Toad in the Hole

October 11, 2006

Alarums, and Excursions

I've spent the week under the influence of some invasive biological entity, too much dextromethorphan, and stark fear. That's why I haven't written much here, or anywhere else for that matter. We did drag ourselves to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fest, and it was worth it. If you don't already own everything recorded by the Lee Boys, the Flatlanders, Richard Thompson, the North Mississippi Allstars, and of course Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris, go get them all now. I'll get up and add links in the morning, so check back here for more info if you don't see links yet.

While I'm reaching a more or less humanoid state, have a gander at a series I took of that pair of ravens at Drake's Beach on Point Reyes. Think they all look alike? Look again, and notice the positions of their crest feathers (so, the apparent shapes of their heads, especially the tops), their breast feathers and the feathers above their legs ("baggy pants"), and their wings, just to start. (Read some Berndt Heinrich if this intrigues you.) There's lots of dialogue going on, and lots of mutual declarations to the rest of the world. That's Him on ther tabletop to start, and Her on the seat and then in front on the table.

Start here and backtrack through the series if you want to see them in temporal order.


Posted at October 11, 2006 05:48 AM


What's wrong? Do you know yet?

I've been reading about the resurgence of whooping cough in adults.

yrs, BDL

Posted by: B. Dagger Lee at October 12, 2006 02:29 AM

Oh, it's just the nasty upper-respiratory bug that's going around the area this month. It does result in some rather spectacular noises -- yeah, it sounds like whooping cough when I whoop and cough, but it's responsive to OTC cough syrup, so I'm not panicking about that yet.

Resurgence. Hm. Ew. I do think I'll keep an eye on that. I have a scheduled physical early next month, and I have a good primary-care MD. I've seen pertussis (in two children of a chiropractor who ~didn't believe in immunizations~) and it ain't pretty.

The stark fear part is about my sister, who, by way of slight mitigation, did finally get seen by her local hotshot hospital this morning, and sent this:

"Just a quick update on my visit to the docs this morning. They took some more blood to do the labs again, as if i have any to spare. Monday i have an appointment for a bone marrow biopsy. After that i'm scheduled for a sonogram to look at my liver, kidney and spleen. Then more blood work, a visit with the gyn, and back to see the doc all in the next six weeks. That is unless they find something real critical before that on any of the millions of tests. They said they're gonna torture me, but find out what's wrong and we'll fix it. So, there you have it. A few steps in the right direction anyhow. Some relief for me."

I like the note of resolve, fourth-from-last sentence there. Maybe I can be a marrow donor... OK, here's the thing: thinking I could donate a kidney or a slice of liver has been the OPTIMISTIC thought. Her lab results the first time 'round were scary. She had cancer 10 years ago, and has a clotting disorder and a seriously fucked-up liver, and currently has about two blood cells to rub together, one red and one white. Forget platelets. AND GODDAMMIT SHE'S MY BABY SISTER I'M SUPPOSED TO DIE FIRST!

Posted by: Ron at October 12, 2006 05:20 AM

oh, ron. i'm so sorry.

Posted by: kathy a at October 12, 2006 03:29 PM

I'm so sorry Ron. I often think of the beginning sentence of C.S. Lewis's "A Grief Observed": "No one ever told me grief felt so like fear..." I think, past a certain age, the converse is true too, fear already feels like grief; or that past a certain age, one knows the two feelings converge into one. I wish you and your sister courage and good luck and good docters.

It was a cold, rainy day yesterday in NYC, the streets were filled with sirens, TV showing a building on fire, and I felt the edge of a mass of feelings of all the horror and grief of 9/11 and the terrible terrible years since.

Posted by: bdaggerlee at October 12, 2006 03:49 PM

BDL: "... past a certain age, one knows the two feelings converge into one."

Yes. And sometimes it seems to turn into a constant background, the only change being the pitch from grief to anticipated grief. I suppose it's partly a matter of accumulation -- more people and more of the world to "get attached to" -- to love, honestly -- and more things that can go wrong, and more things that echo things that have gone wrong...

Sara had a discussion of this stuff on her blog last week, and I suppose, as one of her commenters said, there's some balance point between love and "detachment" but I'm not sure the two are quite that separable or compatible.

I see I lied about those links; if anyone still wants some, let me know, but Google should serve. Thompson in particular has an active site and does a lot of his sales from it.

BDL, you're also right about the terrible years since. I try not to look at the future -- I habitually try not to, for personal and other reasons -- because I don't like what I see and it doesn't exactly help in coping with the present.

Your morning bringdown, courtesy of Toad Depressants Inc.

Posted by: Ron at October 12, 2006 04:57 PM

I've always thought and felt that "detachment" is the wrong word for what we should strive for, that allowing the feelings to flow through, no more and no less, not block them from entering and not hold them from leaving, was what the Buddha meant for us to try to do.

So, now, grief and terror. Later this afternoon, a moment of sun and a dog, or a crow and joy. Miss Patsy pretty much cries at least once when we watch the news in the evening. I read an interview with a young folksinger in the Times, and she was talking about watching a Bill Moyers interview with someone (I've lost the link in the chain of who!) who said that he thought Americans were very sad right now, that right under the surface of virtually anyone was sadness. The news and the national tragedy add to the accumulation of grief of the individual and personal.

Posted by: bdaggerlee at October 12, 2006 05:26 PM

bdaggerlee said it. the fear and the grief, fed by what we have been through before and by knowing now the preciousness of people we love in our lives. of course, that experience also feeds the courage [or whatever it is] to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to make the most of what turns up despite the fear. dammit.

wish i had something profound or encouraging to say, but it's not a hallmark moment when the possibilities include various transplants and/or cancer. if you want to vent, though -- i'm all ears, and think that is therapeutic when life stinks all to hell.

Posted by: kathy a at October 12, 2006 05:44 PM

see, you guys go saying profound things while i'm struggling to put my emotions into words.

i didn't really want to say that grief is a constant background, but it has been. lost my nephew and then my dad to long struggles with cancer, and then there is our national saga, and then, and then.... it is a freaking wonder that we can wake up and find something good in the day -- but pretty joyous when that keeps happening, anyway.

just don't know about detachment or the balance. it seems more like the competing concerns of being human and being able to function, at least to me.

Posted by: kathy a at October 12, 2006 05:56 PM

Ugh, Ron, I didn't even see these comments until today. I was too enthralled with the raven photos (which are great; thank you).

I'm sorry for what your sister is going through, and for what it's putting you through. One of the hardest things really is learning to live right now, not in future pain, even though you know or believe the future pain is coming. It is one of the greatest lessons of cancer, though.

I know it's really nauseating when people get all goofy about the opportunities presented by adversity. "You are so lucky to have a Downs Syndrome child." "How special for you to be married to a paraplegic." That's so not what I mean. I can only say that having cancer and being told I was probably going to die in five years (a ridiculously long time ago) clarified things for me. When today might be your last good day, or your last good day together, you either seize it or seize up. I've done both, on different days. It's a tough little trick, no joke. But I have found it to be worth practicing, or trying to practice. It can mean the difference between a wealthy life and a life of poverty. (And I know you know I don't mean anything to do with money.)

I loved Kubler-Ross, because she emphasized this from the perspective of the person who loves someone else, someone who may be dying but not necessarily. She is the person who taught me, long before I even knew I was sick, to tell people "I love you" or whatever else I have to say now, today.

I know you won't fail your sister. Whatever there is to do for her or simply with her, or even just tell her over and over, I know you will do. I'll bet she knows this, too.

Meanwhile, I really like B. Dagger Lee's interpretation of the practice of "detachment." That makes sense to me. It reminds me of something else I used to hear a lot: "The way out is the way through." I'm not sure where that line comes from, but it's a fact.

Posted by: Sara at October 13, 2006 01:46 PM