Wednesday, January 29, 2014

flowers and owls

Still noodling along... drawing owls, experimenting with pastels vs. acrylic.

I think I like the pastel version better. That probably means I like less precision more than it's opposite. Which means paint flowers with less of a precious eye, perhaps.

Thank you, Aunt Crystal, for the subject matter!

Also, here is a marvelous article on dealing with the uncertainties of life expectancy after cancer. 
In a way, though, the certainty of death was easier than this uncertain life. Didn’t those in purgatory prefer to go to hell, and just be done with it? Was I supposed to be making funeral arrangements? Devoting myself to my wife, my parents, my brothers, my friends, my adorable niece? Writing the book I had always wanted to write? Or was I supposed to go back to negotiating my multiyear job offers?
- Paul Kalanithi, New York Times, Jan 24 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baring the gene

Another person to thank on my long list  -- someone I don't even know. I'm gonna get religious here, and say, “Thank you, Lorde, for all your music.” That sixteen year old girl has sung while I've cried for hours back and forth to Boston.
When I was still going for radiation every day, I met a woman about my age on the elevator. She asked me, with an emphatically happy face, exuberantly smiling, how long it had taken me to grow my hair the three millimeters that it'd grown. Mutually we calculated how long it'd been since we'd last had chemo: six weeks out from the hard stuff, in my case. 
I was still going through a low dose chemo, no longer the heavy and hard level that kept me from having hair grow, but I didn't tell her that. It didn't matter.
I asked her if she was going to have radiation, and she shook her head. I now saw an expression of grief that looked like it had visited her face often enough to get comfortable. “No. I have stage four ovarian cancer.”
I said, “I had my ovaries out. I have the gene.”
She said, “I have the gene, too.”
I said, “Wouldn't it have been nice to have known?”
Yes,” she said, “but I have young kids at home. At least I know for them.”
Me too, I have young kids at home.”
A seven year old daughter, and twins. Three year old twins.”
Boys?” I asked.
A boy and a girl.”
I have an eight year old daughter and a three year old son.”
We talked in the line, waiting to pay for our parking.
My daughter just realized, maybe two or three weeks ago, that this might end badly.”
Badly?” she asked.
Well, no, not badly... That I might die, you know.”
But you have...”
Oh, no, it was only stage two breast cancer. I was really lucky. My chances are very good.” I didn't mention the triple negative part.
My chances are not.”
I'm sorry,” I said.
I'm not dead yet,” she said, smiling, but tears in her eyes at the same time.
I hope you have a lot of good family around, for the kids.”
No, we just moved here.”
I'm sorry,” I said again. “It makes you cry a lot, doesn't it?”
She said, “It's not fun.”
I could say all kinds of uplifting things, now, on this blog. I could say something inspirational about heavy but valuable lessons learned along this journey.
But it wasn't fun, and it still isn't. She's right.

Ending on a completely other note: I think I just figured out why I often make a quacking noise on the fiddle's open A string. It has to do with the speed/force/bow length used. Too long and too fast without enough pressure → quack. This is solvable!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thank you

This is a frog to say thank you, to all of you who have been supporting me and my family for the last six months.

More gratitude, continuously...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Delightful Shenpa

As I sit, I get hooked by pleasant, surprising thoughts.

Just shenpa, (Tibetan for "hook", discussed a lot by Pema Chodron - sorry about the ad at the beginning of the video) and no better than other thoughts, in that way, but...

For example: Lucy asked me, after hearing a bit about the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, if they made him king after that. I smiled, and said the United States doesn't have a king.

But I was wrong, wasn't I? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is, of course, our king.

Also, in the pleasant shenpa category, I'd had a dream a few days ago that Laurent and I were trying to move from where we were living. I came home, and the children and my sister and my brother-in-law were all there. I walked into the front room, which was covered with windows, and was surprised. There were mountains rising over a plain, and hippopotami down below. "Why would I ever move from here? I can paint this every day! I must have been an idiot not to have been doing that every second I could!"

And then I went and retrieved Emile from a a pack of mongooses, as they had adopted him as one of their own.

The meditation realization? Duh, Julia, you already live there. No mountains, no hippos, no plains, but life. And you can paint it.

Lastly, I have four New Year's resolutions that are more post-treatment resolutions than anything.

Do what I need to in order to paint and spend more time with husband and family.

Exercise (on most people's list)

Eat healthfully - this means no extremes. Neither a health nut nor a binger.

Grow, and learn, because otherwise there is no point. If that means slowly increasing meditation time, do it. If it means writing and painting, do it. If it means getting to bed early enough to be kind and present, do it. Etc.

Happy shenpa awareness to you all.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cat and tree

I'm trying to stick to a schedule that I know brings me some growth and joy.

Namely, meditate, then paint. No media.

Of course, staying up until 5am watching Doctor Who counts as a no no, right?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Acrylic paint all over the place, and trying to paint the cat

I've been talking about having an evolving fiction writing practice. Someone brings it up, usually me, and I say, “It's evolving.”

Um, what does that mean? I think what I meant was that something magical would magically happen and that my writing would magically become transcendent, and rock the very foundations of my world.

Please snort, if you just read that, because even I know how (… searching for the right word … impossible? Overreaching? Grandiose – oh, etc. ) that is.

Maybe, though, I'm not a fiction writer.

Maybe blog writing (can't bring myself to write that new verb that sprang from the word blog) is my meditative, non-transcendent, but honest to goodness evolving practice.

In other media, I have been having a paint binge. It is SO GOOD not to spend all day every day driving to Boston.

Instead, I spend the morning getting up late, getting Emile to school, meditating (as per the instructions of my wonderful teacher, Sokuzan Bob Brown) and then its a seriously unhinged paint binge.

Everything is wonky. It's like the floor fell out from under me, and I'm frantically scrabbling at the walls, with paint.

Also, cats may seem like they don't move much, but they do. Every few minutes. 

Also, this is why I went to art school. So I could frantically try to paint my cat before she moves.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter lace, the thirteenth floor, and the luthier's wife

In spite of car troubles - Laurent thinks the car is mad at me for having made it work too much - I am done with radiation.

I climbed up and then walked down the thirteen floors (though they label it 11, then 14, of course...) of the Yawkey Building of Dana Farber, thinking, "Maybe I am done... Who knows?"

Now I'm cleaning up my room, preparing painting surfaces, and planning on taking Emile with me to do a little upkeep on my fiddle, at my favorite luthier's store.

The fiddle man's wife is dying of breast cancer. The joy of music hand in hand with the "emperor of maladies"...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Last radiation treatment Monday

No more Boston traffic!

No more spending 3 hours a day in the car!

But, also, no more amazing embodiment of enlightened society...

But painting! And meditating! And writing!

F for Furry Fox, above. Thank you morguefile, for the original photo.