Monday, March 31, 2008

Fallow Land

It is March 31st. By this time last year I had had two surgeries related to the breast cancer with which I had been diagnosed on Wednesday, February 14th, one week before Ash Wednesday of 2007.

The first surgery was a lumpectomy, with removal of some lymph nodes from my underarm. The second surgery was to implant a port-a-cath to permit chemo therapy. During that surgery my surgeon re-entered the site of the lumpectomy to take an extra excision, for a wider margin of safety. The surgeries were a success. On April 30th I began chemo treatments. They lasted through August. Radiation therapy lasted into November.

In January I had decided to have Newlin cut me some garden plots in the until-then virgin yard of our rental house. The surgeries left me restricted in movement and strength. But I was determined to have a zinnia garden, and to grow tomatoes, beans, eggplant and peppers. So in March I started seeds.

After the ground had warmed up, and Newlin had cut the garden plots, I planted out the seedlings. By then I was well into chemo treatments. I was sick much of the time. I kept working, although not as much as usual. I presided at Sunday worship, missing two Sundays over the nine months of treatment. But, as weak, and as nauseated as I was, I got those seedlings into the ground, and into the nine containers I prepared for smaller plants.

And last of all, I sowed a ton of zinnia seeds, mixed with cosmo and poppy seeds, on a triangular plot, with nasturtium and cardinal flower seeds against the fence. On one corner near the fence I planted out asclepias seedlings – related to milkweed but with yellow flowers. The zinnias took over. But that was fine with me. The riot of color made the whole thing worthwhile – the surgeries, the sickness, the pain, the stiffness and loss of motion.

Today is March 31st. I have started no seeds this year. I’m thinking I will buy plants for my tomatoes and peppers, and forget the eggplant, which proved way too prolific. The zinnias will be sowed directly into the garden. No need to start them.

Meanwhile, two of the three plots lie fallow. In the third, in the front yard, the lavender has survived the winter. The big sage plant, which we have dug up and transplanted I don’t remember how many times as we moved from one place to another, has survived the winter. The rosemary did not. I’m waiting to see if any of the other plants have wintered over. I try not to check every day ( ! ) but after the winter, by the time we have had our first warm up I’m ready for signs of new life.

I’ve also decided to make one of the beds, the largest one, an herb garden. I’ll buy plants to put in there, and at the back of the bed, against the fence, or along the north edge, is where I’ll put in my vegetables, just a couple of plants. This year I’m more into herbs and flowers.

The surgeries are over. The chemo and radiation are over. The needle biopsy, the MRI’s, the CAT scans, the horrible, medieval prep for the first surgery with a needle of radioactive material placed directly through the tip of my left nipple and marker needles placed either side of the offending tumor while under mammogram compression are all over. The mammogram at the beginning of this month was “normal”. “See you next year!” they said.

But, you know, writing about last year, going over the calendar, seeing the appointments there, has made me a little sick. I wonder how many gardens it will take before this past year is just a distant memory.
Meanwhile, I wait for the nurseries to put out their seedlings, and their zinnia seed packets. I wait for planting time, and this year’s garden. And at the same time, I enjoy the cleanness of those fallow garden plots, stripped and raked over, waiting, waiting, waiting.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rambler Rose

When I named this blog "Ramblings with Lois", I had two images in my mind. One was a place to share the wayward and spiritual wanderings of my mind, and the physical meanderings of my life.

The other was more concrete. I was remembering the rambler rose, and not just any rambler rose, a specific one.

When I was a middle schooler in Basking Ridge New Jersey, we lived in an old farmhouse outside the town, with a big backyard that blended into the fields and woods behind us and the apple orchard on one side of us. Toward the end of our property line to the back, there was a stone wall that marked my father's garden. Behind that, there was another fence of rails, and against that fence grew a huge rambler rose - a fence in itself.

Inside the rose fence was an open space, large enough for me to crawl into. When we were children we were constantly making or declaring certain areas to be our private forts. I made this space inside the rambler rose my fort. Here I kept my treasures.

My brother and I grew zinnias in one part of our father's garden, to attract butterflies. In the rose fort I kept my collection of pinned butterflies. I also kept my experiments here.

I don't know when or how I learned to do this, but I discovered that if you put a cotton ball saturated with ammonia in a jar, and dropped a flower in the jar, the flower would change color. But not all flowers.

Pansies and violets would change color. Zinnias would not. Butterfly wings didn't change, either. For reasons passing understanding, I remember that fort and my flower experiments often. I don't pretent to understand why this memory persists, or why it came back to me at the very moment I was asked by my church's webmaster to start a blog, but the blog is called Ramblings with Lois, in part, because my mind went back to my past and picked a rambler rose and brought it forward into the present, hopefully new and fresh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Holy Tuesday Confession

I’ve been in Hartford all day, at the Cathedral, for the annual renewal of ordination vows and a nice little Quiet Day, with Bp. Laura Ahrens giving the meditations.

I came home and, after checking voicemails and emails, I went to check the blogs I follow in Anglicanland. The Mad Priest (OC, ICBW…) has a post with a news video of recently deposed bishop John David Schofield on Palm Sunday, defending his position.

His position is this: for years he has led the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of San Joaquin in California. He has led it in a very conservative direction. He and his followers do not support women’s ordinations nor do they have the time of day for gay or lesbian people. The Episcopal Church, on the other hand, has slowly been opening itself up to lesbian and gay persons. We are therefore apostate, no longer Christians in his eyes.

We have refused to repent of our liberal stance toward full inclusion of lgbt people who live on the margins in most cultures, including our own. Anglican and Episcopal churches in other countries around the world are divided on the issue. A few people, bishops and congregations in The Episcopal Church, formerly in the United States but now including several other countries, also disagree strongly with the positions The Episcopal Church has taken and is certain to take in the future towards full recognition of gay and lesbian persons as wholesome before God. (We ain’t there yet, but we are not going to stop until we are.)

John David Schofield led most of the people and congregations of the Diocese of San Joaquin to break their tie with the Episcopal Church and affiliate, instead, with the Diocese of the Southern Cone, located in six countries in South America. Southern Cone sees things with reference to gay and lesbian persons the same way as John David Schofield sees them. It is for this abandonment of the Episcopal Church for which he has been inhibited, which means he is not allowed to perform any sacraments in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and now he is also deposed, which means he is no longer a bishop in the Episcopal Church headquartered in the United States.

Sadly, JDS has revealed in the past that he is a (now celibate) gay man, or as he self identifies today, a former gay man. So, there he was on a news video from Palm Sunday, defending what he has done and celebrating Mass in the Diocese of San Joaquin as though somehow that diocese has been beamed up to the Southern Cone and the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church and the inhibition and the deposition have no authority over him.

Unfortunately, JDS is a bit overweight. His cope, a huge sort of cape, which fastens in the front at the chest, has slipped off his right shoulder and shifted from his left shoulder to hang over his left chest. The clasp is practically choking him. And right there, in front of God and everyone, I wrote a hurtful comment about him being closeted so long that he forgot how to wear a cope. I really felt sorry for him, but I wanted more to make fun of him.

Dear Bp. John David Schofield, I apologize for being a cretin. I do not like you. I do not like what you stand for and I do not like what you have done in San Joaquin. You and those who think like you have decided that I and the whole rest of The Episcopal Church are no longer Christians, but you are wrong. You claim we have rewritten the Bible and believe only what we want to. That is also wrong. It is false witness. It is a lie.

But you do not deserve fat jokes or closet jokes. I am suddenly filled with pity for you. So, I am sorry for what I wrote.
But, John David, not so sorry as I feel for the damage you have left behind in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. May God have pity on you. May God have pity on me. And may the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin heal and prosper in the blessed absence of your influence.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

Yesterday I flushed down the toilet several bottles of unfinished drugs from last year’s treatments for breast cancer – steroids, pain killers, and an unused supply of an anti-dizziness drug I found in an old pocket book.

This morning I read the article on Yahoo! News reporting from the AP about the pervasiveness of pharmaceuticals in our drinking water – and not only there, but in the source water as well, the aquifers, lakes, streams and God only knows where else.

The traces of drugs in the water supply come, it is reported, from the unmetabolized portion of drugs we take. But the whole time I’m thinking, “What about all those pills I just flushed down the toilet? They’re not metabolized at all!” And, of course, the article finally got to that bit. Yes, maybe, it says, a lot of people are doing just what I did.

Now, I’m thinking, when I was being given chemo therapy, I was told to drink lots of water to flush the excess drugs out of my system. Where did those flushed out caustic chemicals go? Down the toilet of course!

I was also told to drink lost of water while having radiation therapy. Did I flush excess radioactivity down the toilet as well?

It’s all I can do to remember to turn off the tap while I’m brushing my teeth, instead of leaving it running. Same with washing my face. Now there’s my responsibility in adding to the pollution of our water, because of course I’m still on meds – to control high blood pressure, to control cholesterol, to support my underactive thyroid gland, and, yes, a continuing anti-cancer, estrogen suppressing drug for five years.

Maybe the estrogen suppressing drug traces I flush will counteract the hormone levels found in water and help those poor male fish who are beginning to produce egg proteins. Maybe that much good can come out of all this!

Anything, so I don’t obsess about my part in contaminating our precious water.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Good News

I had a mammogram this morning. The first post-cancer treatment mammo has to be looked at by a radiologist before they’ll let you leave the center. Mine was looked at. When the tech came back with the news, it was "Everything's fine. See you in a year."

That's it? No bells, whistles, streamers, dancing bears, what? So you'll have to make up your own.

Meanwhile, will you forgive me if I don't go into the office today? I'm just too jazzed by the good news to settle down to something productive. I want to read, I want to write, draw, paint. So please forgive me. And I'll be back on track tomorrow.

Peace, and please remember to party, because sometimes the news is just that good!

The Return

Last Friday the hawk came back to our yard. Newlin didn’t see him until he had spooked him. The hawk flew away, so I didn’t get to see it at all.

The result of this return visit was the sermon I preached yesterday, Sunday, March 2. You can read it for yourself. Click on “Return to home page” at the top on the left of this page, go to “Resources” and click on “Selected Sermons”.