On creativity, covid-19 and…

I hesitate to pen the word … cancer. Not mine, but the diagnosis my husband received just before lockdown, due to Covid-19, in Seattle, WA. March 5, 2020 we received news that the pathology report indicated stage 2 bladder cancer.

Journal entry, March 6, 2020. “World upside down. Still life with cancer. Still, life with cancer. Still life, with cancer. Life still…”

To say this was a shock for both of us, is an understatement. Even the multiple teams of doctors we would meet with over the next few weeks and months often began conversations with, “This must be a shock.”

Again, I hesitate. “Writing is an act of courage,” states Sue Monk Kidd. What began as a ‘diagnosis’ of his body in ‘dis-ease’ is his story to tell. Mine, as partner, friend, lover, spouse for 33 plus years, is my piece to share, write, do with as I choose.

Lots of thoughts have been spiraling around in my head, penned into journals (the most I’ve filled in this lifetime to date). I dove into creativity with a passion: watercolor painting with https://www.letsmakeart.com/ Let’s Make Art, entertaining myself with practicing piano and sticking to the weekly practice I began on a whim over a year ago – classical Tuesday’s. Moon drumming with the steel drum purchased in Ubud, Bali, 4 years ago. Reading poetry, spending hours with Shel Silverstein, painting images of Paris… All of this because the practice of creativity calms my nervous system and helps me process emotions, hopes, what-if’s?

I scribed countless poems, prayers, petitions, cussing, swear words, words in languages I don’t know that well. “Sometimes writing sits in you like a wild animal. Maybe you see its eyes…knows it is there where the deepest secrets lie…unless you put pen to paper and use it to release the animal that hides in the shadow of your hand?” Pat Schneider, Sometimes Writing

I could not stop painting feathers. “…feathers scribing their own sacred texts.” Christine Valters Paintner, The Soul’s Slow Ripening, St. Brendan and the Songbirds.

32 radiation treatments + 6 chemotherapy + 2 surgeries + a gathering of cells 6 weeks post final treatment. On August 19, 2020, via email at 5:15 pm we received the news that his bladder is cancer free, cancer clear. Wow! doesn’t quite suffice.

April 26, 2020, a poem flowed via a prompt during Writer’s Gathering (a remarkable group of writers and friends, facilitated by Julie Gardner). It feels like time to share it here.

“I begin to sing a homemade canticle of thanks,”

for the nurses at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance who ask repeatedly “water, juice, snacks…'”

for the doctor who states again, this must be a shock,

for the subtle yet constant beep, blurp, bleep that pumps the cancer killing medicine into my husbands body via the port-a-cath.

“I begin to sing a homemade canticle of thanks,”

for coffee at home in the morning, curled up on the worn brown leather chair. Sipping from my yellow, white and blue mug brought home from Sayulita, Mexico: memories of sun, sand, yoga, meditation, friends.

“I begin to sing a homemade canticle of thanks,”

for the bedroom that was our middle child’s, vacated now in their adulthood, reclaimed as my budding artist studio.

For the cacti purchased months ago, feeling a need to bring new life to this space; for the bench repurposed from the garage – adorned with a red, blue, gold and white scarf from Hydra, Greece.

“I begin to sing a homemade canticle of thanks,”

for worn carpet beneath my bare feet, clean clothes out of the washing machine, a hot shower, fresh drinking water.

For my temperament that leans toward hope, and celebration of life, even when much feels dark, lost and in despair.

For my Libra-esque qualities of balance, air, “a fluid dance between dark and light…effort and ease.”

“I begin to sing a homemade canticle of thanks” from, As if to demonstrate an Eclipse, Billy Collins, Nine Horses.

“a fluid dance between dark and light…effort and ease.” Danielle Doby, libra, I am Her Tribe.

My brother is a cancer thriver and survivor. 5 years ago I published a collection of poems, Thresholds and Portals. The poem I wrote years later upon processing my emotions and questions as a teenager continued to hold space for me as I journeyed the past 6 months. Here are a few lines from that poem:

Wrestling with Tumors

Who let you in? Who left the door unlocked? Who gave you permission to enter? You wreaked havoc. A most unfriendly, unwelcome guest, lurking about, mastering the art of hide and seek…slowly, agonizingly, through surgery and drugs you were weeded out – withered down to a small, gnarly, weakened gnat..finally, after all the fighting, wrestling, shrinking – you were gone! eradicated, erased, chiseled down to nothing.

You bumped into my inner spaces. My head, my heart aching, forcing me to give up. An invitation: practice daily being present to life.”

I filled a journal with love letters to my spouse, glued in some paintings, wrote practical lists of noticing’s, a few poems that have silly rhymes:

“If I could today…we’d be sipping chardonnay on a terrace on the Champs d’Elysees. Who am I kidding? In Paris we’d be toasting with kir royal on the outdoor patio at Hotel Terrass, watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle, but that doesn’t rhyme, plus also, there’s Covid- 19 so we can’t get there anyway.

If I could today…cancer would be wiped away, cleaned out like the grocery store shelves: empty of clorox, and toilet paper, but that doesn’t rhyme either.” April 9, 2020.

There are more words, poems, prose and I may choose to share those in the future.

I am deeply grateful to friends, family, fellow writer’s, doctors and nurses who paid attention, followed their passion, and offered support. Thank you.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Exquisite, my friend. I can see why this has been asking to be written. Wow! is hardly enough. xoxoxo

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