jeudi, novembre 24, 2016

garden meditation

Garden Meditation - via Heather Hatch McMurphy Kramer
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds,
And the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks
For generous friends with hearts and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them.
For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and
As elegant as a row of corn,and the others, as plain as potatoes
And so good for us;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and
As humorous as Jerusalem artichokes;
Let us give thanks for serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash,
As persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini,
And for those who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see us through the winter.
Let us give thanks for old friends nodding like sunflowers in the Evening-time, And young friends, coming on as fast as radishes,
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite
Our blights, our wilts, and our witherings.
And finally, let us give thanks for friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their time that we might have life thereafter.
For all of these we give thanks

mardi, novembre 22, 2016

the good that's in us and the good we do will outlive us

This story is heartbreakingly beautiful. Christine Ennis, mom of 3 young daughters, including an infant, is nearing the end of her life due to Stage 4 breast cancer.

"The good that’s in us and the good that we do will outlive us." - Fred Dickey
Mother of three making peace with cancer and death
By Fred Dickey
November 18, 2016, 9:55 AM

I don’t want to write this. I really don’t.

But sometimes you have to swallow hard and do your job, because stories of courage and great decency are so infrequent that to ignore one would betray the journalist’s duty.

Such a story is Christie Ennis.

Christie has Stage 4 breast cancer. I first met and wrote about her last December. At that time, she was battling her disease while eight months pregnant. She impressed me, and a great many others, with her gentleness, strength and affection for everyone. That has not changed. But neither has the cancer, except to get worse.

Christie, 36, her husband, John, and their three daughters live in a small rental home in Clairemont. John works long hours in the restaurant business. He also watches over the kids and does homemaking chores after sleeping for a few hours.

Christie is a pretty woman. A bald head, a body bloated with water and eyes misted with pain and sorrow don’t obscure that.

She is also a lovely woman, but that emanates from who she is, not how she looks.

She is also a brave woman, and you will see why.


I walk into the living room where Christie is curled into a chair with a blanket around her legs. She looks up and smiles broadly and greets me with an outstretched hand.

It’s also present and evident, that damned disease, but she makes it unimportant, just for a moment.

I ask, lamely, how she’s doing.

She knows exactly what I mean, but does not falter. “My cancer has been growing,” she says. The smile weakens but doesn’t leave her lips, because she’s reluctant to spread her grief to someone else.

“We found out last week that it spread to my skull, and through my arms and ribs and pelvis and sternum and legs. It's everywhere. It's in my liver. It's done quite a number on the liver — consumed the right lobe, then affected the spleen, which causes more pain.

“That's all happening right now. It's very difficult because (the doctors’) hope is to keep me alive. Once you're terminally ill, it's very hard.”

John, standing nearby, says: “The conversation with the doctors is more about easing pain and making her comfortable. There's not a whole lot of talk about remission anymore.”

She says, “My tumor markers recently exceeded the maximum measurement, and after that, they stopped counting. I started to feel abdominal pain and have some swelling. I got a fever and I got bad delirium.”

Consequently, she has been put back on chemotherapy, her third session. The chemical is Taxol, and it is very potent. It is injected through a port in her chest. She says it seems to be stopping tumor growth, but no one knows for how long.

“Taxol is supposed to be great. They just have to find the balance for your body. At first, it was really strong. Too strong, like it-almost-killed-me strong.

“It left me writhing on the floor like death. I went to the hospital in an ambulance. People thought I was dying. The dosage had been way too high and it caused terrible side effects.”

John says, “When that happened, I thought we’d lost her.”

What are the side effects?

She looks into the distance, searching for the proper awful words. “It’s crippling. The edema. The sores all through your (gastrointestinal) tract. They start in your mouth, really gross, scabby things that go all the way down. It affects everything … the exhaustion … the neuropathy ...”

Normal cells are orderly and know their place and purpose. Cancer cells, for reasons mainly known only to them, are ones that go crazy and repeatedly replicate and spread. They take over and disrupt the body’s ability to function, and when allowed to run wild, will kill. Microscopic Frankensteins.

Taxol is a chemo drug whose purpose is to destroy those outlaw cancer cells by making them forget how to reproduce. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t. It also plays hell with normal cells.

However, people who have Taxol injected into them to the extent of Christie are transported to a medieval dungeon where the side effects mimic the rack and iron maiden. If one were to make a list of side effects, the column would carry forward to a second page.

As we talk, daughter Vivian flits around the room, busying herself with 2-year-old things. Grace, 10 months old, sits on the floor nearby, probably strategizing about those first steps she’ll soon embark on. Alana, 6, is at school.

Christie’s lips quiver and her eyes mist. “I don't want to cry, but (chemotherapy is) really much harder this time. I’m having a really hard time.

“It’s dark, very dark, really dark. It's a very awful place to be because you're all alone.

“The weakness. I can't even hold my baby. I can't physically pick her up. That makes me really sad. Somebody else has to do the things that I should be doing for her, like putting her in her high chair or giving her a bath.”

From your tone, I sense you feel guilty.

“Oh, I feel terribly guilty, and I feel helpless. I feel very sad. That's my world. That's my purpose. Raising my children is what I do, but now I can't do that. It resonates from such a deep chord that you can't take care of your own little cubs. It's very sad.”

She looks at Grace playing at her feet. “I can't pick her up when she's crying. It's really very tough. That's the part I mean about being alone. It's also tough on John.”

Her voice is sad but matter-of-fact as she talks about something that’s normal in her situation, but rarely spoken of.

“Oh, it's got to be really tough on him. It's really hard on us at this time. I feel like we're so divided.”

How do you mean?

“Now, he needs to be wrapped up in his job. He works so hard and tries to take care of the kids because I can't. I feel like he's angry, mainly at the disease, maybe even at me a little, which I know is normal. He’s very loving and supportive, but there's not any talking or friendship or the kind of stuff that happened before, that united-ness.”

She accepts my offered handkerchief.

“Thank you.” A short laugh that she doesn’t feel. “It’s better than my sleeve.” **

John talks about the difficulties of making do and getting by in their time of trial. He has a manager’s job at a new pricey steakhouse, and he works as a server at banquets part-time to pay their hefty bills. They have just met their $12,000 out-of-pocket insurance quota, but have found it necessary to employ a full-time nanny.

“Every month, it’s skating on thin ice,” he says of the financial burden.

Even so, the family has started a college fund for the girls, although thus far it’s filled only with good intentions. Both Christie and John are college graduates and want the same opportunity for their daughters.

Christie enjoyed a career working worldwide in the hospitality industry.

Through it all, she retained her Catholic roots and recently adopted a parish in La Jolla called Mary, Star of the Sea.

When you say, "Why me, God?" what comes back to you?

“I don't say ‘Why me, God?’ I just pray for peace, for courage, for strength, and to just keep going.”

I’m amazed at the number of people who care about you, who follow you on Facebook.

“Oh my goodness, it's so overwhelming in the most beautiful way. The prayers and the thoughts and the love that people are sharing … my goodness, all that kindness,” she says in wonder.


John and Christie had settled into what she calls a “solemn partnership” in lieu of marriage, but last summer on a Hawaii vacation, John proposed.

“He said he understood what the road ahead looked like, but that he wanted to be there through everything. He was on one knee by a waterfall. He was fumbling in his backpack and pulled out a beautiful ruby ring. He was so cute. I cried.”

Six weeks ago, John and Christie had a formal wedding in New Jersey. The whole family was there to celebrate with them.

But when she returned, the cancer was waiting — angrily.


Describe the pain, Christie.

“The pain is the worst because it's just such a physical reminder of what you're going through. It's excruciating: sharp and stabbing and dull and achy and sore.

Can you eat OK?

“Yes, give me a big pizza. But I can't eat what I want because there's no space because of the edema. Everything is so swollen, my stomach is so tiny, but I want to eat that whole pizza pie. My appetite is there. Just the ability to eat is hindered.”

Christie does not shy away from straight talk, but this is the question I don’t want to ask: At what point do you say, “No more”?

“It’s really tough. I sometimes think with my life reduced to this, like laying under a blanket ...That’s not a way to live. I know it’s very controversial ...”

What’s controversial?

Her gaze does not leave my face. “California is a right-to-die state. It's something I consider, because I don't …” Christie’s eyes fill at the unfinished thought. “The idea of death is sad for me because I don't want to leave my children, my husband, my family, but I'm at peace with it. It’s OK.

“But being consumed, turned into mush by this spreading thing. It's not something I want anyone to witness. I don't want to have to go through it.”

Speaking those bleak words is tiring, and her voice softens. “It's exhausting, but you just …The option is to lay down, literally lay down and die, but I’m not there yet.”

How would you like people to think of you?

The change of subject momentarily lightens her spirit, perhaps by thinking of friends.

“Wow. I would like them to think of me as positive and loving and kind. However, with the pain, sometimes it's impossible to be a nice human, and I’m not at my best.”

What do you want for the girls?

“I want them to just feel such love and have a solid support system. I want for them to be well-rounded, well-mannered, and good humans. They have to be good humans. They better not go out there and reflect poorly on me.”

Discussing the girls in a future that does not include her is a stab in her heart.

“I really want to get so much better because I ...” She pauses to dab her eyes. “You normally don’t see me cry very much, but I'm a crier these days. I just want to get up and walk around. The things that you take for granted, oh my goodness, the things you take for granted.

“I don’t sleep with John in the same bed. Our bed is physically too high, and so I’ve been sleeping in this front room where the bed is very low … Just things that you miss. Sharing that space with someone.”

John comes in and reminds us that the time nears for Christie to get ready to go to the hospital for her next chemo session. I suggest we stop and start packing up.

Her smile widens and she says, “Yes, please. Let's stop on a note where I'm not crying.”


Cancer is serendipitous. Willful. It can confound oncologists and let its victim survive for years. Or it might shock them by a sudden plunge to the death. But if the affliction is severe enough, it will eventually get to where it’s going.

If cancer doesn’t allow Christie to see her girls grow, loved ones won’t forget how she reached out through the pain and touched them when she could no longer hold them. How she cried at the buds she would not see bloom. And how her soul ached not to leave them.

It’s wisely said that the good that’s in us and the good that we do will outlive us. In years to come, Christie’s daughters will look at the picture on the mantle and ask, “Tell me again what my mother was like?” And the words will glow, and Christie will live.

Fred Dickey’s home page is He believes every life is an adventure and welcomes ideas at

lundi, novembre 14, 2016


“We can’t expect the world to get better by itself. We have to create something we can leave the next generation.” Gwen Ifill, American journalist, television newscaster, and author (September 29, 1955 – November 14, 2016)

jeudi, novembre 10, 2016

all this i did without you

Tom Hiddleston, deliciously reading Gerald Durrell's love letter to his future wife, Lee McGeorge. I'm a puddle after hearing this.

Letter No. 028
July 31st, 1978
My darling McGeorge,
You said that things seemed clearer when they were written down. Well, herewith is a very boring letter in which I will try and put everything down so that you may read and re-read it in horror at your folly in getting involved with me. Deep breath.
To begin with I love you with a depth and passion that I have felt for no one else in this life and if it astonishes you it astonishes me as well. Not I hasten to say, because you are not worth loving. Far from it. It’s just that, first of all, I swore I would not get involved with another woman. Secondly, I have never had such a feeling before and it is almost frightening. Thirdly, I would never have thought it possible that another human being could occupy my waking (and sleeping) thoughts to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Fourthly, I never thought that — even if one was in love — one could get so completely besotted with another person, so that a minute away from them felt like a thousand years.
Fifthly, I never hoped, aspired, dreamed that one could find everything one wanted in a person. I was not such an idiot as to believe this was possible. Yet in you I have found everything I want: you are beautiful, gay, giving, gentle, idiotically and deliciously feminine, sexy, wonderfully intelligent and wonderfully silly as well. I want nothing else in this life than to be with you, to listen and watch you (your beautiful voice, your beauty), to argue with you, to laugh with you, to show you things and share things with you, to explore your magnificent mind, to explore your magnificent mind, to explore your wonderful body, to help you, protect you , serve you, and bash you on the head when I think you are wrong… not to put too fine a point on it I consider that I am the only man outside mythology to have found the crock of gold at the rainbow’s end.
But — having said all that — let us consider things in detail. Don’t let this become public but… well, I have one or two faults. Minor ones, I hasten to say. For example, I am inclined to be overbearing. I do it for the best possible motives (all tyrants say that) but I do tend (without thinking) to tread people underfoot. You must tell me when I am doing it to you, my sweet, because it can be a very bad thing in a marriage.
Right. Second blemish. This, actually, is not so much a blemish  of character  as a blemish of circumstance. Darling I want you to be you in your own right, and I will do everything I can to help you in this. But you must take into consideration that I am also me in my own right and that I have a headstart on you… what I am trying to say is that you must not feel offended if you are sometimes treated simply as my wife. Always remember that what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts. But I am an established ‘creature’ in the world, and so — on occasions — you will have to live in my shadow. Nothing gives me less pleasure than this but it is a fact of life to be faced.
Third (and very important and nasty) blemish: jealousy. I don’t think you know what jealousy is (thank God) in the real sense of the word. I know you have felt jealousy over Lincoln’s wife and child but this is what I call normal jealousy, and this — to my regret — is not what I’ve got. What I have got is a black moster that can pervert my good sense, my good humour and any goodness that I have in my make-up. It is really a Jekyll and Hyde situation… my Hyde is stronger than my good sense and defeats me, hard though I try. As I told you, I have always known that this lurks within me, but I couldn’t control it, and my monster slumbered and nothing happened to awake it. Then I met you and I felt my monster stir and become half awake when you told me of Lincoln and others you have known, and with your letter my monster came out of its lair, black, irrational, bigoted, stupid, evil, malevolent. You will never know how terribly corrosive jealousy is; it is a physical pain as though you had swallowed acid or red hot coals. It is the most terrible of feelings. But you can’t help it — at least I can’t, and God knows I’ve tried. I don’t want any ex-boyfriends sitting in church when I marry you. On our wedding day, I want nothing but happiness, for both you and me, and I know I won’t be happy if there is a church full of your ex-conquests. When I marry you I will have no past, only a future: I don’t want to drag my past into our future and I don’t want you to do it , either. Remember I am jealous of you because I love you. You are never jealous of something you don’t care about. OK, enough about jealousy.
Now, let me tell you something… I have seen a thousand sunsets and sunrises, on land where it floods forest and mountains with honey-coloured light, at sea where it rises and sets like a blood orange in a multi-coloured nest of cloud, slipping in and out of the vast ocean. I have seen a thousand moons: harvest moons like gold coins, winter moons as white as ice chips, new moons like baby swans’ feathers.
I have seen seas as smooth as if painted, coloured like shot silk or blue as a kingfisher or transparent as glass or black and crumpled with foam, moving ponderously and murderously.
I have felt winds straight from the South Pole, bleak and wailing like a lost child; winds as tender and warm as a lover’s breath; winds that carried the astringent smell of salt and the death of seaweeds; winds that carried the moist rich smell of a forest floor, the smell of a million flowers. Fierce winds that churned and moved the sea like yeast, or winds that made the waters lap at the shore like a kitten.
I have known silence: the cold, earthy silence at the bottom of a newly dug well; the implacable stony silence of a deep cave; the hot, drugged midday silence when everything is hypnotized and stilled into silence by the eye of the sun; the silence when great music ends.
I have heard summer cicadas cry so that the sound seems stitched into your bones. I have heard tree frogs in an orchestration as complicated as Bach singing in a forest lit by a million emerald fireflies. I have heard the Keas calling over grey glaciers that groaned to themselves like old people as they inched their way to the sea. I have heard the hoarse street vendor cries of the mating Fur seals as they sang to their sleek golden wives, the crisp staccato admonishment of the Rattlesnake, the cobweb squeak of the Bat and the belling roar of the Red deer knee-deep in purple heather. I have heard Wolves baying at a winter’s moon, Red Howlers making the forest vibrate with their roaring cries. I have heard the squeak, purr and grunt of a hundred multi-coloured reef fishes.
I have seen hummingbirds flashing like opals round a tree of scarlet blooms, humming like a top. I have seen flying fish, skittering like quicksilver across the blue waves, drawing silver lines on the surface with their tails. I have seen Spoonbills flying home to roost like a scarlet banner across the sky. I have seen Whales, black as tar, cushioned on a cornflower blue sea, creating a Versailles of fountain with their breath. I have watched butterflies emerge and sit, trembling, while the sun irons their wings smooth. I have watched Tigers, like flames, mating in the long grass. I have been dive-bombed by an angry Raven, black and glossy as the Devil’s hoof. I have lain in water warm as milk, soft as silk, while around me played a host of Dolphins. I have met a thousand animals and seen a thousand wonderful things… but –
All this I did without you. This was my loss.
All this I want to do with you. This will be my gain.
All this I would gladly have forgone for the sake of one minute of your company, for your laugh, your voice, your eyes, hair, lips, body, and above all for your sweet, ever surprising mind which is an enchanting quarry in which it is my privilege to delve.