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Archive for May, 2016

Notes From The Gardening Project: II

You will be like a well-watered garden.  Like a spring whose waters never fail.  Isaiah 58:11

If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.  Walt Whitman

It was my last appointment with the dietitian three days ago.  Joy is her name and she lives up to its definition.  She’s radiant and beautiful, funny and fun and smart, and I worked hard to live up to her dietary expectations this past three weeks, to drink copious amounts of fluids and eat my share of protein, to live up to expectations that would help me move though the Gardening Project with more ease and grace.  It wasn’t hard because quite honestly I never lost my appetite and food never stopped tasting good.  In fact, I became a star foodie pupil and our appointments transformed into a time to share our stories.  And, at this last appointment, she encouraged me to write down my gardening perspectives, to offer them  to others as a possible way to approach such a project.  And  truly, I intended to do so. But now, as I sit here, I can feel it.  I’ve moved on.  I have said my good-byes to the staff on Floor Nine where I have had morning appointments for the past twenty-one days, to the nurses and PAs and doctors who are not only skilled and reassuring, but also kind and interesting, who I count with gratitude as dear friends along the gardening path.  And I also have started to pack up my gardening talismans, the precious rocks and prayer beads, the homemade pillows and quilts, the gifts bestowed to me by friends and family that have provided comfort and strength as I’ve moved forward on this project.  You see, tomorrow my gardening tools will find their way into the back of our Subaru and my husband and I will drive the several hours north to Duluth then east through Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to our home in Ishpeming.  I’m going home.

So what do I want to tell you as my project winds down?  I want to tell you that I wondered if it was possible to move through such a project while holding on to my joy. I knew I needed to try, that joy is not something to place, neat and tidy, at the finish line of such an adventure as you pant and moan and struggle your way along the path, that it has to be felt in the moment, in whatever moment you find yourself.  And I want to tell you that I discovered it is not only possible to do so; it is easy.    surprisingly easy.

From the Day of Purification, a day where I woke up  hearing the songs of the angels, a day where we played holy music and Cam and my friend Roslyn, who happened to be in town visiting her kids and grand babies, and I sent positive loving energy, our appreciations and our blessings, into a bag of chemo and envisioned it purifying the bone marrow and doing exactly what it was supposed to do in a way that was helpful, to the time two days later when my over nine million baby seed cells were re-planted back in my stream of ever-flowings blood, another holy and surpisingly funny and poignant affair,  to the next week and  half of waiting while the seeds found their way back to their home in the marrow and took root again and grew a green and flourishing garden, through all of this, my beloved  joy stood strong, wouldn’t budge from its place at center stage.  And during this time, there were moments of laughter, moments as funny as any I experienced under the influence of that warm college keg beer at weekend parties almost forty years ago, moments where I once again felt like that nineteen-year-old girl who couldn’t control her giggles, wet noodle moments that can’t be defined as anything but fun.  And during this time, there were sweet walks along the river, daily adventures, where we witnessed the outer gardens beginning to grow, the apple trees blooming, the tulips springing into blazing colors, the geese and duck babies hatched and lined  up and learning to navigate their own waters.  And there were creative afternoons where I focused on my writing projects and my gardening book and my letters to friends.  And there were evenings, with Cam or my other caregiver friends, where we watched PBS mysteries and reveled in the delicious wondering of who-done-it.  I want to tell you that it is not only possible at such a time as a gardening project to soak in the love and support of your dear friends and family, to be uplifted beyond measure  by their prayers; it is also possible to laugh loudly and ride the wave of unbridled joy.

And while riding those waves — and this is the miracle — the garden, the one that resides deep in your bones, is nourished by the sweet sunshine of happiness and it grows.  it grows and it flourishes and before you know it, you are on your way back north to your home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where spring will be springing all over again.


My Garden

What is blossoming in an arid desert of bones,

bones that have been cleansed and purified

down to the bare bones of bone?

An interesting question to ponder on a day

when the baby seeds are to be planted.

Helen Keller knew there is a god-given goddess-given

vibration, wider and more expansive,

than what might be seen or heard on a day of seed planting.

So I ask it again, what is blossoming in the bare bones of a garden?

Deep in the marrow, it is a wild garden,

free and flourishing —

flowers brilliant, amazed by their own beauty, by their shapely shapes,

their wafty fragrances.

And the weeds in my are healthy weeds and my garden —

because this is my garden I’m talking about — is of my making,

not constructed by someone else or outside forces  and expectations.

These are my glorious flowers, my sunlit blossoms, my deep down roots

nourished by the rains of spring

and the fruits of my garden are sweet, sun-kissed

and dark and spicy

and my garden contains the perfect amount of bitterroot .

Everything in my garden rejoices in being itself.

My garden doesn’t try to be anything else

doesn’t stuggle or strive or sing a tune

that is not its own god-given goddess-given source-aligned SELF.


to a garden that is already present and flourishing!!!








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Rebirth Day: April 25, 2016


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May Day, 2016: Whitewater State Park

Notes from the Gardening Project

In every moment, you are free to choose to discover new avenues to joy.  Abraham-Hicks

I  Gathering the Seeds

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I wasn’t sure the reason, but I have learned to trust my gut when it comes to movie choices.  And it was The Hobbit, both the original and the sequel, and Lord of the Rings, the whole trilogy, that drew me in during the two weeks before I moved to Rochester, Minnesota for the six-week Gardening Project.  It just felt good to watch them, this world of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, of hobbits and dwarves, elves and wizards, fire-breathing dragons and zombie-like orcs, a world so different from my modern day life,  yet somehow familiar and true and comforting, even in its fiery violence and strife.  I soaked it in, the story, the kingdoms, the characters, and I drew courage from the hobbits and their other-world companions.  And I brought all this Tolkien lore with me, along with my treasure chest of talismans from friends and home.  And it didn’t take long for me to really feel their presence, not Frodo, who I was sure would be an ally as I adventured forth, not the elves either, not at first; it was the dwarves, the Scottish dwarves that made their presence known.  For four days, from Thursday through Sunday, these dwarves, bawdy and drunk and course, but with hearts as big as their beloved mountains, were busy digging deep.   With pickaxes and sticks of dynamite, they worked their way deep into the marrow of my bones, mining for the precious baby stem cell seeds of my future.

During these four days, my modern-day life was untethered and liberated.  Other than a shot in the belly each morning and another Sunday evening, I was free to roam.  And with my traveling companion husband, Cam, I discovered havens that would make any hobbit happy, river paths and meadows, a quarry surrounded by tall gnarly trees with a forest floor carpeted in spring blossoms.  And truly, I felt pretty good.  I won’t lie, however.  I wouldn’t have known they were Scottish elves if I didn’t feel them working.  On my hips.  My thigh bones.  My sternum.  In the crevices of my skull.  It helped to know that these guys were mining for my future.  Cam and I, in great guttural sentences, would channel these Scottish dwarves and give them voice.  And sometimes, being Scottish miners and liking their grog, they would slough off for a while and give my body a rest.  Through it all, however, I had no doubt that these guys had my best interest at heart.

And then yesterday morning something shifted.  It was time to gather up those seeds, a job far too delicate for Scottish dwarves.  I knew that this would be a task for the most tender of hands.  So it was the elves I called upon.  And something shifted for me inside.  I had felt HUGE love for those Scottish miners, knew they were giving me all they had.  Yesterday, however, it was a reverence I sensed, a holiness I felt.  I didn’t sleep much.  The nine thousand dollar shot that you get the night before seed gathering  lists as  possible side effects “weird dreams”and perhaps it was because I didn’t want weird dreams.  I don’t think it was the sleep deprivation however that brought about this river of reverence.  I could almost hear the holy music as I entered the sacred territory where the seeds of my future would be collected, nine million of them, enough for three transplants.  But there was more.  I’ve always said that this is a soul journey; it has always felt that way to me.  And yet, now, this is physical, this adventure that is mine in the moment. And yesterday morning, I couldn’t stop crying.  I couldn’t stop the tears, the holy tears.  I got something big.  And I don’t know if I have words for it.

While lying on my back in my walk-in closet yoga space, while relaxing into my practice, as I pulled my right knee up to my chest, as I pushed that knee away from my body and stirred it, I heard myself saying the words, “Stir the seeds of creativity deep in your hips; stir the seeds of new beginnings.”  I’ve been saying those words to yoga students and myself for fifteen years:  Well-being is your natural state.  You are a Vibrational being.  The vibration you resonate at influences everything. As I lay there in yoga, I felt like I was born for this moment, this adventure, to bring the confidence, the knowing of our well-being, of our vibrational nature deep inside my own body, to understand it that fully, in the marrow of my bones.  To experience the metaphor physically.  Vicerally.  To really pay attention to how it does work — you shift your vibration; you shift everything.  To be with physical symptoms.  To relax into the mining of your bones.  To practice energetic exercise and watch the symptoms morph and dissipate.  To know how precious these seeds really are.  To not take this precious body for granted.  So wiping the tears away, and praying that my holy ground feeling would stay intact through all the surface chatter, my husband Cam and I set forth and walked through the threshold and into stem cell collection.

And for five-and-a-half hours, I lay there, one arm unable to move as the blood left my body, the other semi-moble as the blood pumped back in.  And, in between this out-blood in-blood sequence, the stem cell-thick fluid was centifruged into little plastic bags. And  I could sense them, the elves doing their delicate sorting.  Right away, the collection nurses that supervised these sorted cells set me straight.  The two day estimate I had been given for collection was not realistic.  For the nine-and-a-half million that my doctor had ordered, you might be here for days, they said.  I think I made peace with all of this, relaxing into an immobile morning of mingling.

And mingling we did.  The nurses were awesome.  One nurse, a Norwegian-looking woman with a thick Minnesota accent, when finding out that I was from Maine, lit up with enthusiasm.  “Maine!  I’ve always wanted to go to Maine!  I watch a show on TV about Maine game wardens in the north woods!”  I couldn’t believe it.  I’ve made fun of Cam for watching this show, one of his favorites, and here, he was, as the elves sorted away in holy reverence, comparing favorite episodes with his new friend.  And my main nurse, male and adorable, reminded me of a forty-five-year-old version of my high school boyfriend.  He was sincere and twinkly-eyed, and the three of us, me immobile, Cam in the chair beside me, and him watching the machine and the bag of different blood things, talked and talked.  He’s in the National Guard; his mother was a no-nonsense big burly Czech woman; he’s married and has two kids.  And when we weren’t talking to this male nurse, Cam was reading from a recent New Yorker article about Ragnar Kjartansson, an Icelandic performance artist.  We loved Ragnar, loved his performance art, loved Iceland’s creative generosity, loved the article.  It energized me, this article, Ragnar’s unbridled willingness to go for it, and his creative antics.  It energized both os us.  We started planning out my own next piece of performance art, which, while lying there immobile seemed especially funny.  And the humor and the energy gave rise to a new challenge.  What to do when you’ve been lying immobile and it is now the fourth hour and you’ve been laughing so hard and you can see the clock that is barely ticking and you have to pee?  Commode was always an option.  But my nurse looked like my high school boyfriend with a buzz cut.  So I held it.  And held it.  And Cam began to lisp, accidentally at first, and then on purpose, and while our nurse was behind the curtain with another gatherer, we were beyond control in hysterics.  Anyway, I must have absorbed the pee because I was able to lie still as my boyfriend nurse gave me another dwarf shot in the belly to get ready for the next day’s collection, unhooked me, let me spring up for a bathroom break before final blood pressure.  When we left, it came out spontaneously, “That was fun!”  “That’s the first time we’ve heard that!” one nurse laughed.  And that was that.

Except, for the phone call, the one the nurses promised would happen in the late afternoon with elf-collecting numbers.  Cam was relaxing in the apartment; I was  drinking a fabulous smoothie at the Co-op when my phone rang.  It was the Maine game warden nurse.  “How are you?!? she asked in her strong Minnesota accent.  “Are you sitting down?!?” she continued.  “You got nine-and-a-half million stem cells!” she nearly shouted into the phone.  “Are you kidding me!?!” I nearly shouted back.  It was as though I had won the lottery!  I had resigned myself to a week of lying there immobile, trying hard not to pee.  This was good news!  This was really good news!!!  And there is something extra delicious about unexpected good news.  The dwarves mined my bones.  The elves gathered the seeds with grace and ease.  And I have cells for long life.  Holiness and the profane mingled in a good day.



(to be continued . . .)

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Images of Rochester, MN: April 2016

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Images from a hike at Whitewater State Park on Free Day: April 2016


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