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

November 24, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 8:26 pm on Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The week of Thanksgiving, and our anxiety-ridden consumer culture has rushed onward, draping the pumpkins in greens and holly, and imposing upon the November ear the sound of jived-up “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as one goes to pick up bird seed at the local store catering to farmer’s needs. “It’s going to be a long season for you, isn’t it?” I comment to the woman at the checkout as the music moves on to “Silent Night, Holy Night”, country-western style and she sighs and says, “It won’t even stop at Christmas. . . they tell us we gotta keep it up until January the first”. So I return to the car, thankful that my life does not require eight hours a day of hearing Christmas music in the background of the sounds of general commerce. By now the sound tracks have taken the carols of our youth and rendered them into thousands of hours of tortured settings in hopes of something “new” that will grasp the heart and open the pocketbook in generous expressions of gifting. The sorry thing is that even before the words, “Happy Thanksgiving!” pass one’s lips, there are likely people saying, “If I never hear ‘Joy to the World’ again, it won’t be too soon”.

This morning I lost it. Yesterday afternoon we were off on a tiny adventure to Omaha to a toy store in order to find some gifts for the twins’ upcoming birthday, and we concluded by eating our supper out before returning home. In the process, I lost track of the careful routine of medications, and when I awakened today, I felt pain and misery throughout my body. It was too much, and I began to cry uncontrollably. Dear Charles held me and gave me comfort until the storm passed, and Alphie lay quietly against my leg. I think that each day I deal with the dichotomy of “This is who I am” and “This is who I would like to be”, and there is an incremental buildup of sorrow until one day it becomes too much and suddenly, there you are. Now all is calm again and life goes on.

Sanctuary is just coming out of an unnatural silence as this week ends the rifle hunting of deer. The creatures knew, and even the birds remained very still, trying not to draw attention to themselves. Deer would freeze down in the hollows of the wetlands, waiting for Alphie and me to pass by, and hoping that we were not intent on killing them; we pretended that we did not know they were there. The weather is finally permitting the last fields of corn to be harvested, and there will be genuine thanksgiving for this gift. When I was a little girl, in the small white church on a hill in Iowa we always sang “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” on Thanksgiving day morning and as a child of the farm, the hymn was my favorite. We would go home to feast on that day, and where we lived, the winter snows usually came soon after, but the corncrib was full, the granaries held plenty of food for the animals and we were snugged in and ready.
“Come, ye thankful people, come; raise the song of harvest home. All is safely gathered in ‘ere the winter storms begin. God, our maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied. Come to God’s own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest home.”

Today we are still a “thankful people” because of all the blessings we have been given, we are getting at the moment, and will continue to receive in the coming days. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

November 17, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 8:44 pm on Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In a visit with the oncologist, he remarked upon the possibilities contained in the cells of the body – every one of them has all that is required to form a fingernail, or a tooth, or a tongue, or a retina of the eye, but each contains triggers that tell it which function it will perform. The present research in epigenetics as it relates to my illness, for example, is trying to figure out how to influence the triggers in a way to stop the development of the protein that wraps around the white cells and does not permit them to become functional. There is much progress, and there is a long way to go. It is very interesting to consider my thumbnail and reflect that with a different set of instructions, it could have been my ear lobe, or perhaps a bit of kidney. I have not yet begun to visit with various body parts and enquire of them whether they would rather be something more dramatic or visually interesting, and I hope for Charles’ sake that I do not. He would likely not speak of it anyway.

On January 20, 2010 I will reach the 4th anniversary of hearing the diagnosis of the bone marrow cancer, and when I look back at what we thought then, four years of further life were far beyond all expectations. Even one more year seemed just a possibility. Today I look at the sunlight outlining orchid blooms inside the Great Room, and out across a Sanctuary of land and creatures that I love so dearly. I hear Alphie beginning to stir as he responds to some signal from the slant of the winter sun that tells him that soon we must take our afternoon walk, and I arrive at that overused term, “Awesome”. My body does struggle – I join the great congregation of people who live their days in “chronic pain”, and that means that most of the time, unless one very carefully moves not an eyelash or muscle, there is pain or discomfort in a portion of the body. In mine, it is usually centered in those places where bone marrow is trying to do its work – the hip bones or the shoulders, etc. I have a well-thought-out regimen of medications that wraps a veil around the pain without blocking out the joy of living life itself. Some days are more successful than others, but that is true for everyone.

In Psalm 139, v.14, the psalmist’s words written so long ago still define in the best way the original construction plan for all of humanity. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works; that I know very well”. And so we are, all of us. . . fearfully and wonderfully made, with every cell endowed with fearful and wonderful capacities. Thanks be to God.

November 10, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 1:02 pm on Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A friend called and said, “If you can come with me, I will show you some interesting places not far from here” and I was delighted to see what might be new to the eye. We drove on gravel roads past fields that appeared mundane and ubiquitous in this part of the country, and turned into a field from which the beans had been harvested. There was not a great deal of color left, mostly grey and tan and dry soil. We stopped the vehicle near a small gathering of young cedar trees, and walking from there, just a bit uphill, found ourselves on the lip of a hollowed out part of the landscape, quite deep, and filled with bur oaks. Of all the species of oak, bur oak trees grow the most slowly, about a foot a year. This means that the branches are very angular and bent looking, like fingers with many joints reaching in every direction. These oak trees had to be beyond a hundred years old because they were very large and tall with stout trunks. We walked down the side of the hollow a short distance through gold and bronze leaves that were at least five to six inches deep, and we saw wild turkeys and deer on the far side. There was a stream of water running through the center, with cornfields barely visible off to the north. My friend commented that this land was considered not tillable, and therefore, no one bothered with it. It was wonderful.

We returned to the four-wheel drive and drove on a little track that ran along a fence line between a wetland “set-aside” area and a field of not-yet-harvested corn to another place that did not appear extraordinary at all. This time, we walked downward toward a large creek curving around a hillock covered with more of the old bur oaks and other deciduous trees. It looked fairly deep, and the riverbanks were in plateaus showing a history of water flowing there for a very long time. The hill on the other side obviously belonged to the wild creatures, and the area where we were had paths worn down with the hoof prints of many deer and other animals. As I stood there looking across the chasm at this place made beautiful with shadows and light in the early winter sun, I had to think of the huge wall tapestries we viewed in European museums that portrayed forest scenes of long ago. More than once, we have heard people speak of the dullness of the Nebraska scenery as viewed from car windows as they drove as fast as possible on the Interstate in order to move on to more dramatic places, but here, hidden away, secret and invisible across the plain fields of corn and beans lies an ancient and lovely moment in creation. The excursion made for an unforgettable day.

Last weekend, Alphie, who is healing from his knee operation, suddenly took off from the path on the southwest end of Sanctuary, running fast and with great abandon through the grasses and over branches, etc., treeing a forest creature. It had climbed to nearly the top of a cottonwood, was larger than a house cat, and was not a raccoon. I had my binoculars, so when I got nearer, I could look very carefully and study the animal from all angles, and there it was, an adolescent bobcat with beautiful face and ears, and the short tail that ended in a black stub. I looked up Nebraska bobcats upon returning, and verified my sighting. This was the first time I’d seen one in the wild in my entire life, so that was exciting. Alphie, however, tore out some stitches at the bottom of his incision, so this afternoon, we have to go to the vet and see what needs to be done. Until then, the whole thing was healing beautifully.

My health report remains very much the same. Somehow my body is able to move through episodes of “flu like symptoms” which take me to the clinic because I think sore lungs and coughs and such will carry me off, but after a number of days, I return to my form of “normal” which is not perfect, but is life and permits experiences such as those I described above. So I go on, with deep gratitude in my heart for a miracle that continues in spite of what is the expected outcome and I say each day, “Thanks be to God!”

November 3, 2009

Filed under: — Constance at 5:55 pm on Tuesday, November 3, 2009

With the time change, Alphie and I are once again able to walk about after sunrise and it is good. About two weeks ago, Alphie stepped in a fox hole while chasing after the deer just for the fun of it, and this time did the same injury to his right hind leg as he did a year ago to his left. It was back to the vet for surgery and getting new ligaments installed. He has a tidy line of stitches down the front of his knee, and so far, he has not been licking the spot overmuch. If he does, we will put a bandage over, and spray it with a material guaranteed to taste so dreadful that he will return his tongue to the inside of his mouth. He appears to enjoy the “invalid” treatment, having us transport him on the elevator most of the time rather than taking the stairs, and he improves daily.

With the arrival of November, I got out the museum catalogs to consider Christmas cards possibilities. Both Charles and I agreed that the cards selected should be about the birth of Christ rather than dancing snowmen, or cardinals in snow or skating children in old fashioned clothes or the like, “But not those 15th Century Fra Angelico Madonna and Child reproductions with fat babies, please” said dear Charles, thus eliminating about 90 percent of the cards that I had been contemplating. There is still plenty of time and this sort of activity is perfect for my present energy level.

Chronic illness in a failing body is a difficult thing. In a corner of my being there is a constantly wailing and wanting entity that is utterly weary of pain and lack of energy, so each new day requires a conscious effort to push it back behind a door that must be firmly closed and fortified with prayer, pills, and whatever else might be available. Sometimes it’s bright sunlight, or the words of a psalm, or lovely music that Charles plays, or happy stories about the children and grandchildren or Alphie nearby, looking soulful. All of the above are successful to differing degrees with some days better than others. Contentment, happiness, peace, well-being; all of these are defined and promised in countless venues with thousands of words dedicated to how a person might achieve such things, but one must go on within the frame that is uniquely one’s own, and life ultimately “is what it is”.