Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fear NOT!

Ain't easy, bein' mortal.

I've got several patients dealing with cancer right now, of various types in various stages. Lung, breast, prostate, bone... It's an education. I'm learning about standard western treatment protocols, and alternative treatment options. And I'm learning a lot about people and our capacity to deal with illness and the possibility of death in the real rather than the theoretical.

There are those who just pick a path and go there. They accept the facts of where they're currently at, look it in the eye, and decide on how they're going to deal with it. Or not. But either way, it's face-on, and they're not playing games. One of my breast cancer ladies is like that. She's in the tamoxifen process right now, and will be for several more years. I'm sure she worries from time to time, but she decided how she wanted to deal with it, and continues her life as if she's alive. Which she is, and looks to be for at least another decade. At least. She feels relatively healthy to me.

But another patient, choosing the same protocol, carries on her life of utter terror, always looking for doctors with authority to tell her that everything is going to be fine, that she's doing everything perfectly, that she's eliminated every possibility of recurrence. I have to bite my tongue constantly. She can't hear me, and I don't want to make things any worse for her. I can't imagine what it must be like to "live" in that cage.

And then there's the man who's refused western treatment, and catches me up to date on the world of alternative treatment every time we meet, but somehow never has time to go out and do any of it. There's lots of time, right? Maybe next week, if he can finish painting his daughter's basement and make an appointment... I mean, after all, he feels fine. Yeah, I suppose he is. For now. Very robust, hale. But those bad old numbers keep climbing with every interval of bloodwork, and he keeps me appraised of those too.

At the last appointment I did something I maybe shouldn't have done. I mildly lost it, and told him I wanted to still be treating him 20 years hence, and for god's sake, DO something! Something! If it's not going to be western treatment, then get on that alternative train NOW. He knows it's progressing, and is too young and strong to die without putting up a struggle, so I told him to take that vitality and use it like the resource it is before this creeping disease sucks it dry. Get those freaking supplements you keep talking about! See that herbalist! PLEASE!

Which is my own issues talking, of course. My Inner Psychic Paramedic that sees the emergencies before they happen and wants to leap into kit and fire up the sirens. But dang if that Paramedic's paranoia doesn't keep my eyes and hands sharp for picking up the little signs of big problems.

It's all about fear, and a dedication to reality I figure. I'm not a fan of the Bible at this point in my life, but those constant admonitions to "Fear not!" are good advice. An eleventh commandment if you will. Of course we experience fear, but it's no better advised to let it rule our roost than it is to let any other passion take unchecked control.

I fear. I spent all this past week in a panic attack over something I know is craziness, but couldn't control the emotion that went along with it. But what I can do is talk to myself about the crazy, and not let it wear the pants. Keep going. Act on reality, not my phantasms.

Having had cancer myself, I have some fear about that too. Some. But on the other hand, I've done that and came out the other side, so that's a known quantity and less scary because of it. I keep an eye on my internal weather and shift sail accordingly. I try to live proactively.

I also have a person who denies he has cancer at every possible turn. Didn't tell me until after the fact that he was in radiation therapy, even though it was booked for two days after our first appointment. I wouldn't even know there was cancer at all if I hadn't looked at the history, clicked that something wasn't adding up, and called the referring doctor. This is so far advanced that I'm guessing pain control is the only applicable protocol left.

That's very sad, to me. That such a short time is left in this leg of the journey, and not be able to use it fully because the denial and fear are so strong.

It's going to be an interesting day. Eat your fresh garden greens and live happily and bravely, ladies and gentlemen!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Micro Loans, Macro Impact

G'wan! Make a $25 loan with someone else's money!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Myth-Busting in the Garden

I grew up in an area up north with higher fertility than the one I presently live in. Half an hour to the west of us, things grow much more readily too, but right here it takes a bit more doing. This is taking a bit of getting used to.

I'm still very much a novice gardener, so there's definitely a clueless factor as well. I'm learning as I go, and gardening isn't my #1 priority. It's up there, but it's not #1. Climbing the ranks, mind you.

And then there is the Pioneer Gardening Myth. You know this one? The myth of the woman who had no time to tend her garden much, but just threw seeds at the ground, stepped into the soddie, had triplets unassisted, and when she stepped back out in late August the garden had laughed up a glorious crop. Or something along those lines. She then tied the babies to the legs of the table and rolled up her sleeves to can.

This was in the back of my mind somewhere. It got uprooted when we took a visit to the local Ukrainian Pioneer Village and saw such a garden. Brothers and sisters, those pioneers weren't living on fresh vegetables. There's a reason everyone was wearing flour-sack clothing and eating perogies. Such gardens don't usually produce much.

So, re-adjust. Keep reading.

Plants need food.
Plants need water.
Lots of both.

And in these parts, it's best to start your seedlings indoors. You see those lovely tomato and lettuce plants on the front right? Those came from seedlings started by a friend who spends 6 hours a day gardening, and begins her seedlings in greenhouses. She does amazing cauliflower and broccoli too, and has it timed so her plants are fruiting (vegetabling?) before the cabbage moths can set in to ravage.

This year Chive put our compost heap in the middle of the garden. I'm still not entirely convinced this is the best spot for it. Off to the left is a stand of willow, and their roots invade the garden. The middle is one of the more-or-less fertile areas, so I'm loathe to use it for processing compost. I'd prefer to have the heap over to the left (west). Maybe next year.

I'm also lining up containers for next year. We have a little deck off the front of the house, facing south. The front door is blocked off, and the deck itself is too uneven and hot for people-time, but I figure it would be great for tomatoes and such.

Food. Water. Good soil.

Bees are nice too. I'm advertising for someone to set up bee-boxes on our land so I can watch it happening and hopefully undertake my own hives some year. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pork Futures

...Wizards mostly lived in universities down in the big cities and weren't allowed to get married, although the reason why not totally escaped Tifffany. Anyway, you hardly ever saw them around here.

Witches were definitely women, but most of the older ones Tiffany knew hadn't got married either, mostly because Nanny Ogg had already used up all the eligible husbands, but also probably because they didn't have time. Of course, every now and then, a witch might marry a grand husband, like Magrat Garlick, as was, of Lancre had done, although by all accounts she only did herbs these days. But the only young witch Tiffany knew who had even had time for courting was her best friend from up in the mountains: Petulia - a witch who was now specializing in pig-magic, and was soon going to marry a nice young man who was shortly going to inherit his father's pig farm*, which meant he was practically an aristocrat.

*Possibly Petulia's romantic ambitions had been helped by the mysterious way the young man's pigs were forever getting sick and required treatment for the scours, the blind heaves, brass neck, floating teeth, scribbling eyeball, grunge, the smarts, the twisting screws, swiveling and gone knees. This was a terrible misfortune, since more than half these ailments are normally never found in pigs, and one of them is a disease known only in freshwater fish. But the neighbours were impressed at the amount of work Petulia put in to relieve their stress. Her broom-stick was coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Being a witch, after all, was about dedication.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


So I picked up my messages off the phone last night, and there was one from an insurance agent in my Dear Relative's town, informing me that I need to "make a decision" concerning a policy that names me, my husband, and my son. Not my daughter. I suspect she's got a policy all to herself.

I'd like this all to stop, but I suspect it'll go on as long as she lives. I must say, though, I'm getting better at detaching.

There's no decision to be made that wasn't made years ago. Next!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Holy Bees

Summer is usually my not-dreaming time. I have two theories about that. The first is that fall-winter-spring are much darker times here in the north, and create a quieter canvas for the mind to write its stories. The other is that summer is a bit of a dream in itself; the colours are intense, the growth is prolific. Birds and animals are constantly appearing and sounding. What the winter mind needs to create as images, the summer mind finds served up externally. Those are the current theories. Who knows? It could very well be that other people experience the opposite.

This summer, even though I'm not dreaming much, I'm definitely very restless for image. I'm thinking a lot about art and meaning, and life-story, and how we talk to ourselves about ourselves and how deep a chasm lays between the story we tell ourselves and the story we actually live. I've always loved stories, and I could toss back books like a drunk on a weekend binge. But in the last year I find I'm reading a lot less, and looking for pictures a lot more. I'm noticing which images pull me hard. I'm trying to be awake to the what and the why and the when, and what story I'm telling myself about myself with the pictures and colours I surround myself with.

Something I did with my "new eyes" was to go through my fabric stash. Of course. I mean, of course, right? I'm not a draw-er or a painter. I'm a fabri-phile, and a sometimes-sewist. I rely on fabric-design artists to create my working palette for me, and then I can hack away and hopefully come up with something both useful and soul-bolstering.

Last year (or was it two years ago?) I found this bee-fabric, and I had to have some. I needed those bees. I got it, rolled around in it for a couple days, then folded it up and tucked it away. Every now and then I'd rediscover it in a rummage for something else, and I trace my fingers around a bee, and leave it again.

This spring/summer, after jumping out of that shipwreck of an acupuncture program, I was feeling altogether bruised and contused. I needed to make something. Particularly I needed to make something slowly, slowly enough that I could re-evaluate the project at every stage, and let it talk to me about what it wanted to be. I wanted to have a go at doing things just because they satisfied something in me. The tendency is to throw fabrics into a likely jumble, pick a few happy colours, and sew like a fiend until it's done. That's not a bad thing in itself, but it's more utilitarian than a balm for the soul, in terms of process. I tend to be more project oriented than process oriented. Thus the headlong rushing through every. single. moment. of my life. Yes, I get quite a lot done. But it's not a bad thing to intentionally delay every now and then. This was one of those now and then moments.

I wanted my spirit-bees.

I remember, and oh gosh this is from a loooong time ago, hearing about Sarah Ferguson's wedding dress being embroidered with bees, and that took my mind by storm for some reason. I would have been in my early teens, I suppose. (And typing that, what idea doesn't take your mind by storm when you're a teenager? It's like a 10-year multi-lobe hurricane.) That was before internet entered my life, so I tucked the information back into my head's filing cabinet somewhere, and from time to time I'd find something in a book, or hear something off-hand somewhere, and it would go into the same file.


A little bee on the fabric is shorthand for all that and more in my personal iconography, which is informed and built on the iconography of bees through history. It's awesome, and I mean that as in "inspiring awe", that we humans can tap into a deep reservoir of collective dreaming and story-telling to find our images. Sometimes I get frustrated by the seeming need to reinvent the wheel on a personal level, but when I take a step back and look at things, more often than not it's just an old story re-telling itself. It's only new to me.

I needed a new tea-cozy too. ForTOOOitus.

I had the base fabric (a Fasset that I have to keep myself from sticking in my mouth, I love it so much), and the extra fan-blades from a quilt made last year. I also found the buttons in my stash, purchased back in the day when I was still able to lie to myself convincingly enough that I actually believed I was going to sew garments. Probably. I don't really remember buying them, but there they were. I wanted some embroidery on this one, and I didn't have any, so I bought a few skeins of that, and a stained (tea-stained, so it's been broken to the task) cotton doily from the thrift shop. The inside lining is cut from an old massage-sheet.

It's done now. Every day I run my hands and eyes over it and get my fix of colour and texture and satisfaction at having made something that I find both beautiful and useful.

I've made myself an icon.I don't know what I need these bees for, but I can feel the rightness of it, and how they're shaping something inside of me, and pulling at threads of consciousness.

When it's not too hot, I light a beeswax candle in the morning while I drink my honeyed tea and contemplate those bees. If I was really motivated I'd go sit by the raspberry bushes with the whole kit and listen to the bees too. I can do without the stinging, mind you. That's a sensory experience I can remember clearly enough without having to re-enact it.