distraction I am trying to find a focus, and will try to jump into writing and see where it leads me. I have two blogs now, at WordPress and Gaia Community, and for the time being I’m going to cross-post, until I figure out what I’m doing.

I had to laugh when I read my horoscope this morning, something I rarely do:

You have a lot of fresh thoughts and, fortunately, many of them could make good sense. But your mind is running so fast now that you are on to the next inspiration before you’ve done anything about the previous one. Unfortunately, an important innovation might be forever lost if you don’t take the time to write it down as it’s unfolding. You cannot rely on your memory; carry around a notebook today and jot down your ideas when they happen.

Fresh thoughts have popped into consciousness all last night and this morning, mixed up with all the feelings of apprehension about tomorrow’s ultrasound. Fortunately I have scribbled down these stray thoughts on a pad of sticky notes that I had already thought to start carrying around with me. Not sure if there is an important innovation captured there…

Yesterday when I was showering and having a little trouble keeping the water temperature adjusted, I started remembering when I was quite little and desperately wanted to stop taking what I considered to be childish baths and learn how to take a shower like all the mature and sophisticated people in my little world. For whatever reason my father was assigned to the thankless task of dealing with my chronic dissatisfaction over the circumstances of my life. One part of the shower lesson was how to adjust the temperature and what to do if it got too hot. Jump out of the shower – one did not need to stand there trying to keep adjusting it if the water was too hot to stand! “What should you do if it gets too hot?” The question was repeated often to make sure I had the point down. It was very important to him that I remembered this. I’ve never forgotten…

Dot connecting… The tragic story of my aunt, Olga, my dad’s older sister who met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, probably shortly before my dad was born and when she was about two years old. My aunt Lil was about seven years old then, and we have her heartbreaking account of the terrible event. In an instant everything changes. Something tells me now that the story of Olga was in the back of Dad’s mind when he was teaching his own little squirt about very hot water.

Never made the connection before yesterday. The thing I like the most about genealogy and family history is discovering why my ancestors behaved the way they did and what motivated their choices. There are a few more notes on my little pad, but this seems long enough for now.