Constance Ore is a retired Teacher, Choir Director, and Organist. And a formidable cook.

September 26, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 5:19 pm on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Our walk began at predawn today because now the sun is starting the day after we begin ours. The pasture and forest were quiet since the night creatures had gone back into hiding and the day creatures were waiting for sunrise. Three quarters of the way through the walk, I saw some white that didn’t appear to be plant life – it was some distance away over the fence and across the stream and I stopped to look intently. Almost immediately, five deer sprang into life and ran south into a plum copse to hide out of my sight. Then, right overhead, two great horned owls left their perch as well, so I assume that when we are out walking, there are many creatures monitoring our progress and aware of every step we take. Alphie seems fairly oblivious to deer, though he will give chase if they are close enough. I don’t think he even noticed any of the above this morning. He does point at pheasants and quail from fairly large distances, and then leaps through the grasses to send them flying out in all directions – Charles feels that it must be an ongoing disappointment that we don’t fling guns to our shoulders and begin to shoot since it is evident that this dog was bred to be a hunter of game birds.

colors1.jpgIn this beautiful September, our fall asters have determined to be the centerpieces of our yard. All of them are wild, and came up at their own discretion, so hidden beneath them in the flower beds are resigned sedum, marigolds, and various other plants likely wishing that these interlopers would fall down and expire. We are delighted at the exuberance and color, and bees, moths and butterflies are also enjoying the blooms while they last.

My white blood cells held on this week, so continued days of delight and no therapies. Next Tuesday is the day of the bone marrow aspiration, so there will be more information about what is happening after the marrow is sent to the Med Center in Omaha and analyzed. Every time I go into the Internet and check out the information about MDS again, it tells a rather grim story, but perhaps one day soon my trajectory will become the rule rather than the singular event it appears to be at this time. I have now had MDS for one year and nine months, and today I can say once again, “Life is good, Hallelujah!”

September 19, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 11:25 pm on Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Alphie the Chocolate Labrador looks out the car window
This is the sixteenth day of feeling fine and we have been entertaining friends, going to concerts and enjoying life. Alphie has behaved nicely throughout though he did decide to drag me into the veterinarian’s office when I took him there for his annual shots. I was reminded that this is one huge and powerful dog; I flew through the front door at the end of the leash without much dignity – once inside, Alphie remembered that this was not really his favorite destination, and turned around with the intent of returning from whence he came, but we quickly closed the door of the examining room where, defeated, he lay down and sighed hugely, resigned to his fate and looking at the vet with those very sorrowful eyes. He was far more sedate as we left, but I realized that I failed the truly-in-control owner’s test in spite of thinking calm thoughts which the dog supposedly can read. Perhaps the term “Wretched brute” doesn’t work even if it is thought in gentle, measured tones.

cartoon mole looks longingly at a pipe organ
Autumn advances with leaves beginning to turn yellow on some of the trees. The crickets are still sounding forth though the cooler mornings mean that their cadences are a bit slower than in the late afternoons. Charles announced that the annual visit of a vole in his organ teaching room at the music building occurred and that, just like last year, the student who was receiving the lesson was unnerved by the sight. Charles grabbed the wastepaper basket and upended it over the creature and announced that they were now safe, and he would get someone from Buildings and Grounds to remove the interloper after the lesson. The maintenance people were duly contacted and yes, they would come over and take care of it, however, before they arrived, and before Charles got a note posted, “Mouse under here”, the janitor came through, looked at the upended wastepaper basket and took steps to correct the matter, likely thinking thoughts about the habits of musicians in general and students in particular. More dismay as the vole made a successful dash into the pipe work of the organ. Charles has requested catch and release traps because the suggested sticky paper route is a distasteful way to deal with the problem.

Low_Critical.jpgMy white blood cells continue a downward count, and now at 1.8, they have been termed “Low Critical”. It’s back to thinking about hand washing and other people sneezing, etc. I remember when this happened at the beginning, we were quite undone – now, it is a recurring part of the pattern. On October 2nd a bone marrow aspiration will return me to the cancer arena, but for now, I will enjoy these lovely days as the gifts of time and life that they are for me.

September 13, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 9:13 pm on Thursday, September 13, 2007

Monarch Butterfly in flight
Perfect days of September continue in Sanctuary. The Monarch butterflies are here in the gardens and the forest – they flit about, in pairs or trios, gathering food and strength for their long flight southward into Mexico. Most of the spiders have packed up their webs and returned to the mysterious places where they must stash their food and propagate their species. On our morning walk, Alphie and I pass under a number of dead cottonwood trees where birds love to gather upon their topmost branches to catch the first sunlight of the day. On one of them, I have noticed flickers in groups of four to six – they seem to be having intense discussions while rapidly climbing up and down the branches, now getting closer to each other, then moving to a different branch and carrying on with a different bird. Perhaps they are deciding which one gets the best dead tree trunk for a winter’s nest, or whether some must leave town. I do know that flickers are a part of our winter residency, but I don’t know if they limit occupancy.

woman and Laborador dog playingI went back into the archives of this blog and read what was happening a year ago and behold, the commentary was about the perfect September days and flowers and birds, etc. A circle complete, with myself enjoying a time of peace from the illness and planning activities just I have been doing this year. The greatest difference is in the Alphie report, since he had not yet been to reform school. Now, at the great dog age of about 17, Alphie is mostly mellow and we can have guests in the house without having to worry that he will fling his body on them and deposit dog spit on their persons. He does live an exceptional life of several long runs through field and forest each day, at least one ride in the car on an errand into town, and our polite stepping over his body as we work in the kitchen or elsewhere because he chooses to fling himself down in the midst of wherever the action is taking place.

normal blood under Scanning Electron Microscope
Always, the weeks go forward in the framework of the blood readings. As long as the white blood cell count remains above 2.0 (which is low, average begins at 4.5 and goes upward), I do not need additional injections of Neupogen. When it sinks below that number, the oncologist orders more of the medicine to encourage the body to work harder on the project. On Tuesday, the reading was at 2.2, going down from the previous week’s 3.3. I still feel quite good, with energy to enjoy life and nature’s nuances in this small quiet place in the universe. There are many hymns that live in my mind that put words to the emotion and make me smile as their words spin past – for example, to the tune “Lasst Uns Erfreuen”, (a melody that has verses and verses of happy thanksgiving) I can hear:

“To you O God, all creatures sing, and all creation, everything, sings your praises, alleluia!
Your morning rises with a song, and lights of evening sing along, sing your praises, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Your wind that blows the tempest by, your clouds that sail across the sky, sing your praises, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

little French Flourish

September 7, 2007

Filed under: — Constance at 2:44 pm on Friday, September 7, 2007

Chocolate Retriever cute eyesThe winds sound different this morning, and the air is cooler – fall is coming nearer to Sanctuary. On the first of this month, I was astonished to see a single oriole on the topmost branch of the hackberry tree on the south border because I assumed they all had migrated. Perhaps it was stopping for a few moments, because I didn’t see it again. Now we are getting more deer into the forty acres since the farmers in the area are starting to cut their corn fields into silage, and the creatures have to literally “get out of the dining room”. Alphie does a brief chase of the startled fawns because they do appear to be about his size, but they outrun him so easily, he soon returns to me with a canine shrug of shoulders as if to say that he wasn’t really interested anyway.

Honey Boro Farms 402.795.2189The bee story ended happily. We found a beekeeper who was delighted to gather a swarm because he’d lost twenty hives to the unseasonable freeze in late spring. He put on a beekeeper’s hat and long rubber gloves, and put a box directly under the great clump of bees. He struck the branch a mighty blow, and the bees fell as one, with queen in the center, into the container. He estimated that there were about 30,000 bees of the Italian species. Apparently, these are docile and devote their time to making great amounts of honey. This is not a good time to start a hive, but he said that he would feed them through the winter and hope for good outcomes next season. The next day there were about twenty bees sitting on the branch, forlorn and lost without their queen and mother, but later, all were gone. There was some scoffing at my hope that they somehow figured out how to find the rest and commenced to fly over the miles, but then who knows?

StPauls_Church_Stained_Glass.jpgTwo days ago, son John-paul and daughter Heidi drove “up to Iowa” with me. I put that in quotes because that has always meant a journey to my farm birthplace in western Iowa. My parents spent their entire lives in the county and now lie buried in the cemetery near the little white church on a hill. This place with an old Kilgan pipe organ and stained glass windows from Germany was built by my great-grandfather, and it embraces the story of my people. My parents were baptized, confirmed, married, and buried to the ritual words of the faith there and as their child, I was also baptized, confirmed and married inside that space where the view in all directions is one of undulating fields of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa.

Iowa Cows Crawford County Dennison
The day was perfectly beautiful, and we arrived via “The Ridge Road” so named by the locals because it followed a trail formed by buffalo along the tops of the hills. From here we saw a family cohort of a bull, several cows and numerous calves of varying ages. (This is rare because now most cattle are in huge confinements and don’t have the luxury of roaming pastures at will.) All stopped their grazing to look at the sound of John-paul’s quite authentic mooing sounds.

Case tractor Iowa
From the church we drove on to the “home place” which is still farmed by my brother and nephew, and walked about under trees that stood there when I was a child but have since grown huge in the ensuing years. Large combines, planters, cultivators and tractors stood memorialized in aging sheds around the place – we were told that they were all outmoded and too small to be useful anymore. If ever times’ passage could be measured, it might be in the sight of these pieces of machinery; silent, dusty and cobwebbed with only the echoes of being essential hanging muted in the rafters.

After completing twenty-two days of injections, my tissues are gleefully moving forward sans chemical infusions. I feel more energy returning, and delighted that I can begin to pick up more activities. The other day I said that I would vacuum and Charles replied, “I will vacuum. Surely if you have limited energy, you don’t want to waste it on vacuuming!” Now this is reason enough for sainthood, however, doing more of the ordinary things of life without collapsing into a heap is huge and I am actually looking forward to life with household tasks included in the days to come.