Illusion

Illusion

The fog hovered over the dark water where the two rivers converged,
hugging the banks and obscuring what was real, creating illusions
.
We walked hand in hand through the mist, the future far ahead of us.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  *   *

In the middle of the dance floor
with his arms around me tight,
I thought I caught a glimpse of you
in the fading evening light.

You were there so close to me.
I’d know you anywhere,
those eyes I loved so long ago,
that shock of light brown hair.

I remember how we danced one night,
the way your hand held mine.
I remember walks on darkened streets
through rain in soft spring time.

We were so young those years ago,
so happy and so free.
But then one quiet night in May
you walked away from me.

I don’t know why you’re here tonight,
how you found your way to me.
Could it be just an illusion,
some reluctant memory?

I have loved you every moment
since the day that we first met.
I wish I were dancing with you tonight
instead of with regret.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The fog cleared as daylight came.  The river bank was deserted,
illusion now what’s real. 

 

 

Grocery Shopping List: Arsenic, GMOs, Pesticides, and Parabens

My grocery shopping just became even harder this past week with the release of a study about the levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, in rice.  As a breast cancer survivor, I have spent the last seven years working on a diet that is nutritious that will also prevent a recurrence.  I avoid soy, gluten because of gluten intolerance, meat, lactose because of  lactose intolerance, nightshades because of fibromyalgia, and pesticides. I avoid personal care products that contain parabens because of their estrogen-like effect on the body.  I buy natural cleaning products to avoid as many chemicals as possible.   I try to buy organic for the ten foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides.  Because of my gluten intolerance, I was eating mainly corn and rice products (cereal, pasta, bread mainly) and trying to find corn products without GMOs.  Now I need to limit rice because of arsenic.

I know I am a little obsessive about food.  I am haunted by my sister’s last year of life.  I don’t have the BRCA1 OR BRCA2  gene.  Since all four members of my family have been diagnosed with cancer (my father also died of cancer), I am left wondering if the cause could be environmental or diet.  Preventing cancer is hard work; preventing a recurrence is even harder.

After an hour spent strolling the aisles of the grocery store a few days ago, I had a nearly empty cart.  I had passed by the cereals with GMOs and products made with corn or rice.  I was tempted to buy more products made with quinoa, but honestly, quinoa and I don’t like each other.  I picked up some spinach, bananas, and a magazine on healthy eating and came home.  A few minutes later, my daughter called to ask me if I heard about the spinach recall—e-coli apparently.  I sat down with my banana and the magazine, hoping I could find a recipe using some grain other than corn or rice that would also include pesticide-free vegetables.  I’m not very hopeful.

I know I might be extreme in my obsession to find healthy diet options.  I have no control over genetic factors.  I have limited control over my environment, although I can be careful about the cleaning products I bring into my house.  I can buy paraben-free cosmetics and organic fruits and vegetables.  I can’t control what goes into the food I buy.  I wish I could.

_______________

My book In My Sister’s Footsteps:  A Walk with Breast Cancer has just been published and is now available on Amazon.
I hope my sister’s courage and sense of humor during her cancer diagnosis and treatment will be an inspiration to anyone diagnosed with cancer.  Her spirit was strong, and she left behind a legacy of  hope and a love of life that can guide us all through challenging moments in our lives.

“To Everything There is a Season”

“To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

When I was young, I cherished a book I read called To Everything There is a Season.  I think it was some kind of romance.  I don’t remember the plot but I do remember the quotation in the beginning of the book.  It was from the Bible, and I remember going to my Bible and looking up the entire verse, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Since then the quote has stayed in my memory, taking me through rough times and enriching the good ones.  When I was first married, one of my favorite songs was “Turn, Turn, Turn” (originally written by Bob Seeger) based on the Bible verse and recorded by the Byrds.  It seems to make sense that there is a right time for everything, and if we accept that, we can live through life’s challenges.

I think about this a lot as the seasons change.  The dying of the leaves, green changing to gold, then a flutter to the earth, a disintegration.  Soon we are held hostage to winter by enticements, hot cocoa, cider donuts, long quiet evenings by the fireplace.

Maybe it’s the expectation of the changing seasons we need in order to endure, just waiting and longing for the purple crocuses to show through the white snow or the first robin, the leafing of the trees.  We need the seasons, and there is no better way to know them with all their brilliant gifts and all their painful losses than to be a northeasterner.

Still sometimes grief grips tightly, holding on when we think it should be gone amid the sweet fragrances of spring and the softness of languid, summer days.  Then a leaf turns and falls, the skies are quiet, devoid of bird song, expectancy of spring changes to reluctance of fall in spite of what it tries to offer us.

Don’t be fooled, we tell ourselves, by the warmth of the fire that follows biting winds, icy air and driven snow, chilling our bones before the thawing.  And so we wait for hope with its elusiveness and evanescence, aware of its deception.  Sometimes there is just no nepenthe for grief.

To everything there is a season,
a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Photo Wikipedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Four_seasons.jpg

September Mornings

September Mornings

September mornings are resplendent with the changes autumn brings.  Maybe it’s the way the tangerine sky peeks through the pine trees as dawn predicts a new day.  Maybe it’s the discordant sound of the crows cawing into the crisp morning air.  Maybe it’s the way the light plays off the yellow-tinged edges of the ash and maple trees.  We can feel the season change in spite of our wishes.  I love autumn but not the certainty that winter will follow.

New York’s autumn brings apple picking and cider and donuts, falling leaves and chrysanthemums, football games and candy apples.  It’s far too short a season, sandwiched in between the long, lingering summer heat and the even longer cold, snowy winter days and nights.  We eventually adapt to the seasons themselves; it’s the moment of change that trips us up.  Just as we get the routine down, we need a new one.

Autumn’s glory is brief.  Soon wintry air will bring hibernation, an end to leisurely walks, bringing instead hurried steps toward the warmth of the house, to coffee and pancakes and comfort.

September mornings dawn with a splash of color and crispness to the air, waking us to a new season filled with the unknown.

Last Times

“Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.”  –Dr. Seuss

We’ve all experienced the sadness of last times, especially as summer ends and fall begins.  We remember the last walk on the beach, the last swim in the lake, the last boat ride or picnic or evening outdoor concert.  We listen to the signals of the waning days of summer,  the cricket songs at night and the fading rhythms of the peepers, and we grieve momentarily before we dive into beginnings.

But there’s a different kind of a last time, a real last time for something, not like the comfort in knowing that another summer will come and bring more walks on the beach and more swimming in the lake or more picnics in the park.  For some, last truly means last.

About five years ago my oldest daughter took a job in New Jersey.  She found a great condo, but she was alone without friends.  An older couple who lived above her watched over her and provided some comfort for her loneliness.  The woman was a breast cancer survivor, like me, but about a year ago, her cancer returned.  Last week she was told she could not be given any more chemotherapy, leaving us all with the fear she would not survive long.  Two days ago she asked a favor of my daughter.  The woman loves my daughter’s dog, a sweet charmer who returns her love.  Her request was to spend twenty minutes outside with my daughter’s dog, just sitting with him.  Today she got to do that.  The sadness of that overwhelms me.

My mother’s roommate in the nursing home has health problems similar to my mother’s and has been receiving blood transfusions to keep her alive.  She has become a great friend for my mother, and I feel comforted by that.  This week she had her last transfusion.  They are no longer working and so she is aware that she has little time left to live.

Yesterday my mother expressed a wish to play her organ again.  She will not be returning to her apartment, and it is necessary now to get rid of all her possessions, including the organ she loves.  This weekend we will take her to her apartment and she will sit down at her organ and play it for the last time.

It’s a lot easier to handle those last times that are not really last times at all but only temporary lapses before new times begin, before those glory days of summer cycle back to us.  I know that usually lasts are followed by firsts.  Summer ends but the cool, colorful days of autumn begin.  I’m no longer sure there will be firsts for my daughter’s neighbor,  for my mother’s roommate, or for my mother.  Sometimes last truly means last.