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

January 30, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 7:14 am on Thursday, January 31, 2008

From Puerto Vallarta, MEXICO
If not now, when? That was the question that propelled me on into this week in the sun. I am with a good friend in the condo of another good friend. The sound of the ocean is very powerful here – so much so that I close the balcony door before attempting sleep. Yesterday evening Linda and I walked the cobblestone streets of the old part of the city until I needed a rest so we went into a nondescript Catholic church and sat down. An elderly couple (probably close to Charles and my age though the term would never cross our lips in reference to ourselves). They both knelt down right inside the door and commenced to walk slowly and painfully up the side aisle on the concrete floor. Their destination was a side altar near the front of the church. I think about them and wonder if this was a singular journey of contrition or perhaps an act of daily supplication.

We return to the cold plains and our dear ones tomorrow and I will write more then.

January 23, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 9:54 pm on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

music.jpg“in the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow. . . snow on snow.” So goes the Christina Rossetti text for a Christmas carol, and it accurately describes Sanctuary this January. We traverse the paths where the snow has packed down to make the walking easier. Not only Alphie and ourselves walk here, but deer, rabbits, raccoons, and other less obvious creatures use these same trails. With the morning temperatures hovering around zero, I bundle up in many layers while Alphie patiently waits for me. He goes from the warm house out into the elements clothed in only his coat; he runs about with the same delight as always, chasing rabbits from their hiding places under the cedars and pretending that he might catch a squirrel at some point. Though the winter weather is wearying, it does provide the setting for breathtaking sights – last night a full moon on new snow meant that as one walked across the landscape, it appeared that diamonds were flashing everywhere around, glittering and giving off little prisms of light in a manner I’d never seen before.

courage.jpgOn January 20th, we remembered the second anniversary of the day of diagnosis of MDS and the beginning of Chemotherapy. At the time, we were hopeful that the Vidaza would extend life past the six months generally allotted for people having this disease. January 2006 was a difficult time, and the beginning of a new way of looking at life. Now, two years later, I am a different person, with an awareness of cancer and its fierce and dreadful ways that I had never considered before. There is an unimagined amount of courage walking about in the people one meets entering and leaving the oncologists offices and hospitals – most go on without comment and await with hope outcomes that may or may not be good. The ongoing blessing/curse of the treatment is the truckload of chemicals that are so fierce they must be administered with protective garments and gloves because they can eat through flesh if spilled – these are entered into the veins of the diseased and the struggle commences internally. At the beginning of things, one is innocent of knowing what all of this is like, then the reality of “side effects” and physically containing a field of battle becomes a new way of life. One dutifully checks off the list presented, “diarrhea, nausea, muscles aches, night sweats, constipation, bone pain, mouth sores, numbness of extremities, hair loss, etc., etc.,” and goes on.

trendingCampbells.jpgI am still alive, feeling reasonably well, and so thankful for each morning I wish I could sing louder and express more largely my gratitude. The biweekly CBC’s indicate a slow downward movement of the blood counts, but to date, all is well. Today I will make some chicken soup and clean out a few more kitchen cabinet drawers. Charles has brought up purple, white and yellow orchids from the greenhouse, the fire is burning comfortably in the wood stove, and the frosty winds are kept at bay. Life is good.

January 16, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 11:42 am on Thursday, January 17, 2008

snowglobe.jpgWinter refuses to ease its grip on Sanctuary, and looking outdoors today is viewing it as though I am sitting in the center of a snow globe. The flakes are large and many, and the fire feels very fine. There are more birds, rabbits, and squirrels at the feeders than ever, making it a good stopping off place for the hawk which comes through frequently enough to keep all perspective lunches and dinners flitting nervously into the dense cover nearby.

agnesCowgirl.jpgA good place for me to meditate is at the ironing board, and yesterday was a good day to iron the post-laundry table napkins that had accumulated over the past months. My mother hemmed many of the huge white damask ones, and the somewhat uneven stitches around the edges always bring back memories of her, a tomboy to the bone, riding horses and working in the fields and gardens. She likely sat through winter evenings hemming and embroidering and stitching and sewing the items which would be folded into her cedar hope chest prior to marriage. Most of these spent a lifetime languishing in dresser drawers, awaiting special events, as they were being saved for “good”. She didn’t use them more than once or twice a year, and now I have them, nearly new, and present at many of our dinners with friends and family.

January flies on, and I continue to feel reasonably well without any therapy at all. Perhaps the past several years will become an historic episode in my life, and perhaps I will stay at this place in blood health for another decade. I would not mind being written up as someone who did that! Since I cannot fathom the mysteries of life, or death, or the mind of God, I give thanks for each new morning and delight in each new day always looking forward to the next and the next. . . and the next . . .

Postscript: The center photo is of my mother Agnes when she was about eighteen.

January 9, 2008

Filed under: — Constance at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, January 9, 2008

drummerBoyz.jpgEpiphany season began on Sunday, without twelve drummers drumming, but with wonderful music and light imagery that is so fine for us as we begin the time of lengthening days. Minute by minute, our world grows brighter, and ever so slowly, the earth begins to reawaken to another season when the circle of life in our wetlands and woods will begin all over again.

lotsOCardinal_Nebraska.jpgSnow is slowly receding across Sanctuary and occasionally, cardinals have begun to sing out their territorial intentions in the early morning hours. Mostly, there are no bird songs, just warning calls from the bluejays when the hawk is near, the pre-dawn hooting of the great horned owl that lives in the cedars to the west of the house, and the unique whistle of the red tail hawk as it flies over the house toward the pasture and woods.

RiverOfBlood.jpg“How’s the blood?” is the first question that Charles asks after I return from having the CBC (Complete blood count) taken, and with delight I can report that the counts held steady. In this illness, there are three markers. They are the white blood cells, the hemoglobin, and the platelets. All are referred to in numbers which are compared to normal counts, and the lower the numbers the more difficulties one might have with the disease. If the white blood cells diminish past a certain level, there are no immunities to protect or ward off illnesses from without and within. If the hemoglobin drops too far, there is no energy to live, and if the platelets don’t function, bleeding begins through the tissues inside of the body. This great red river called blood joins all of us who live on the planet at this moment, and most of the time, it is quietly carrying on its task of life-support and we don’t think of it at all. I view the vials that contain a bit of mine as they are drawn from the vein and always hope that the numbers that will be returned to me will show that life is a “go”. I know that my hemoglobin is good because I have energy. I assume that the platelets are fine because they have never been “not fine”. The white blood cells are the most vulnerable, and while the count hovers at less than half of what is considered the bottom number of “normal”, it still remains enough to keep me going.

spiralMondayDreaming.jpgWhen I began the day on Monday, I had the remnants of a beautiful dream still moving in back of my eyes. I was dancing and dancing, spinning upward and trailing light as I moved through a space filled with song. I consciously added prayers of thanksgiving for all that I have, listing my dear ones by name, and continuing onward and outward with so many people and things and joys that I came fully awake absolutely delighted to be alive in this time and in this place.

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